Just the other morning, Miss E woke an hour early. For a sane and whole person this would be an irritation only, but I am neither of those things right now. She’d fought bedtime for close to two hours the night before, and I’d stayed up too late, snagging a grand total of about five hours of sleep between Little Sister’s night wakings.
I went into her room and told her gently that it was still time for sleep and she needed to stay in bed, closing the door quietly behind me as I left. I took two steps back toward my warm bed.
Miss E began screaming, waking the baby I’d just managed to re-settle, who seemed to decide it was a good idea to start screaming, too. I felt crazed, desperate. I threw open the door, which Miss E had leapt out of bed to pound on, demanding to be let out.
“Fine. We’re up,” I said hotly. “But I’m not cooking you anything. And I’m not playing with you.”
I feel shameful admitting I said it, and more shameful still that I didn’t feel bad about it right away. It took me a good twenty minutes and half a cup of coffee before I got down on my knees to give Miss E a hug and apologize for being unkind. I told her that I was very tired and that I hadn’t meant it, asking her if she wanted to do a puzzle or bring in some snow from the yard to scoop into mixing bowls.
But that didn’t make it okay.
When I was in high school my brother and I used to get ready for school as absolutely quietly as we could because we didn’t want to wake my mom up and risk her ire. Don’t get me wrong – I love her, but in the morning, she could be a real bear. If my brother opened and closed the bathroom cabinet too loudly getting a towel, I’d glare at him, just hoping she hadn’t heard. If we were unlucky enough to drop a bottle of shampoo in the shower or trip over something in the hallway outside her room, she’d come storming out and we’d eye the clock, wondering when we could get away with going down early to wait for the bus.
I inherited my mom’s temper and my dad’s, too, and I really work to keep them in check. But I’d forgotten how much harder it is to do so when you don’t sleep.
Little Sister doesn’t sleep through the night and at five months old, I don’t expect her to. We’re up a few times each night to nurse or recover lost pacifiers, and most nights I don’t get to bed until midnight (or later) because I’m doing what most parents do: cramming as much adult activity into the brief hours between baby’s bedtime and their own. Housework, writing, spending time with my husband.
Months into this rough-but-necessary routine, I feel pretty helpless. I lose my temper. I say things I’m not proud of. I take some comfort in the knowledge that I know that it gets better. Little Sister is my second baby. I know that someday she’ll sleep and I will, too.
I’m also comforted that Miss E returned my hug, and vigorously, the morning I was not-so-nice. And a few mornings later, when she was up at her usual time, I opened my arms to her and she said,
“I missed you.”
She gave me a good squeeze before she spoke again.
“Can you get a waffle for me to eat?”
I’d even have toasted it for her, if she would’ve let me.