I recently had a very bad night with our almost-3-year-old. It was end of August, 2011 and he was 3.5 months shy of his 3rd birthday, still in a crib inches from our bed and unable to get himself out, thanks to the very high bars on each side of this crib.
While we had told him that if he wakes up in the middle of the night, he mustn't wake US up...he could close his eyes and fall back asleep, or entertain himself without disturbing us...he didn't always get it.
I've noticed that, when I'm alone with him, I am patient up to a point and I love my husband's swooping in to give our son a different voice, saying the same things that I am, but I hate relying on it and often tell my husband, "Let me handle this one, please. When you're not here, what am I supposed to do?" However, if I'm exhausted, I cannot reason or teach him very well. I just want him to shaddup, already.
While my husband was away for a week, I had one of those awful nights alone. K. had awakened, hungry, needing things, and chatty chatty chatty chatty chatty. I couldn't stop it. I couldn't move my body - sleep was pinning me and I was down for the count - and then some. It took reaching into some deep reservoir of life to even gather sound in my mouth to respond to him. It began as a hiss of air and then scraped into a shape of sound that eventually became a word.
I was so heavy with fatigue that the thought of simply walking to the kitchen to slice an apple to feed my son and satisfy him back to sleep seemed impossible. First, I'd have to move my leg an inch, then several inches until I was bent enough to move my arms to an angle that would help me hoist myself up into a seated position. Then, I'd have to pivot my body so that my legs could swing over the edge of the bed and make contact with the floor, which would support one foot stepping in front of the other until I reached the kitchen and lifted my arm to flick on the light and then pull open the fridge...it was just too much to ponder, not to mention actually DO. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Because I couldn't move, I played the "Go to sleep" card for a bit. The conversation was banal and reminded me of Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street, when Ernie's perky attempts at repartee with the soundly sleeping Bert aggravate Bert but make the unaffected viewing audience chuckle. It went a little something...like this:
Ernie: Bert! Hey, Bert. Bert!
Ernie: Bert? Say, "yes?" I want to talk to you, Bert.
Bert: Sleep Ernieee. Go to...
Ernie: Ber-ert...I'm hungry!
Bert: It's the middle of the night, Ernie. I can get you water.
Ernie: No, I'm hungry, Bert! I'd like a little bit of apple, please.
Bert: Awwww -
Ernie: What's the matter, Bert? I'd like some apple. Wouldn't you like some apple, Bert?
Blessed silence. Thank you, God - that wasn't too bad. Thank you for this moment, and this moment, and this mo-
Ernie: Bert! I'm hungry!
This went on, easily, for an hour. Easily for HIM. Painful for me. I deluded myself into thinking that he'd eventually stop and go back to sleep. I had prayed for it! But it was a no-go. At this point, it was clear to me that Ernie was truly hungry but that's what he got for not eating enough dinner after having not taken a nap at the nanny's house and falling asleep during meal time. That's what he got! SUFFER, Ernie!
But, if he wasn't sleeping, he would be damned if I slept peacefully. Stupid Bert.
Of course I submitted to his endless torturing babble and flung myself out of bed and, grateful for an apple in the fridge, washed and cut slices of it to take back to my yearning Ernie.
Ernie took the slices in his tiny hands and calmly, as though he and I had just come inside from a peaceful, bonding walk in the woods and I wanted to show my love for him with something sweet, juicy and healthy, chewed them, making audible lip smacking sounds that I only enjoy on babies and toddlers. Any adult making loud salivary sounds while eating needs to eat in a box...alone...until they've finished the last morsel. I get enraged when someone eats loudly and don't mind admitting it. Am I alone in this? It makes my skin crawl and I know that I can't tell them to shut up, so I sit, nearby, grossed out and get angrier and angrier.
He placed the slices on his knees while he knelt close to the edge of his crib and I watched for a bit because it was very sweet and innocent and not at all hidden with an agenda like I felt his conversation with me had been. "He's only doing this to torture me. He just won't shut up, will he?! He always wins in this game of wills."
I held onto 3 slices while lying on my back, waiting for him to ask for more, but he did not. He only asked where one of the slices had gone, after it had slid off his thigh and onto the crib sheet. I guided him towards it and he gingerly ate that slice and went to sleep. My eyes were closed during the last couple slices and I awoke a few hours later, stiff, on my back, clenching apple slivers.
He awakened as cheery as though he'd slept for 12 hours - refreshed, happy to be alive and see me.
Ernie: Hello, Bert!
Bert: Hello? Is that what you have to say for yourself? Do you not remember anything about last night? You cannot do that ever again! That is NOT Ok!! Do you understand?
Ernie shook his head happily into a yes. Then said, "I'm hungry."
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