Sleepless inůsanity
by Michele Sbrana
God has a sense of humor. It's a dry wit, but he has one nonetheless. He particularly likes to display his divine jocularity in children. Case in point: waking my children for school is as close as I've ever come to nudging another human being lying in a vegetative state. The only movement my children make on a weekday at 6:30 a.m. is to gently rotate their listless bodies away from the sound of my soothing voice. It can take upwards of twenty minutes and a spray bottle filled with cool liquid to rouse them from their slumber. And these are children who get the Association of American Pediatrics' recommended ten to twelve hours of sleep each night.

But alas! That healthy dose of required rest does eventually pay off. Come Saturday morning, God's wry and twisted sense of humor comes into play. My boys arise no later than 6 AM. Why this phenomenon occurs is anyone's guess. Could it be their deep-seated sense of Carpe Diem? Perhaps they long to see the dew on the morning glories? Or could it simply be as my seven year old so eloquently stated, "Mom, there's always a good Rugrats marathon on Saturday mornings!" Whatever the reason, come weekends, my 'ten-to-twelve-hour-a-night' children transform into something else. They become like tiny versions of that famed women of tireless wonder, Martha Stewart, also known in certain Native American circles as 'Needs No Sleep'.

My children have reached that significant childhood milestone when they feel free to be up and about before their parents. What qualifies them for this right of passage? Not an ability to dial 911 or administer the Heimlich Maneuver. No, I'm referring to the developmentally appropriate skill of pouring a minimum of half of their Cheerios into their cereal bowl with only a three foot trail of milk dribbled on the kitchen floor. Once children have the required competence to use a remote control and feed themselves without the use of electricity--well, just forget the turning points of walking, talking, reading, riding a bike--this is a landmark occasion worth celebrating!

Believe me, on one level I've come to relish these mornings when I can sleep in, and I empathize with all of those sleep-deprived parents who must be with their children every waking moment. But there are pitfalls. On Saturday mornings, when my children can somehow pass from dead-to-the-world to ready-for-anything in the same fashion that the Millennium Falcon makes the jump to hyperspace, my own level of consciousness is not always where it should be. In this semi-comatose state I've apparently agreed (in writing, no less) to the purchase of several battery-operated action toys, subscriptions to Nickelodeon and Sports Illustrated for Kids magazines, and something called a hair-i-gami.

I've also been told by my children that I have an uncanny ability to carry on very lucid conversations at the crack of dawn. For instance, this past weekend I was apparently able to answer all of my seven-year-old's questions regarding the gestation period of an ostrich egg. My only clear recollection of that morning was a wonderful dream involving Johnny Depp, a French village and quite a bit of chocolate.

Similarly, my husband, who during normal hours freely admits his technical incompetence, is able on weekend mornings to resolve complex kid-generated computer problems while his eyes are still crusted shut. How is it that we do this? The answer is quite simple really. And all parents from the republic of Chad to the province of Quebec know this to be true. Parents will do and say anything just to get a few more minutes of sleep! It is as if we're given supernatural abilities from God above. Frankly, I think God and his heavenly host are enjoying a delectable Eggs Benedict brunch while laughing hysterically at the millions of real life sitcoms in households across the planet each and every Saturday morning.

When it comes right down to it the only thing that parents truly want each and every day is to get their kids to bed. Certainly, we love and adore them and would give up our lives for theirs. But in reality, we just want them to be asleep. From the moment they enter the world we start calculating their sleep schedule. He's hungry now, so I'll feed him, play with him and then he'll be tired enough to fall asleep for at least forty-five minutes, and the cycle starts again. When they're toddlers, we plan busy mornings with vigorous, toddler-style walks to the park so they'll take long afternoon naps. Truth be told, I think Maria Montessori invented the first nursery school primarily as an efficient way to tire her kids out.

We coordinate our own lives, as dull as they might be, around when our children are sleeping. "I'll be able to get to the dishes after bedtime." "I'll return emails when they're down for the night." "I'll call you back when they're taking their nap." Or my favoriteů"I'll meet you in the bedroom when they're finally asleep." (Which typically results in Mom crashing out on the hallway floor while listening for deep-sleep breathing patterns, and Dad wondering why there's never any sex before the kids reach the R.E.M stage!)

Mom's who are writers, like myself, typically write when their children are sleeping. Why? Is it just because that's when we have the time? No. If we were to write while they were awake, we wouldn't have anything nice to say. All of our positive and meaningful observations tend to come during that wonderful thing called bedtime. Let's face it, there is no greater love than that of a parent for his or her sleeping child.

Copyright 2001
Michele Sbrana

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