I had the strangest experience today. I was dealing with my almost-3-year-old, who is a bit of a pain lately, what with the constant questions and ornery behavior. He was begging me for cookies or milk or attention or something and he tripped over my foot and fell on the floor, forcing that whiny cry that means he’s had enough cookies for one day and needs some protein to balance out the sugar, stat.
I said, “Oh, that must have hurt.”
He said, “Yeah!”
I said, “Here, have a drink of milk.”
He said, “Thank you.”
Then I went into the kitchen and gave my head a shake. I felt no anger, no boiling rage, no frustration, even, besides the low level of frustration that is always present. I felt only sympathy. Poor kid. He’s all wound up because we haven’t gone outside yet today and my feet are huge, he trips over them all the time and how embarrassing for him.
Let’s be kind and just say that this is not my typical response.
I had to wonder for a few minutes if I was experiencing some kind of stroke. An epiphany? Or maybe an angel had just flown up my ass? Then I remembered. I have had five nights of full sleep in a row.
Now before the Internet gets all “oh, she thinks she can just ANNOUNCE that and we’re not gonna smack her DOWN?” on me, let me state my case. I do not come here, to this shared parent space to rub it in anybody’s nose that my 13 month old is sleeping through the night for the first time since the night he was born, that is to say, for the first time in 13 months. I come here with words of hope, to say to anyone who is currently feeling overstretched, underslept, impatient, downright nasty,
…you are not an incurable asshole. It’s just the sleep deprivation.
Part of me knew it. But that part of me was not able to come to the phone. It was too weak from lack of sleep. I tried to put it out of my mind because it depressed me to think about how much sleep I wasn’t getting. I didn’t really want to talk about it either because suck it up, buttercup, nobody at the playground has had enough sleep and nobody wants to hear your tale of woe. With my kids I was quick to turn into Nasty Mom and, worse, I believed there was nothing I could do about it. It’s just who I am, I guess. I guess two kids is too much for me, I guess I should have just had one, obviously I am not capable of handling two with any degree of respect. Woe. Is. Me.
I still have my Nasty Mom threshold, of course. It’s just about 5 feet higher than it was at this time last week. I can now use actual strategy with my older son, try things like empathy, jokes, and distractions instead of going from “please do this” to “DO IT RIGHT NOW” in my barky, drill sergeant voice. I can get us out of the house in less than an hour without having to stop 6 times and rub my forehead, without forgetting things like diapers, snacks or the coffee I was drinking. I don’t doze off on the toilet anymore.
So, because this is something I would have been relieved to read in the past few months, I will say it again. If you have non-sleeping children in your house and you are strung so tight the mosquitoes can play Stairway To Heaven on you when you go outside, please remember. This is NOT the real you. It is the sleep-deprived you. The bad mood you are in almost all the time is not a reflection of your parenting skills. The attitude you cop has nothing to do with your fitness as a mother or father.
You are not irrevocably more mean, impatient or sadistic than you used to be.
(Even if you just want to smack me in the face for this pep talk.)
You just need more sleep. And someday, you will have some.
(Originally posted to the Canada Moms Blog)