The Saga of a Sleepless Son

Most mornings I wake to the sound of my husband tiptoeing off to the shower. I still have fifteen minutes until I need to help get the kids ready for school. It’s quiet. Peaceful. I can unstick the sleep gobs that glue my tired eyes closed in my own time.

But lately, my nine-year-old son shatters those precious moments. He climbs in bed with me at 6:30 and begins chirping away like a baby bird. “Mom, why is it so light out?” “Mom, do you think we’ll have soccer practice tonight?” “Mom, did the Flyers win?” “Mom, I found out what phlegm means in my Harry Potter book and it’s not what you said.”

His early mornings mean one of two things: he’s either excited or worried. And this phase won’t end until his mind is put at ease.

This is not how I like to wake up in the morning, and it brings back memories, evil memories of days that always began way too early after nights with many interruptions.

He’s never been much of a sleeper. I didn’t know kids even came that way.

The most common advice I got before having my son was, “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” Sure, I thought. I will let the house be messy. Dishes can sit in the sink. Laundry doesn’t need to be folded right away. And babies sleep so much anyway, I’ll be able to sleep and still get those things done, right?

I was a stupid new mother.

My son slept. Only when we held him. But we had to bounce him. And we could only do that while standing. God forbid we try to sit down. Those first few weeks with him were torture and I sat in bleary-eyed delirium during my shifts with him in the wee hours of the night wondering what the hell I had done to deserve such punishment. When I did sleep, I’d dream that I was holding him and wake in a sweaty panic that I had dropped him.

Sleep through the night at three months? That was the first parenting myth I believed, a mere dream that sparked, fizzled, and smoked for over a year. Just when my husband and I thought we had nailed it, something else always put a kink in our slumber: teething, a cold, a change in temperature, a fly on the wall, a piece of lint, who freaking knew.

When he was a toddler and threw his babies out of the crib in the middle of the night, it was a top-secret mission to return them to him without being seen. I would army-crawl in through a sea of stuffed animals, toss the missing baby into the crib, and back out of there at top speed. If my son popped his head up, panicked thoughts raced through my mind as I lie splayed on his floor. “I’ve been spotted. Get out. Abort the mission! Abort the mission!” If I was too far in, my only choice was to lie still and try to blend in with the stuffed animals or hide half under the crib. Sometimes I was stuck there for what seemed like hours until he ducked his head down again.

Blue Oliver had a rattle. Don’t ever give your child a baby that rattles. Just don’t.

I’d get tired of those G.I. Joe missions late at night, and I wasn’t into playing peek-a-boo no matter how cute he was.

Once my son got into a regular bed, we’d wake to see him run past our room. My husband found him helping himself to a midnight snack from the fridge.

For an eternal stretch, it seemed like my husband slept on my son’s floor more than he slept in our bed. It was better than constantly being poked in the face and getting up half the night.

It took seven years for my son to let us sleep in peace, for him to realize that just because he was awake didn’t mean he had to wake up the rest of us. He finally learned that he could pick up a book and read while we slept in…until 7.

But now, every time he goes through one of his phases of early mornings, my brain starts ticking. I hear the thud of his feet hit the floor when it’s still dark out. Is it the birds chirping? An upcoming test at school? Excitement over a visit from his grandparent? Or something more? Troubled over something going on at school? After a few days, I figure it out. I don’t like for my son to be worried. I even lose a little sleep over it.

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31 Comments

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31 responses to “The Saga of a Sleepless Son

  1. Our firstborn Amelia was a great sleeper – the living truth of all those sayings like “sleep when the baby sleeps,” etc. We were completely blindsided by our son Haiden (now 5 mths old) who sounds much like your son above. Brutal. It’s comforting to know that is somewhere on my horizon (although I’ll be honest – I hope I get there a little faster than you did). :)

    Thanks for the post.

    • I’m sure most people did not have this problem for seven years. Though my post may not have been clear in that as he got older, it definitely was not as often. Weekends sucked. But the kids rarely wake us up in the middle of the night anymore. Good luck!

  2. Holy cow did this post fill my eyes with tears of laughter! Ah, the standing bounce (my husband even had a “bounce bounce” song). And the army crawl freeze, you’ve been spotted! My son is just 3 but I have already started the “look at the clock, if the first number isn’t seven, it isn’t time to get up.” Unfortunately he thinks that means it is fine to get in my bed and ask the same million questions your son has.

    Great post!!!

    • Yes, we had a bounce song too. I still know all the words. I have no idea how in the world it came to be. It was so cheerful and peppy and we were probably screaming curse words inside.

  3. Lisa

    Yes, we have an early morning riser in the family also. We ended up getting her a clock that goes from yellow to green when she can get out of bed. It’s saved us many trips up the stairs in the morning hours to scream “It’s too early, get back in bed”.

  4. Oh my. That’s one I have no experience with. I certainly hope you find a way out of that one. I don’t know about you, but I do LOVE my sleep.

    My kids are all in the good sleeper category — always have been. Unfortunately with that means that we also have good bed-wetters (they simply don’t wake up). Take your pick: grumpy from lack of sleep or a full day’s laundry.

