I am very tired. Like crazy, stupid, hallucinogenically tired. The kind of tired where you “rest your eyes” while sitting on the toilet…the kind of tired that at first glance makes you think your neighbor’s dog is a stallion running across the lawn…the kind of tired that makes you think “hallucinogenically” is actually a word. The kind of tired that makes you press the “Brew” button on the Keurig with no mug underneath, leaving you paralyzed as the coffee runs down the counter and all over the floor. You stand watching it, frozen, saying aloud to the flying monkeys perched atop the fridge no one in particular: “Stop. Stop. Stop.”
You may be thinking, “Oh, she must have a newborn.” No. I have a kindergartner with the sleeping habits of a newborn. From 8:00pm to 4:30am, she cries for me every two hours. The difference is, she is not crying that desperate little baby bird cry that says, “Feed me! Feed me!” No, she just bellows “MOOOOOOMMMMMMMM!!!!!” until I appear beside her, at which point she reports (again): “I can’t sleep.”
How Phoebe sleeps through this every night, I have no idea. I am pretty sure the kid throws a little Bailey’s in her sippy cup of rice milk before retiring for the evening.
This has been a particularly bad stretch of Emma Insomnia. I could feel it coming. Like watching a movie when two characters are in a car and the driver keeps looking at the passenger instead of the road, and you start to get tight in your chest and want to scream, “What the f*** are you doing? Look at the goddam road!” Then comes the inevitable head-on collision with an 18 wheel tanker full of explosives, and you say out loud to the stallions and flying monkeys no one in particular, “I KNEW that was going to happen.”
Curse the holidays. Tis the season for multi-sensory overstimulation, sleepless nights and candy cane induced psychotic episodes.
Emma, 5, is sassy, spunky and spirited. You know, all the “S” euphemisms for a child who can be a major pain in your ass challenging. When she is “on” she is positively magnetic: sweet, funny, charming, friendly and imaginative. When she is “off,” however, I begin having mental images of Drew Barrymore in the ‘80’s flick “Firestarter.”
Her level of intensity has times of dormancy, which I have learned is a trap….I start to get cocky, like I finally have some freaking idea what I am doing with this whole motherhood thing. And then BAM! She changes the game on me again: stops sleeping, will only talk in Secret Robot Language, insists on wearing sandals two sizes too small in the middle of December, exists on a diet of Pirate Booty and seltzer water, etc.
And the tantrums…oh, the tantrums. She makes Linda Blair look like Funshine Care Bear. I need to stash a bottle of vodka in the hallway closet so I can take the edge off while I am holding the bedroom door shut as she throws her body shoes at it. I fantasize about patenting the Tot Taser while Phoebe self-soothes in the living room.
Around her 3rd birthday Emma started sounding like Demi Moore after a few too many Marlboros and martinis- my niece Nicole coined it her “Party Girl Voice.” I took her to the doctor to have her tonsils and adenoids checked out. Diagnosis: Too much screaming. Course of Treatment: Stop screaming. Yeah right. Thanks Doc. Bend over and I’ll deposit my $25 co-pay.
Times of transition are particularly tough. The frenetic Christmas climax followed by the post-holiday letdown has seemed to hit her pretty hard this year. Despite the normal yuletide chaos, we had a lot going on. My aunt died suddenly in October, and now my 92 year old grandmother (with whom Emma is very close) is in the hospital. Phil gently suggested that perhaps these things are affecting Emma, and that maybe…just maybe…she is picking up on MY anxiety, insomnia, and tendency to meltdown when overwhelmed.
“What are you talking about??” I demand vehemently, as his eyes creep to the hole in the wall where I may or may not have hurled and shattered the cordless phone.
Ok fine. So I am little spirited myself. And I guess it does seem a little hypocritical that at 8:00pm I tell her to “just go to sleep,” when by 12:00am I am in the kitchen in my underwear eating whipped cream from the can and ordering red patent leather clogs after taking one too many Ambien.
A few sleepless nights ago after being told to “just go to sleep,” Emma exclaimed: “MOM! I TRY to go to sleep but then scary thoughts pop into my head.” I tried to explain the concept of meditation as a way of training the brain the way you would train a dog. She looked at me square in the eye: “Mom. My brain is one bad dog.”
My heart softened, and for a moment I forgot that it was 4:30am and the fact that my alarm was set to go off in 30 minutes. I realized that the same things that worry me (like getting murdered in my bed by sociopathic burglars), on some level worry her too. Admittedly, it does seem a little unfair to judge a 5 year olds temper tantrum when just last week you dumped a full glass of water on your husband’s head.
The book Raising Your Spirited Child stresses the importance of self-soothing, something I struggle with teaching my kid because I am not sure how to do it myself (apparently mixing red wine with sedatives doesn’t count).
So last night I gave it a whirl. After putting Phoebe to bed, I gave Emma a lavender bath, and then made her some Sleepy Time Tea. We lit some candles in her room, did some restorative yoga poses and told stories with our legs up the wall. I rubbed her feet and traced letters on her back. This routine could have put a monkey on speed to bed.
But not my spirited Emma.
Maybe it’s the sleep deprivation talking, but I have to believe that “self-soothing,” while more intuitive for some, can be taught. And we’re learning.