It’s happening again. I realized this last night when I found myself setting out a blueberry-banana muffin on the kitchen counter and pouring a small glass of milk, which I then stored inside the refrigerator. For easy access. For Isaac’s 5 a.m. attack of the munchies.
Right now, it’s this: boys have bedtime together, cuddled up for stories in Rowan’s double bed. Then Rowan decamps for our bed, where he starts the night while Isaac “settles” in his single bed (with its safety rail) in the brother room. This practice started when Rachel and I decided that we could no longer lie next to Isaac for an hour and a half each night while he took his sweet time going to sleep and screamed if we left. Four days later, we had broken him of that habit, but in the process engrained a new one in Rowan, who is still starting the night off in our bed because, as he puts it, “I don’t like toddlers sleeping in my room with me.”
Which is fine. I mean, me neither, mostly. We just move Rowan to the bed in what used to be Isaac’s room before we go to sleep. Why not back to his own bed? Because Isaac, although he now goes to sleep beautifully, has taken to waking up at 4:30 or five in the morning and screaming, “Mufffffffffin! Miiilllllllllllllllllk!” I’ve discovered that if you take him downstairs, feed him said quick snack, and keep all the lights off, he will sometimes consent to being taken back up stairs and cuddled with you in Rowan’s bed for half an hour or so. Come over! Try it! If you’re really lucky, he will actually fall back asleep, and if you are astonishingly lucky, blessed by the stars and fortune, Rowan won’t wake up only moments after that.
This is dumb.
I mean, it’s dumb because it’s just a dumb system, in the sense that in the larger scheme of things Isaac — and everyone else in the family — needs more sleep than a 4:30 wakeup call allows for. But it’s also dumb because we are repeating our own history, caught up in this seemingly endless treadmill of almost-solutions out of which spiral new problems. And new almost-solutions. Welcome to parenting, I suppose.
Do I sound bleak? I think it’s more that I’m weary: a summer cold plus seasonal allergies have added to my general fatigue. At least I’m not so far gone that I don’t take some pleasure in snuggling with the boy, who has now taken to singing “Twinkle twinkle” quietly in bed as the sun comes up. If you have to be awake at 5:30, I suppose there are worse ways to be awake.
Radical acceptance? Denial? You decide.
Susan L. Goldberg
Susan L. Goldberg is an award-winning freelance writer, editor, blogger, and essayist.