  5. The famous army crawl. If you hold VERY still they might not see you. :)

  6. Our boy (3yrs old) is still not a morning person. He’ll sleep in until after 9am if you let him. However his school bus picks him up at 6:45am for PPCD classes at the nearby Elementary School so during the school year he has to get up early. Sometimes I’m putting pants on a lifeless hunk of flesh but other times he’s a little more engaged and, God willing, actually helps me dress him. Currently, his only morning ritual on days he stays home is getting us to put Scooby-Doo on the television. He likes to watch Scooby before he actually starts his romps around the house which gives us a bit more freedom in the morning. Nice for all involved I think.

    • I could probably count on both hands how many times my kids have slept till 9! Maybe even one hand. However, the nice thing is that they do go to bed early. And no, putting them to bed later does not help. They get up even earlier.

      Putting pants on a lifeless hunk of flesh is a humorous image. My husband has the job of getting our daughter ready for school. I think he could probably relate.

  7. You nine year old sounds just like mine…he was/is like that too. Maybe we chose the wrong year to have our babies if we wanted sleep…

  8. My kids were the stay up to midnight/sleep until noon types. Just like Hubby and me. Not very conducive to activities with friends. So I got them on a “better” schedule and now we have two bed crashers as soon as the sun rises. What have I done?

  9. I’ve only had to deal with the mom sleep deprivation for two years, I cant imagine 9 years! Charlotte often wakes up early morning and comes toddling into my room. Every morning I will her to please please go back to sleep. Sometimes it works, but it is oh so painful when it doesnt!

    • Yeah, some people are just early birds I guess. If he tries to sleep till noon when he’s a teenager, he’ll be out of luck. I have big plans for paybacks!

  10. Fabulous Blog :-) the G I joe mission did make me laugh ! And bring back some not so distant memories of myself doing pretty much the same thing. X

  11. I will never understand why you have to be STANDING while holding the baby. All 3 of the boys were like that, and even now- the twins are 19 months and they still prefer the ‘standing’ hold better than the sitting. Seriously- is it gravity or what??!! —And i have to laugh at your chirpy bird. My 3 yo will come in our room anywhere from 6-7am and start right in on the topic left over from the night before. Ah yes, such zest for life!

  12. Hahaha Those memories bring back so many memories of things that we do when they are little. I have one that crawls into my sweatshirt while I’m wearing it for extra napping time when she’s sleepy because she knows I can’t put her down that way with out waking her up and she’s 2!!!

  13. None of my kids slept very well until they were two. Once they were old enough to understand a death-threat, they learned to leave us alone in the wee hours. I think that was about age 6. One day, I will sleep again. I know it! I just hope I haven’t forgotten how.

  14. All I can say is that I am very lucky Cap’n Firepants is a morning person.

  15. I absolutely LOVE this post! As a mother of twins who will be 5 months old tomorrow I haven’t had a full night’s sleep since I was 5 months pregnant. I too looked forward to when they were 3 months old and would sleep through the night. After they turned 3 months old I looked forward to them turning 3 months adjusted age and being over 12 pounds — this I was assured is when babies really sleep through the night. WRONG!

    I am glad that at some point during my lifetime they will in fact sleep through the night (fingers crossed!).

    Thanks for sharing your funny, sweet and heartfelt post!

    • In all honesty, it does get better. My son didn’t sleep through the night till after the first year. Then it was phases. Sometimes very long phases. But my daughter slept through the night at nearly three months to the day. She’s had her share of late-night visits too though. But none of it is like those early newborn days! I can laugh about it now.

  16. I have a post coming out tomorrow about how much I hate the yoga ball because of all the bouncing and rocking we had to do to get my baby to sleep. My knees wore out and I eventually had to figure out a different way to get him to sleep. It’s crazy to see how his sleep habits are still similar even at 9yo!

  17. Our 23 year old called us from his Peace Corps gig on the other side of the world at 5:30 a.m. this morning. Much improvement over his other calls at 1:00 a.m. and three-ish. Yep.

    The sleep window is between 12 and 14 (15 if you are really lucky) – enjoy!

  18. Love this post, had me cracking up at visions of you sprawled across the floor, holding your breath I bet! I can definitely remember that manouvere when my girls were little…

    I try to remember that one day they won’t want me or need me in the night or mornings, and I try to enjoy their dependance for a moment. Never lasts long enough though. ;o)

    http://innerangelsandenemies.wordpress.com/

  19. Seven years, holy crap! I thought our 4 year old was bad. He only gets me up once a night and not every night. I did not have happy sleeping children when they were little and I too remember those nights of hiding in plain sight on their floor in the dark when going in to check on them backfired.

    By the way, you are still not on my reader. I really just need to suck it up and switch over to Google Reader. I did what you suggested and unfollowed and then refollowed you. I will let you know it that helps.

    • Yeah, he came in not every night but often enough to drive us crazy!

      Thanks for resubscribing. I’m not sure what’s going on. WordPress has not been much help unfortunately. They tell me to tell people who are having trouble getting me in the reader to contact them at the help desk. I can’t track everyone down who subscribes. If you keep having trouble, you may want to try that. Let me know if resubscribing works.

      • I will wait and see if resubscribing does the trick. If it does not I will contact the help desk. It has to be frustrating for you as I know it is for me. I am pretty sure there are some other WP blogs that dropped off that I follow too and since they changed the layout of the Topics section it almost never loads for me anymore. Grrrr…

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