If any of you were thinking that my extended silence can be attributed to some amazing development in my children’s sleeping habits and that I have been greedily indulging in gobs of restorative sleep, don’t waste your time… My children are still the shitty sleepers that they always have been; they still take endless amounts of time to actually go to sleep and do a piss poor job of actually staying asleep.
About six weeks ago, my computer caught a nasty virus and quickly passed, taking all my work with it and killing my ability to write my tales of woe. Now my dead computer is being held hostage at Data Doctors for an appalling three hundred dollar ransom, and though I miss my work dearly, I am finding it hard to cough up this princely sum for its release. Sadly the death of my laptop was solely my fault; apparently one has to renew virus protection periodically, and apparently I failed to notice/chose to ignore the blinking flashing swirling beeping and honking yellow exclamation points letting me know that my computer was at risk… I suppose it was naïve of me to think I was invincible when it came to computer viruses. But I digress.
So though I have not entered into a parenting stage approaching normalcy (meaning, that of everyone else I know similarly situated) complete with healthy doses of quality sleep, and quality time with my hunky husband, I can report that things have marginally improved. Now instead of me lying on the floor of the toddler’s (now preschooler’s) room seething while my extremities go numb for an hour, I have somehow managed to kiss and go, with the proviso that I can do this as long as I am sitting just outside her door in the hallway with my (new) computer. This is a win-win because I get to do something other than go stark raving mad in the dark and she still gets to keep me in her sights as she drifts off to sleep. This new method is especially effective when I have to put both children to bed on my own because now I really can technically be in two places at once.
But while I have gotten some relief in this department, things have seemingly run afoul during the “pre-game” show. Now there is all sorts of pre-bedtime mishegas that sometimes actually make me feel wistful for the simple days of lying on the floor for hours contorted and in the dark. There is “Extended Bath Time”, where the newly minted second grader requests some extra time to “chill” in the tub (Child: “After you finish washing my hair, I just feel like relaxing here in the tub for a bit, Mom. Okay?” Me: “Oh, really, had a rough day in the second grade, did you?”) I am not sure what all of that is about, but I do know this: if I do not have the luxury of time to just “chill” in the tub, then hey, neither should you, you unemployed parasite of a second grader.
Come bath time, especially because I have to administer two separate baths, I am all business: get in, lather it up, rinse it off and get out. I know without a doubt that if I had more than two children I would just march them outside every night and toss them a bar of soap while I brusquely and unceremoniously hosed them down. And though I am fairly certain that I am sucking every last bits of joy out of bath time, it seems that everything they do lately, from getting in and out of the car, to eating and getting dressed, to coming when I call for them, takes for-ev-er, and it drives me batty because I come from the land of speed and efficiency. My motto is “Get the job done fast and move on.”
There is probably some middle ground where I could ease up and not be so militant and they could be more responsive to me than the semi-comatose slugs they are prone to be…but there are some days, days when I have not slept, when I have been cranking it all day long between work-work, house-work, and mommy-work… that I simply cannot stand to sit on that tiny bathroom stool in that tiny prison cell of a bathroom for more than a nanosecond anxiously waiting till they tell me that either the water has turned cold or someone has to pee. My irritation is compounded by a factor of two because after the first bath, I have to do it all over again for the other one, emptying and cleaning the tub, filling it up again, and ensuring there is an adequate bubble to water ratio.
Then after dinner, after the kitchen is cleaned up, after bath time, after pajamas but before tooth brushing time, they have also devised what is known as “Cereal Time” (Child: “Mom… it’s not like we are asking to eat Oreos before bed! Just wholesome ‘whole grain’ Cheerios!” and “You wouldn’t want us to starve, would you?”). Within the sacred confines of my head, to this I reply: I think “Cereal Time” is a load of crap. In my world, after dinner the kitchen is closed. So note to my children– I really have no problem with you going to bed starving till you wake up the next day to eat your organic blueberry waffles slathered with Nutella.
But my hunky husband holds a completely different philosophy than I do on this matter, something having to do with him feeling “heartsick” at the mere thought of his children going to bed hungry (even though they ate a full plate of chicken nuggets with a chocolate chip cookie chaser just two hours’ prior). This perplexes me because it’s not like he grew up during the Irish potato famine or the Great Depression for heaven’s sake, so he’s got no real first-hand knowledge of “starving”. He’s a Jewish guy from northern New Jersey with a solid history of being well-fed, so I don’t get it. I mean, COME ON, it’s not like our kids would ever be confused with actual starving children who have flies crawling all over their sad little faces while they eat spoonfuls of dirty river water that one might see and be tempted to even adopt on those infomercials designed to tug at one’s heart and purse strings at the vulnerable hour of 3 a.m.!! But there are just so many battles one can fight in a given day. And I don’t want my long lasting legacy to be that of the family’s sole joy-sucking Grinch mother at every turn. So now I quietly dole out the bowls of cereal and smile as I pour the milk, trying to think happy thoughts as I go.
Next we come to Story Time (Child: “Mom, how about we act out some ‘Frog and Toad’ stories? I’ll be Frog, you can be Toad.” Me: “Um well, it takes me some time to ‘get into character’ and it’s way past your bedtime.” Child: “Okay, will you read to us about how the Earth was created?” Me: “Um, son, it’s 8:45; way too late to give equal time to both the scientific and biblical versions of the answer to this very well thought out question.” Child: “Okay, how about reading to us about how hair grows?” Me: “Um, well, that is just too biological a story for before bed.”)… Don’t get the wrong impression I really do like to read stories to them. I love snuggling close with a good book or three, reading aloud with silly voices for all the different characters, but I think in all fairness that three books, three short books max, is aplenty. But when it comes to story time, they have an insatiable appetite. So I spend just as much time saying, “No, no, no, no, no…. three stories is enough!” as I do reading the actual stories.
Tooth brushing time is another time-sucker complete with lively rounds of “He goes first!”, “No, she goes first!”, “But I went first yesterday!”, “No, I did!”, then giving way to, “I want to go first!”, “No, I do!”, “She’s pushing me off the stool!”, “It’s my stool!”, “”It has my name on it!”, “I want to try flossing!” “No, I want to try flossing!” Me: “Um, you both can try flossing?”, “No, I do it!” It’s just a hazy swirl of little toothbrushes, splashing water and small elbows. I am not really sure if their teeth ever get brushed in all this craziness. But I can only hope.
Once they finally are asleep, it feels as though I have run a marathon and I am dog-tired as I drag myself across the threshold of my bedroom and haul myself into bed. These children of mine, who I love so very much, well they still wake at ridiculously early morning hours. The second grader is slightly better than the preschooler in this arena. He gets up at around a roosterly yet tolerable 6:00 a.m. But the preschooler routinely kicks our door down SWAT-team style somewhere between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m., climbing over me and wedging herself between us on a nightly basis. So in summation, nothing has really changed and yes, even though my children are waaaaaaay past the newborn-it’s-all-about-survival stage, here I am still sleep deprived, still insane. Have you seen me lately? My hair is half gray, usually untamed and huge, my eyebrows are in need of some TLC and most likely only one leg is shaved (this is probably too much information. I know.).