I’m sure for anyone in the trenches of life, hearing “God only gives you what you can handle” is obnoxious blather, but every once in a while I believe it’s true. My kids have been pretty good sleepers, as far as young children are concerned. True, when they are newborns they wake every couple hours to eat, and since I am the sole source of food, I have to get up. But neither of them have been particularly early risers once the kinks are worked out, comparatively speaking, because I have some mom-friends on Facebook whose kids get them up at 5 or 6 every single day.
(I wrote 99 words before noticing I was sitting on a child-safety outlet plug, prong-side up. Cushy butt FTW)
We had a couple of terrible nights with Jackson when he was new, but then the Facebook hive-mind told me to establish a routine so he knows what to expect each night and this too shall pass. For the most part, he’s a great sleeper. If he’s sick all bets are off, but that goes for any kid I’m sure. A couple mornings he has woken up a tad too early for our tastes and we pulled him into our bed and tried to get him to fall back to sleep so we didn’t have to get up. He liked this very much, and started coming in earlier and earlier and always going to Daddy’s side of the bed, because he knows I would march him back to his room. In the morning to delay getting out of bed is one thing, but when he wakes up in the middle of the night and is rolling around in our bed until finally drifting off, at which point Archer inevitably wakes up and I have to go soothe him while Dad and big bro snore? I do not care for this arrangement. To be fair, Robby is not getting a totally sound and restful sleep while Jackson flops over his face and drools into his ear. But I would bet he’s doing better than I am while soothing a crying baby in the next room. So while Daddy gets to remain the nice parent who lets his son snuggle in our bed, I am the grumpy, sharp-tongued monster that emerges from interrupted sleep an ill-tempered zombie.
When Jackson decides it’s time to be awake and nudges Dad whispering “bwefast, Daddy?”, Robby let’s me keep sleeping until he needs to get ready for work (assuming Archer has fallen back to sleep). For this, I will be eternally grateful. I need my sleep. Neither of us do well on a bad night’s sleep, but I am not allowed to drink caffeine because I’m breastfeeding (which I remind him of in my shrill, crazed, voice at 7am), and you’re not allowed to swear at children, so I feel I will end up having a tougher day than he will.
I am convinced on every rough and rushed morning that Jackson is somehow behaving worse than normal as he senses my weakness like a shark smelling blood in the water. “Ooooh she’s exhausted. I think I’ll yank this charger out of the wall and whip it at the furniture.” But I’m starting to think it’s more about me. Maybe he is always pretty even-keel for a toddler, and I handle it MUCH worse when I’m struggling to keep my eyes open. Yelling does not phase Jackson, so when I get mad and try to get him to behave, or at the very least NOT bang pots and pans and screech like a pterodactyl, he amps it up a notch instead. I tolerate less toddler-ness when I’m tired, too. Something that would be mildly irritating on a regular day is forbidden when I’m exhausted, and that’s confusing for a two year old.
Also, it’s hard for me to remember that Archie crying is (usually) not Jackson’s fault. When Jackson is being demanding and his brother starts wailing in the background I get exasperated and say “I can’t read you a book right now because your brother is crying” and I hear my tone saying “I have to help your brother so get over whatever your issue is”. When Archie was an infant, maybe this was more acceptable in order to make sure he felt safe and comforted in his new home and didn’t worry his mother forgot to feed him while reading Things That Go in the other room. But now, I need to watch what I’m putting out there for Jackson to hear, because his desire for my attention is not related to his brother’s sudden distress, and I need to manage both while making both kids feel important and loved. Easier said than done, I’m afraid. Archer is older now and secure in his home life, so if he is fussing he can just blubber for a minute while I sort out Jackson’s needs.
My mantra since Archer was born has been “sometimes babies cry”. Different from my mantra when Jackson was born: “I am a complete failure. Let’s call the pediatrician.” I now know that it’s OK if the baby cries here and there. If I need a minute to go to the bathroom or splash water on my face, the baby will be OK as long as he’s in a safe place like his crib and is otherwise healthy and not in terrible pain. It’s ridiculous that Moms have to give themselves permission to pee, but it’s true. I have had to actually reassure myself that kidney failure would require me to neglect my children far more than a 1 minute trip to the bathroom when they are cranky. The mom guilt is potent over here. But I am improving which each child, so I should be entirely guilt-free by the seventh or eighth baby, at which point I’ll be so tired and confused I won’t remember to feel guilty. Plus, my bladder will look like my favorite slouchy boho bag by then, so I’ll just go in my depends. Having babies is glamorous, I tell ya.