When you’re a parent, the exhaustion creeps in by degrees. You don’t even notice it.
I’m not talking about when the sprout is first born and you go from sleeping 8, 9, 10 hours a night to catching three hours at a stretch and being supremely thankful for it. No, everybody knows parents of newborns don’t get any sleep. I’m talking about a few months, if not years, later. The tantrums, the waking up in the middle of the night, the stampeding around the house for hours on end, it’s just a part of life. You don’t notice it.
Somehow, you find yourself subsisting on less and less sleep. You get by on five or six hours and you think you’ve won the lottery. The raccoon rings under your eyes look less like black circles and more like stylish pirate eyeliner (to your mind at least). On the weekend, you sleep until six AM and it feels like the angels have delivered you to a downy bed of heaven feathers. You’re still shambling through the day like a hamstrung zombie, but you feel almost normal. This is your life, and it isn’t so bad.
What you don’t realize (because you’re too tired to realize anything that isn’t whacking you over the head with a pool noodle, despite the fact that you don’t own a pool to necessitate a noodle) is that that exhaustion is piling up like collectible whatzits in the closet, and there comes a point at which the exhaustion you’re sweeping under the rug is now seeping out through the edges like so much asbestos particulate. And as much as you develop an ability to power through and function on minimal amounts of sleep, the time comes when the exhaustion can no longer be denied. You find yourself resting your eyes at traffic lights, resting your entire body on the couch during the third episode in a row of Power Rangers, and dashing to bed at the hallowed hour of eight o’clock because you just can’t take it anymore.
The sprout’s bedtime routine has become a little bit more manageable in the past few months. He’s gone from demanding three or four stories and two songs to just two bedtime stories and a bit of a cuddle, followed by five or ten minutes of me lying in his floor so that he doesn’t have to fall asleep by himself. This is not a bad arrangement. He gets the comfort of his big bad daddy being there in the room with him as he drifts off to sleep, and I get a few blessed minutes of quiet to recharge for the sprint to bedtime.
But tonight the exhaustion crept in by another degree.
I read a Dr. Seuss double-header, tucked him in, turned the lights off, and stretched out on the floor, and the next thing I knew my wife was poking me in the back in the dark. In the space of about thirty seconds, I’d fallen into a deathlike, dreamless sleep and logged nearly a full hour of blissful naptime right there on the carpet.
I used to wonder how my dad could sleep anywhere in the house, at any time of the day, for any amount of time. I think the picture is becoming a little bit clearer.
This post is part of SoCS.