I’m tired. I’m so tired I feel like I’ve been stuffed inside a zip lock bag full of Jello and then hurled across the sky. According to clocks and all other time telling devices I no longer go to bed during the actual night. The AM signal has made its appearance hours before I’m even ready to consider being in a horizontal position.
Work has kept me doing all manner of crazy things into the wee hours of the morning- writing musical numbers to be performed by inanimate objects, building stets out of construction paper, operating Popsicle stick puppets from underneath a table in a basement. Last night, at two a.m., while the rest of the eastern seaboard was sleeping I was making an inflatable blimp out of a tube sock, a plastic bag, and a bicycle pump (it’s important work…somebody has to do it).
I’ve pulled all-nighters followed by half-nighters and half-nighters that lead into no-nighters (there are just no catchy phrases to sum up how very little rest I am getting).
I imagine this is what it’s like to go on a vision quest or some other spiritual journey where you deprive yourself of sleep for several months and then right when you think you are going to break beyond repair you start hallucinating and meet your spirit animal. The hallucinations haven’t started yet but if they do begin, and I do indeed meet my spirit animal, I am fairly certain that it will tell me to get some fucking sleep.
Before having a child I would have been able to take this advice. I would have followed any sleepless night with at least three days of doing nothing but lying in bed and rousing only to go to the bathroom or make myself a toaster waffle. But now that there is a little person expecting me to be up with the sun, a day of rest is simply out of the question. I can’t just tell my two-and a-half –year-old, “Hey Mommy’s going to head to bed for the next eleven hours. Here’s how you open the fridge and operate the oven, here’s how you change your own diapers, here are the keys to the car, sing-a-long starts at ten, don’t be late. I’ll just be here in my room with this do not disturb sign on the door. You’re cool right? I’ll see you at dinner.”
It just doesn’t work like that. I can’t even pee with the door closed let alone disappear to take a nap.
So I’ve had to get creative. I’ve had to cut corners… I’m not proud of it, but at the moment it’s the best I can do.
When my daughter wants to play pretend I suggest that we pretend to be babies, “I’ll be an itty bitty baby,” I volunteer. “Did you know that itty bitty babies just lie in bed and sleep and cry? They can’t walk or anything… just watch, it goes something like this.” And then I curl up and attempt to drift off. “Whaaaa!” I cry out every few minutes just so she doesn’t think I’ve stopped playing the game.
Today I suggest we pretend the bathtub was an airplane. “You be the pilot,” I said, and then I sat behind her and rested my head against the faucet while she steered us through the clouds. I was actually managing to get some great rest until she requested that all passengers on the bathtub plane sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” over and over again.
At mealtime, I opt for something that requires nothing more than reheating or calling someone on the phone and saying, “I’d like delivery please”. At bedtime I suggest that my daughter read a story to me. When she naps, I nap, and when she wakes after only twenty minutes I suggest we play a highly competitive game called “pretend nap”.
“See if you can make me think that you are actually sleeping,” I say. “I’ll play too. Whoever can pretend nap for the longest wins! I’m very good at this game so you are going to have to be very convincing to beat me….”
It’s really shameful to think of all the ways I’ve attempted to avoid our usual boisterous routine. When she asks for dance music so that we can “rock out” I put on a CD that involves a single wooden flute or a lone Monk chanting “Om.”
“Oops,” I say, “wrong CD. But isn’t this music nice. It might not be the best for dancing but do you know what this song is really good for? This song is great for sitting on the floor and staring up at the ceiling. Doesn’t that sound like fun!”
Yesterday at the playground I asked her to push ME on the swing. It was going so well until the force of my weight knocked her into the sand. At one point she was hunting for acorns and I curled up on an empty slide, “Excuse me miss…” I heard a woman say just as I was beginning to relax, “My son would like to use that slide.” I made up some embarrassed lie, “Heee, heee, I was just playing hide-and-seek with my daughter…. guess I picked the wrong spot.”
I’m pretty sure she thought I was drunk.
Soon I’ll be back in the game. I’ll be energetically chasing my two-and-a-half year old through fields, playing the bongo drums with my feet and hula-hooping with a stuffed monkey taped to my head (you know. The usual parenting stuff.) But for now, for the next day or two… or three, I’ll be I’ll be looking for that bench, or that doorway, or that mattress on the side of the road, where I can pause for just a minute and rest.