Sleep Deprivation: The Essential Parenting Experience

I don’t know what’s been going on lately, but I have been getting less and less sleep over the last few weeks. Part of it is that I have so many different projects and ideas buzzing around in my head, but much of it is little folk issues. Last night, 4am, G- was pestering mommy to nurse and she wanted to sleep, so I groggily said “no worries, I’ll get him something to drink”.

The little guy promptly pops up and says “I want to go to the kitchen with you.” So we trudge downstairs to the kitchen in the dark, he gets a cup of rice milk and we go back to bed. Then, seemingly just moments later, in the midst of a deep sleep, L- nudges me awake: “it’s 8am! We need to get A- to school!” so I snap awake, make breakfast and motor off to school.

I wasn’t too together, though: it’s 45F and raining outside and I left the house in shorts. Brr…

But in the midst of a sort of haze today (I tried to lay down for a nap but couldn’t fall back asleep) I can’t help think about how the idea of “lights off, sleep through for eight hours” is so foreign as a parent. It’s one of those things that people joke about, but, really, if you’re about to become a parent, kiss a good night of sleep goodbye for… who knows how long. Years.

There are parenting approaches that use progressive desensitization to teach babies to sleep through the night solo, but that’s not at all what we’re doing and that’s not how our hearts lead us in this parenting effort. Instead, we cuddle up with our little guy in our family bed (actually, he has “the sidecar”, a small bed I built that’s immediately adjacent to our big bed) and he gets to know where we are, and we get to know where he is too. Frankly, I’m baffled why so many parents have babies then immediately begin pushing them away, as if independence is such an overriding need that depersonalization and internalization are acceptable additional results. From cribs to bottles to nursery care and separate rooms when they’re a year old, why have a child if you don’t want to fully enfold them into your life?

The last few nights have been funny too: in a dream state, G- has more than once burst into fits of giggles, which is just amazingly entertaining. It’s something I don’t at all mind being awoken by, and I just lay there in bed, half-awake, smiling and feeling the warm layer of love covering us all. I also figure that our kids are having a pretty nice childhood if their dreams cause them to giggle rather than cry out!

So, no deep thoughts here in this entry, just an observation that parenting is tiring in many ways, that the concept of recharging with a good, long, deep night of sleep is oft elusive, particularly when they’re young, and that it’s all worth it and I wouldn’t have things any other way.

4 comments on “Sleep Deprivation: The Essential Parenting Experience

  1. Here’s an idea. Read this book: CRIB SHEETS: Are You Covered? : New Parent Sleep Deprivation Solutions: Practical and Effective Expectant Parent Strategies, by Elizabeth Gardner.
    Cliff Notes version: Preparation.

  2. I am not a parent (think of Dick Nixon saying that)!
    Dave I just love your wit, insight, humor and poetry of words.
    I am not going to become a parent, but, I am going to become an avid reader of your mind’s eye.

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