By Annette Martel and Kelly Hagen
Why is that we always want what we can’t have?
Sleep – that’s what I want, more than just about anything in the world right now. My kids, on the other hand, want to stay awake all night, more than anything the world. There’s a four-year-old and four-month-old who live to keep me awake.
It’s possible that my husband might be waking up, too. It’s too dark when this is all happening for me to notice. Plus, my brain function diminishes to the point where I can’t tell the difference between when I’m dreaming and awake.
Wow. I didn’t remember I could fly. What is that horrible screaming sound? My eyes pop open. Okay. Well, the self-soothing session appears to be over. Where did I put my phone? I need to stop the sleep timer. Oh, wait, maybe it’s that iPhone-shaped lump under my back. Oh, neat, he self-soothed for five minutes.
I manage to walk over to my son’s room in the dark without head-butting any doorframes. “Well, hello there, little cutie.” I don’t actually say this to him, but I think it. You see, the baby books say not to talk to them when they’re waking up in the middle of the night, lest they begin to think that you are on their side in this wake-up-every-half-hour-a-thon.
“Shhhhhhhh,” I tell my baby, as if he’s going to listen to anything I say. I help him find his pacifier. He grabs it out of his mouth with great disdain and whips it across the room, as if he’s trying out for the Minnesota Twins. I even more insistently continue to shush him and pat his chest. And he immediately falls back to sleep – is what I wish I could say happens, but really, most of it is a blur. When he finally does fall asleep again, I meander back to my room, push the start button on the sleep timer app, and pull the covers up to my neck.
“Ahhhh. This is it. Sweet, sweet sleep,” I tell myself. Hey, wait a minute. Why is there a pig in my living room? And when did we paint the whole house pink? And what is that terrible screeching sound?
And I’m up.
I want to start out by saying that sleeping is amazing. This needs to be established early. We really like sleep.
For those unfamiliar, sleeping is that thing that happens after a number of hours of consciousness, where your body just kind of stops moving around so much, and your brain shuts down into a sort of “sleep mode” (Hey, do you think that’s why they call it that?) where it is technically working, but it’s producing garbled visions of nonsense where I’m back in high school but I can’t remember my locker combination and, oh god, I have no clothes on and I think I’m the rat from “Ratatouille.” So … low-level output is coming out of the ol’ noodle; that’s what I’m trying to say.
Sleep happens to the best of us, the worst of us, and everyone in between. You have to sleep. If you don’t: bad things.
Try telling that to our youngest child.
That wasn’t rhetorical. I need someone to tell this child. He’s not listening to me. Preferably an authority figure he might respect. What’s Wilford Brimley up to these days?
So, like my wife so ably wrote already, we have a four-month-old son not really named Ticklebutton, and it’s not that he doesn’t sleep; he just doesn’t like to do it for longer than an hour and a half at a time.
To answer my wife’s suspicions, yes, I am awake some of those times that she’s awake, doing all those things she wrote about. I’m the guy standing in the dark outside the room, trying to avoid being head-butted by the wife, staring in, wondering what I can do to help. But I’m too confused to generate any good ideas, so I usually end up loading the dishwasher.
Sometimes I even beat my wife to the crib to try to calm the wild-eyed, angered infant down enough to go back to sleep. I honestly do try to be the one to get to the crib first to try to help, because I’m very competitive. But I’m also a very deep sleeper, apparently, and so I’m living up to every stereotype about how fathers aren’t supposed to lose sleep.
I’ve been told that, anyway. “How are you, Kelly Hagen?” they ask, and I say, “Super tired, thanks.” “Why?” they ask, and I say, “Well, because we have a baby and the baby doesn’t sleep and I don’t sleep because of the baby.” Finally, they say something about how “fathers don’t stay up with the babies, silly. Babies need to be nursed and you can’t do that.”
And that’s true, sure. But, still, I’m a big believer in solidarity. I can pat a child’s stomach and make a prolonged “shhhhhhhhhhh” noise with the best of them, and if that’s not working, Annette can feed him, and I can show solidarity by staying up as long as she is. Run the garbage outside, mail out some Christmas cards that are dreadfully late, wash the dog, etc. We don’t even have a dog. I have no idea whose dog I’ve been washing, but you’re welcome.
We’re going to go and try to get some sleep now. Good night. Thanks for reading. And … never mind, the kid’s up again. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Columnists Annette Martel and Kelly Hagen are married, have two kids and never sleep. Never. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.