Because Ms. Prufrock asked for it.
One of the best-kept secrets of parenting, something no one reveals to people considering having children, is that, no matter how well a child is sleep trained, the sleep deprivation does not end until the kids hit puberty. Children are needy little buggers, and they are never so desperate for parental attention as they are at four in the morning.
Unfortunately, all our nocturnal woes were not resolved when the boys began to share a room. There are good runs, days and weeks at a time when the kids are snoring by 8:04 PM and do not wake up until 7:16 AM. We relish those stretches, because we have come to know they cannot last. Someone will find a way to bust apart our slumber sooner or later. In fact, the only way I can think of to ensure that I get a good night sleep each night is to move out of the house.
There is a children’s book called Peace at Last about a Father Bear who roams the house one night looking for a quiet place to sleep. Zachary loves it, which I find ironic, since he is the very disturbance I most want to escape.
I am OK with getting up to calm his nightmares, and I am there by his side if he finds himself covered in throw-up. It is all the other reasons he seems to find for getting out of bed that I could do without. Like the string of ten mornings when he woke up between four and five every morning and would not go back to sleep.
Oh, sure, the first reason was always valid, coughing or a need to urinate. Of course, we provide him with a little potty right by his bed, so he really does not need to drag my sorry butt out of bed just to witness the undertaking, but it is hard to tell a three-year-old that you would prefer if he could hold off on nighttime training for a couple of decades. I get up and I help him, a bit grumpily but with the understanding that this was the deal I signed on for all those many months when I wept to have a child. If only the child would then go back to sleep.
During this particular run, he would lie in bed for forty-five minutes or so, waiting until Jacob and I had finally fallen back asleep, and then come trotting out for more water. Or to pee again. Or to tell us he did not want to go back to sleep. Since I knew full-well exactly how tired he was, I finally came to the conclusion Zachary did not want to go back to sleep. He was willing himself awake solely to torment his mother.
So, I started to get angry. “Just use the potty in your room,” I grumbled. “You do NOT need more water,” I groaned. “Stop waking me up!” I snapped. Like the proverbial man who put a snake in his pocket and then was surprised when he was bitten, I just could not get over my son’s ability to cut into my sleep time.
J is always calmer with nighttime wakings, mostly because he himself is not fully awake. But there is also the cold, hard fact that I have never been particularly gracious towards people who wake me up. Just ask my poor husband, who goes to elaborate measures to ensure that, no matter what he does, he cannot be accused of rousing me out of bed.
Those who awaken me are conducting an assault upon my person. They are ripping into not just my time and my space, but my body. Denying me sleep is intentional infliction of distress, even when it is unintentional. I can usually remember that my children are just children the first night it happens. But when Benjamin teethes for three nights, then Zachary goes through a run of four AM wakings, and then Benjamin has a nightmare, we are getting dangerously close to the two-week mark, and I can even begrudge the hugs I need to provide to remedy bad dreams.
“Just go back to sleep,” I find myself telling the toddler, as though he has any control over the situation.