Who Needs Sleep? The Late Night Fog of Parenting

Midnight reverie has turned to midnight insanity. Welcome to ParentalGrit, where we start this week off with the forgotten battles of a husband and wife. For anyone who has ever had kids, you understand that the first few years of family life are basically a blur. High levels of stress combined with low levels of sleep transform normal functioning adults into zombie-like apparitions floating through early parenthood with the self-control of a raccoon in a jewelry store. I’ve been awake for 40 minutes and I’ve already lovingly watched my little girl sleep, flown into a rage and literally start lecturing my coffee maker, and contemplated moving houses rather than cleaning the seldom used basement. When you’re a parent, the emotions flow from one extreme to the other. Now throw in a similarly functioning companion and watch two people try to combine their last remaining shreds of sanity into some semblance of grounded, productive parenting.

There is an undeniable fogginess that occurs when a child wakes up crying. No matter how many thousands of times we have experienced this in my household, I still wake up in a confused haze. Am I dreaming? Am I late for work? Who is lying next to me? Where am I? Why did I ever have children? With the nursing baby, I have the incredible luxury of a quick slap on the back of my wife…Hey honey, Everly is crying…so sorry I can’t nurse her myself. Well, that might not be how the conversation goes, but it is indeed my cop out for the late night baby whines. The toddler, on the other end, is a delirious vortex in the midnight hour and I get the bulk of her 3 am concerns. Whether it’s the baby or the toddler, I don’t think there is a single mind between the four of us that has any idea what is going on. In fact, if there is one person in our household that stays engaged and knows what is needed, it’s baby Everly. She’s hungry, she cries. She’s hungry, she cries. There are no illusions on what it takes to please that bottomless heifer.

The toddler Eliza, on the other hand, has no idea what is going on. She might have been scared, she might have filled her diaper, or she might have decided to start her day at 4:00 am. Sometimes I walk into cries, other times I walk into giggles. In all scenarios, I end up arguing with a deluded, confused, and groggy toddler while I myself am only semi-functioning. I’d love to share some of our profound conversations, but I can never remember by the next morning. I’d be shocked if Elmo, ants, or Daddy Finger wasn’t mentioned though.

Regardless of the toddler’s behavior, the fog most thickly resides over my wife and I. Since we both work full-time and painfully don’t have the luxury to make back lost hours during nap time each day, the late night grinds wear us down and quickly. Just like I can’t quite remember what my toddler and I discuss during our rendezvous, I have no idea what my wife and I say to each other. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I can, unfortunately, usually remember the tone of our conversations. Take two sleep deprived working parents and throw them in the whirlwind of a baby waking up three times and a toddler waking up twice and you have a recipe for disaster. There’s a lot of muttering, a spattering of choice words, and the blissful reassurance that neither of us will really remember in the morning. If there’s ever a good time to take shots at each other, it’s at 2:30 in the morning when neither knows what is going on or what little ankle biter aroused us from our slumber.

The truth is: my wife and I can’t be held responsible for what we say to each other in the middle of the night. It’s the fog of parenting and it’s occurring nightly in my household. Have a good week.

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