My mother likes to remind me that I never slept either. As a child, I would stay up all night rearranging my furniture or reading through a set of encyclopedias. I’d put on elaborate theater productions in my room or attempt to master 18th century hairstyles.
Growing up an eccentric/nightwatchman/introvert gave me an extra eight hours every day to do with as I pleased. As a child, I used those hours to play, read, explore. As an adolescent, I filled them with writing, painting, and sculpting. Later, they became my hours of prayer, study, and exercise. When Bryan and I got married, we’d go to bed together, but as soon as he was snoring, I would sneak out to the fire escape with my laptop to Google things like, “How to do laundry”.
Time sleeping has always seemed less valuable to me than time spent in solitude.
If I didn’t have children now, I’d likely still be a nightwatchman. But I do have kids, so I spend a good chunk of my waking hours dreaming about what it would be like to sleep long enough to be able count it as more than a nap. I haven’t had more than a nap since the second trimester of my first pregnancy. My first child is 3 and half.
At night, my children curl up next to me, fingers, toes, mouths, wedging me in on all sides. Some nights I am sure they are trying to get back into the womb. Beatrice pulls my hair up to her chin like a blanket, Leona grabs for a handle to bring my breast to her mouth. I am a living nest.
Beatrice is old enough now to tell me that she just doesn’t want to be alone. Our afternoon quiet time battles are epic, thick with whisper screaming and empty threats. Any other time of the day that child can fill hours playing with her “imagination friends”, hiding in a high spot with a book so Leona can’t tear out the pages, building castles behind the fortress of a baby gate, or sitting at the kitchen table with a stack of paper and a pen. But when quiet time rolls around and she is confronted by the discipline of solitude, she refuses to embrace it. She will sneak into my room and start folding laundry just so she doesn’t have to be alone.
So far, this has been the hardest part of parenting– my desire to be home to my children, and the inescapable reality that I am. I want my children to feel safe, nurtured, profoundly loved, deeply appreciated, and wanted in my presence. But I also want to sleep, and when I do, to have the luxury of rolling over.