My younger son sleeps well from eight until midnight. At midnight he cries, nurses, and pretends that all is well. Twelve minutes later he’s crying again. And then again, and again, like clockwork every twelve minutes. On a good night I may lose two hours to this rhythm. On a bad night, I barely sleep at all. People had told me that second children often sleep better than the first. During my pregnancy, I prayed that this baby would be a sleeper—I even bargained with the gods, offering to take some other difficulty in exchange, just please let this baby sleep better than the first. But this morning at four am, I heard myself telling my partner Harlan never was this bad, and she agreed, instantly. (My partner rarely agrees instantly.)
This is one of the reasons why I’m tired.
Also, I’m tired because the baby can now crawl faster than I can walk and make messes faster than I can clean them up. This means that we are a walking equation of energy conserved vs. energy expended and there is no feasible way for me to come out on top. For instance, if I want to do a the dishes before putting him to bed, I have to be okay with him unpacking, tearing, and drooling on the pile of papers we’ve stashed behind the cupboard.
These days, I find myself astonished by the sheer repetition of things. I can’t believe that we have to eat dinner every single night when we’ve already eaten breakfast and lunch, that each of these meals fills the sink with more dishes, that the baby needs his diaper changed again, and this is his fifth poop of the day.
I’m so tired that when I hear that advice from well-meaning people about savoring every moment with my children, I can’t help but feel guilty because I spend so many moments doing precisely the opposite. Rather than being present, I look forward to the day when the baby is old enough that I can ask him to fetch me the scissors and he will do that for me while I remain on the couch. That’s all. I don’t dream about college or weddings or grandchildren; I dream about being able to finish a conversation with my spouse, or eat an entire meal uninterrupted; I dream about the day that I can sleep for eight hours uninterrupted, the day I stop dreading bedtime.
Sometimes I think about the people who tell me to savor every moment. Often they are parents whose kids are teenagers or long grown and they’d give anything to hold their own babies in their arms one more time, to smell their heads, to be drooled on, to change diapers just for an hour or a day. And maybe they regret every moment they spent staring off in space or wishing their kids could fetch them the scissors already. To those parents, I just want to say: It’s okay. You were there. You loved some of those moments. But also, remember. You were really, really tired.