I'm not exaggerating when I say our three sons were all dreadful sleepers as infants and toddlers. Even now, at the ages of 12, 10 and 4, we rarely make it through an entire week without a middle-of-the-night blood sugar issue, bed-wetting incident or nightmare. Sleep deprivation is debilitating, especially when it lasts for years. Not that it's a competition, but it takes a lot for someone to trump the length and extent of sleep deprivation that Chris and I have endured. Regardless, we muster compassion for anyone who's experienced lack of sleep, even those on the less severe end of the spectrum.
Chris' career hasn't required him to travel much over the years, which means we've been able to enjoy most of the hellish, sleepless nights together. Recently Chris has been traveling a bit more. With the boys a little older and all of us better rested, a sharp contrast has emerged in how I physiologically react when Chris tells me he has a trip approaching and how I ultimately manage the challenge.
**********NEWS OF THE TRIP
Then - Seize, whine, then apologize to Chris for seizing and whining, and immediately start mini-therapying myself by repeating affirmations of my patient mothering skills and ability to function on zero sleep.
Now - Calmly say, "No problem," plan what shows I'll watch after the kids go to bed and debate internally if it's poor parenting to have a glass or two of wine when Chris is out of town.
Then - Knowing Chris had a trip planned created tremendous anxiety for me. I lost precious sleep worrying about the fact that I would get even less sleep when he was away. I always managed my single-parenting days and nights better than I thought I would, but with the fear I might "fail" [not knowing what that would look like, but knowing I didn't want to find out] sitting on my shoulder.
Now - I don't hyperventilate anymore when Chris gives me his travel dates. Occasionally the boys and I have a long night or complicated day, but we don't have multiple challenging days stacked one on top of the other, week after week, month after month, year after year. I can deal with "typical" curve balls.SLEEP
Then - I simply didn't sleep well, if at all. The kids were up many times a night. Someone usually threw-up. If it wasn't a child, it was a dog. When the house was quiet for twenty minutes at 2:00 AM, instead of sleeping, I tortured myself with envious thoughts of Chris sleeping soundly in a hotel bed while simultaneously missing him in ours. I struggled with bad dreams, so I rarely slept deeply.
Now - I sleep great. Sometimes a boy needs something in the night, but it's manageable. I still have a vivid imagination and experience a nightmare once in a while, but it seems better now. Maybe because I'm getting more sleep. It's also much easier to make my bed in the morning. I enjoy that. Bonus!
SCHEDULES [Chris takes the older boys to school when he's home.]
Then - Awakening a baby who slept poorly the night prior, placing him in a backward facing car seat when what he really wanted to do was nurse [ALL DAY], was difficult. The four-year-old [then baby] was a car screamer. It upset the two older boys and lasted until he was three-years-old. No joke.
Now - I prepare the four-year-old the night prior, explaining his father is out of town so we get to take the big boys to school. This reverse psychology worked a few times but now he groans. He doesn't like being woken from a deep sleep, pulled from a warm bed and placed in a cold car seat. But he does it without protest. Sounds small, but it sends me to the moon.
Chris is out of town.
Yesterday morning as I uncovered my four-year-old son's warm, sleeping body, I whispered, "Good morning. It's time to take the big boys to school. I'll carry you." He rolled towards me, eyes closed, hair sticking up like a rooster and reached out obediently. I picked him up and drew in his scent -- clean sheets and lavender soap from his bath 12 hours prior -- and I reminded myself to never forget this moment, how perfectly we fit together as he clung to me. I felt happy and content.
I carried him downstairs and put him in his car seat, the big boys quietly helped me by opening doors, handing me the four-year-old's blanket, and double-checking the house for lights that needed to be turned off and doors that needed to be locked. We were in sync.
Five minutes into the thirty-minute drive, the four-year-old's eyes were open and he looked peaceful. Oldest Boy wanted to know if we could listen to his iPod, but asked if we could call his dad first. We called Chris and left a voice message telling him we missed and loved him, and wished him a good day.
Chris will be home late tonight, maybe even early tomorrow morning. I used to memorize or have handy flight details, hotels, meeting times, etc... It's not that I don't have that information... somewhere, I'm just... I don't know... busier, better rested, able to send and receive texts [finally].
The boys and I are glad Chris doesn't travel much or for very long. But now when he does, we all work together to fill in the gap created by his absence. Sleep helps; so do restaurants. I might not be hyperventilating waiting for his return like I used to, but just like then, it's nice to have the other guy home so I can poke him in the middle of the night and groggily demand, "Cuddle me. I had a bad dream."