As a parent, achieving a good night’s sleep continues to be an adventure. Although my children are no longer babies, it seems they still find an astonishing variety of reasons to wake me up in the night. It usually goes something like this: It is 2:01 a.m. I am asleep. I am awakened by a series of familiar sounds: the creak of a door opening, then small footsteps coming down the hallway, then footsteps leading to my bedside. I open one eye to see a child in cat pajamas, hair askew, standing one inch from my nose.
Child states her problems in loud whisper-shout: she needs a drink, and she has to go pee. Furthermore, she urgently needs to tell me a funny story about a snail getting a speeding ticket. A rustle, followed by an indistinguishable “grumph” from my husband’s side of the bed indicates clearly that he is not conscious enough to deal with the situation at hand. So I get up. Shuffle to bathroom. Put child on toilet. Listen to rambling story about the speed-demon snail. Get child off toilet. Give drink to child. Try to stay as asleep as possible.
Shuffle down hallway to child’s bedroom. Put child back in bed. Find essential sleep accessories: the small stuffed dog, the giant stuffed dog, the small stuffed kitty, the favourite blanket. Fluff child’s pillow just so. Adjust child’s socks. Kiss child, Dog, Big Dog, and Kitty, tiptoe out the door. Cross fingers. Return to bed.
It is 2:17 a.m. I am just barely asleep. I hear the creak of a door opening, then small footsteps coming down the hallway, then footsteps leading to my bedside. Child is back with a new problem: suddenly, out of nowhere, she has a hangnail! Clearly, this is a crisis which absolutely cannot wait until morning to be resolved. Perceiving only another indistinguishable “grumph” from her father’s side of the bed, I get up. Shuffle to bathroom. Open drawer and locate nail clippers by feel. Attempt, unsuccessfully, to trim hangnail without opening my eyes.
Realize my mothering skills have not yet reached this level. Retrieve iPhone flashlight to assist. Ponder briefly how bizarre it is that a tiny bit of fingernail is responsible for keeping us both awake at this hour. Child uses this time to ask me deep questions about where I think snails go when they die.
Shuffle back to child’s bedroom. Put child back in bed. Locate the small dog, the big dog, the cat, and the blanket; adjust the socks and fluff the pillows. Kiss child, Dog, Big Dog, and Kitty; tiptoe out. Hope for the best. Return to bed.
It is 2:27 a.m. Child has returned. It seems that now, a sock crisis is occurring. Apparently her toe was itchy, and so she removed one sock to scratch it. However, now she can’t locate the missing sock to put it back on. And, even worse, Kitty is nowhere to be found.
Faint snoring from her father’s side of the bed. I get up. Shuffle back down hallway. Still trying to keep eyes as closed as possible, pat down blankets, sheets, animals, and pillows. Successfully locate two dogs, the blanket, and the missing sock, but no cat. Repeat search to no avail.
Resort to removing all blankets, pillows, and sheets from bed. At last, discover the rascally cat has been under the bed the whole time. Re-make bed while child sternly lectures Kitty about not pulling such stunts in the night. Put child in bed. Replace errant sock. Adjust the other sock. Arrange all required animals, blankets, socks, and pillows. Kiss child, dogs, and cat. Child stifles a distinct yawn. