I’ve been sleep deprived for at least 8 years.
It’s a bit of a problem, but thankfully it comes in waves. There are nights that I actually do get to sleep all the way through, and the next morning the world is in full colour! Many days, though, I’m dealing with the effects of being up in the night with at least one of our four kids.
Last summer, though, I had a moment of clarity and gratitude for it all.
I laid awake in the middle of the night with an arm around a little warm body. Our 5 and a half year old had fled to our room after a bad dream. I didn’t know she was there until she was climbing over me and snuggling in for refuge. We talked about it a little bit, and after a few minutes, she was ready to go back to her own bed.
When I got up with her to help her find her way in the dark, 3 and a half year old awoke and began to cry loudly about the lullabies on the iPod. They weren’t right. They were too quiet. The nightlight wasn’t in the right spot… I took a deep breath to keep from losing it and reminded her to use a quiet voice so she didn’t wake the babe. “I CAN’T!” she wailed. That about did it. I hissed a “be quiet or else” type of warning and tucked them in.
For the next hour I drifted in and out of sleep while more noise came from their room than is necessary or allowed at 3am. At 4, one was up again trying to get to the potty on time, but oops. I could hear the steady stream hitting the step stool in front of the sink from the warmth of my wonderful bed. I bolted up and out of bed just in time to see a giant puddle and a worried little face. I gently told her it was okay and that accidents happen. She sat on the potty and waited while I wiped and washed it up, found fresh pajamas from the clean laundry baskets downstairs, and tucked her in again. As I was going back to bed, I pretended not to hear a small squawk from Little One’s room.
My head hit the pillow with great desperation and I sighed, feeling crankier than ever.
My husband put his hand on my arm and said, “Thank you for doing all of that.” He has often been the one to take care of the potty accidents while I calm a crying babe, so he knows all too well what it’s like to get up with the kids.
“I am sure there is a special place in heaven for mamas who get up a million times in the night.” I said.
“What time is it?” he asked.
“4:15,” I said. “I am so tired.” He patted my arm again. We laughed for a minute or two about how we know we are living in the good old days right now… at least that’s how we are going to remember nights like these.
The next morning at 6:30 (read: 2 hours and 15 minutes later), two out of three kids were awake and playing. One woke up with a fit of tears at 7, complaining that she wasn’t done sleeping. But pretending you’re a superhero is irresistable, and all was forgotten before breakfast.
Not every night is like this one, but we’ve had our share. In the early days of sleepless nights, I’d spend the following day feeling bad for not having the energy to take the kids out to the park or run a bunch of errands or have craft time WITH painting (so much to clean up!) or make cookies and have a flour fight in the kitchen like they do on the commercials. But I must be getting smarter or something because I am learning to take it easy on those days instead! We all NEED it.
Come to think of it, I’m either getting much smarter or even more exhausted, because I am so done with trying to figure out how to do everything perfectly and keep up with that pesky Jones family on social media.
My word this summer is GRACE. I mean, how many days have I spent my time and energy wondering if what I have done with my kids or in my house today meets an imaginary standard I’ve set for myself? These good ol’ days have often been filled with angst as I “should” myself to death throughout the day. “I should have taken them there. I should have fed them this. I should have done that thing…”. But I saw something the other day that was EXACTLY what I needed. Instead of asking, “what have I done today?”, ask “who have I been today?” (thanks Alicia Bruxvoort and Proverbs 31 Ministries).
My heart echoes a resounding “YES!!”.
As we tumble through this stage of our lives, in the thick of these good ol’ days, it’s the nights with no sleep and letting go of perfect that are helping me to bear the fruit that matters most: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22).
One sleepless night at a time.