Time check. 3:30 a.m. Nik’s been awake for an hour —alternately playing and crying in his crib. The kind of cries that let me know he is not in any real distress. Just enough to keep him awake —and me, too. Well, that and the toilet which has chosen tonight to run incessantly. My only secret, sadistic pleasure has been waking Niksdad to fix it. I have already thrust my hands into the tank to fix the valve no less than three attempts in 20 minutes only to crawl back in bed and hear the tank draining and refilling again. I am not sure which of Dante’s circles this is. Crying child, running toilet, and a spouse who can sleep through the arrival of the second coming!
Having been in Nik’s room once in the past hour to comfort and console —and provide a quiet toy to distract him from thoughts of climbing out of the crib —I am waiting this one out. I don’t know if it’s a change in barometric pressure, or what, but his ear is acting up again. Not in an ear-infection-kind-of-way; rather, more of the same indeterminate pressure which causes him to rub and flick at his ear and which brings him some sort of intermittent pain. There is swelling around the lymph glad and, so help me I am not crazy, around the mastoid. It comes and goes and never seems to be present when we are visiting one of the myriad doctors Nik sees. I guess the surgery wasn’t the magic answer we were looking for.
3:40a.m. I listen to my son’s cries escalate to a wail of pain and frustration (is he crying for both of us, I wonder), as I can do nothing to ease his discomfort. The toy has long lost its appeal and Nik is simply tired and in need of that elusive balm of sleep. I cannot even go in to console him and rub his back as I used to do. Now, he wants to stand up and cling to me, begging me to release him from the prison of his crib. I am no longer naïve and hopeful that he wants the comfort and safety of Mama’s embrace. Alas, he has grown wily and I have become jaded. Unless I am prepared to take him downstairs to start our day, I dare not lift him.
Instead, I sit here at my keyboard feeling supremely guilty and more than a little frustrated as I listen to the wailing and thrashing which signals his discomfort, his frustration. His utter exhaustion.
At 4:00 a.m. I cave. When I enter his room, he is happy to see me. I feel guilty for raising the false hope of release. He begins to clap my hands together —one of the ways he requests play time. Instead, I smooth his hair, rumpled from his rolling to and fro in the crib. I whisper gentle soothing words to encourage sleep and relaxation. Failure ensues.
As I leave his room, the wailing and thrashing begins anew, this time with the tenor of extreme frustration. I know that if I wait it out he will eventually fall back to sleep. If only I could do the same.
I look in on my husband. He is sleeping blissfully —ignorant of the drama playing out down the hall. The struggle of maternal instinct versus parental control. Sleep versus play. Damn those ears anyway. Nik’s for causing him such distress and disruption. Mine for being unable to ignore the primitive pleas of my child. My husband’s for being able to sleep through it all. I m not even sure he opened his eyes when he fixed the toilet!
Never before have love and resentment balanced on so fine a hair. I am torn between my need for sleep and caffeine. Two roads…which shall I choose? The choice truly can make all the difference in my day.
4:25 now. It sounds like Nik is settling back in. The wailing is reduced to quiet moans and sporadic whimpers. Quiet. Then the sound of music from his toy. Damn. The boy is so tired. I go in to take the toy away so he won’t roll over on it and activate it as he is drifting off to sleep. He sits up and leans his head against the side of the crib. I can see the shadowy outline of his little form begin to droop and slump as he fights the pull of slumber. “Please, God, let him sleep” I pray. I am so weary at this point; I want to climb into the crib myself. Caffeine is looking like the only way I will ever make it through this day.
4:35 —Is he out? Taking a leap of faith, I stagger the few feet down the hall toward my beckoning bed. Whimper. Moan. Wa-ai-ai-ai-il! Followed by more whimpers. Followed by whines. SHIT!
4:45 a.m. —Clutching the monitor in my hand, I stumble down stairs to start the coffee. The faint blue glow of the light on the coffee pot lures me like a siren. Looks like caffeine wins out after all. The monitor is eerily silent so I check the volume. He’s out. Asleep. Joyous reprieve!
Coffee forgotten, I stumble back upstairs and crawl into bed. I awaken briefly an hour later to tell Niksdad that he is to let Nik sleep until he wakes on his own and to wake me…well, never! He gently kisses my forehead as I drift off again. I awaken three hours later to find my son awake, dressed and fed, and fresh coffee in the pot.
I am in love once again.