Sometimes I get insomnia. I have always had trouble sleeping, even as a kid, although back then my insomnia dressed itself up as an imaginary friend who would keep me up at nights, pacing around my room and asking tough questions like, “What do you think happens when you die?” and, “Why does Santa hide all the Christmas presents in your parents’ closet?” I guess I had more of an imaginary Barbara Walters. Anyway, the point is that I have always had trouble sleeping, but it has only gotten worse as time goes on. I guess because as I got older, I discovered more things to worry about. (Though I am still up most nights trying to figure out why Santa hid all the Christmas presents in my parents closet!)
Then once I had a child, a solid night of sleep became a distant memory. Now there are numerous lists to make, hundreds of things to prepare for, and gazillions of irrational fears to worry about. It is a wonder that I am not a total zombie. However if you are reading this and there is something that I forgot to do for you or there is something that I did to otherwise piss you off… it’s because I am a zombie.
The past week or so, I have had another bout of insomnia. I either go to bed early, hoping to catch up a bit on sleep, or I stay up late, afraid to even try to fall asleep. Either way, the result is the same: toss and turn for a few hours, move to the couch, toss and turn, move to the guest bedroom, toss and turn, until finally I drift off into a fitful sleep a few hours before it is time to wake up. Last night I tried the stay-up late technique. Instead I watched The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Bad idea. You should never watch anything so frightening before trying to sleep. Finally I crawled into bed, exhausted, only to spend another couple of hours tossing and turning, before finally managing to fall asleep around 2:15 am.
Then my daughter woke up crying at 2:30 am.
My daughter is a pretty good sleeper. If she wakes up in the middle of the night, normally all it takes is a little pat on the back and kiss on the forehead, and she is back to dreamland and I am back to sleep and/or tossing/turning/worrying. Last night, however, I gave her a pat and a kiss and then stumbled back to bed, but she did not fall blissfully back to sleep. Instead she cried until I went back into her room. After trying this a few more times with the same result, I decided that perhaps she had insomnia too. I hope that she never has insomnia the way that I do, but sometimes it amazes me how in sync the two of us can be. So, I covered myself up with her little quilt and laid down next to her crib.
She would close her eyes for a few minutes, then peek her head up to make sure that I was still there, smiling at me before putting her head down again. After a while I saw a sweet, chubby, little hand poke through the bars of her crib. So I took it. We held hands like that until she finally drifted off to sleep. And then, amazingly, I did too. I slept for an hour there. The most solid hour of sleep that I have had all week, right there on the cold, hard floor, with my daughter’s soft, warm hand in mine. I finally woke up and went back to my bed. Of course I had a hard time falling asleep again, but this time because I was happy, not worried or stressed. And I woke up this morning tired, but with a new clarity.
I think that this is exactly what parenting is all about: Holding your little one’s hands, and then only later realizing that maybe it is they who were really holding your hand.
photo credit: thejbird via photopin cc