I’m just going to take a few minutes to gush about my 16 month-old, if nobody minds. This guy, right here.
He has a giant personality. Though his actual words are few, he looks you in the eye as he wildly babbles and almost convinces you that you can understand exactly what he’s saying. And then he pauses, makes sure you’ve taken it all in, and drives his point home with some closing baby-chatter remarks. The look on his face conveys the full expectation that you’re following along.
He is a ball of love. His current favorite move is the run-and-hug, which has the ability to counteract any and all birth control on the planet. He will spend upwards of 15 minutes running between his siblings, my husband and me, giving out hugs. I mean, come on.
He is pushing his boundaries and testing limits. He is quick to frustrate with his lack of communication skills and wants to see exactly how much he can do on his own.
He is huge. Like, 98th percentile huge. All of my kids were like this for their first two years. But now that I’m older, carrying all 27+ pounds of this boy feels slightly more back-breaking than when my first two children were this age. It’s essentially a Cross Fit session.
He is in awe of his brother, his sister and our pug. They are his sun and moon, his laughter and joy.
He is so, so sweet, this boy. I wouldn’t change a thing about him. Except for one.
He does not sleep.
He has always been this way.
With a newborn, you can’t know you have a bad sleeper because they are supposed to be up so much. But, gradually, over time, you remember how and when your other kids slept. Then, to double-check your sanity, you read about the sleeping milestones again and you hear what friends are saying about their babies’ sleep habits. And you start to realize. You may have a bad sleeper.
“It’s OK, he’ll grow out of it.”
“Give it time.”
“He can’t go to college like this, after all.”
“Someday, you’ll look back on all of this and laugh.”
Nope. I don’t believe any of it anymore. There are select nights at 2am when I convince myself that I will, in fact, have to accompany him to his college dorm in 2031 so that he can be a soundly sleeping 18 year-old.
The issue is two-fold: Going to sleep and staying asleep. My sweet boy rarely goes down without some combination of tears, protests or screaming. This includes naps and night time. Once he’s actually asleep and my nerves are completely shot from the entire situation, it’s only a matter of time before he’s back up. Yes, the stretches of sleep have gotten longer but I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve slept through the night in the last 16 months. That’s more than 500 nights. I did this math around 3:30am one recent night, since counting sheep seemed counterproductive.
The awful, creaking, 100+ year-old floors in our house don’t help. I tiptoe around them. I beg my older two children to do the same. They are old enough to know their baby brother is a horrible sleeper. They are accustomed to me whisper-yelling, “Do. Not. Wake. Your. Brother.”
“Have you tried…?”
I hear this question a lot. And let me say that, sadly, my answer is typically YES. I’VE TRIED IT. It’s not that I don’t want your suggestions. But, trust me, if it’s legal and humane, it has been attempted under my roof. I’m not playing around here.
Because sleep deprivation, over an extended period of time, is no joke. I understand why it’s sometimes used as a torture tactic. I will tell you any deep, dark secret before I’ve had my third cup of coffee. I can see how deals with the devil are made in the middle of the night, when your brain isn’t working right and sleep is nowhere near. I’m already doing irrational things as a result of no sleep. Like going to the wrong kid’s school for pick-up, or leaving my car keys in the fridge, or singing the damn Taylor Swift song at the top of my lungs.
So, let me just say to the moms at school drop off and fellow patrons in the local grocery store: I am not as bitchy as I may sometimes seem. I promise. Where you may see an antisocial soul, please know that I am actually in the early stages of REM mode while standing up and hiding behind my sunglasses. It’s a survival skill I’m slowly perfecting.
I wonder if my kids remember what I was like when I got more normal-ish amounts of sleep. I was more patient, for sure. More generally prepared. Certainly more frequently showered.
Friends, I am bone tired. And I know I’m not the only one — it’s part of the mom gig, for sure. This particular stretch is just multiple months longer than I anticipated.
But the upside? I have the happiest non-sleeper in the world. This kid, despite his sleep strikes, is rarely cranky. He is quite the opposite. So I just have to assume he’s staying up all the time so that he doesn’t miss any of the action.
I’ve tried to convince him he’s not missing much when the house is dark, when the sound of the pug snoring fills the air and I’m clinging to my pillow desperately in the next room. I’ve tried to tell him that this will be the only time in his life that someone will beg him to sleep more, and he should enjoy it now.
Turns out that rational conversation is one of many failed approaches when it comes to this boy and his crib.
One day, he’ll push through for good. And I will be proud to introduce him to the Snooze button on his alarm clock when the time comes.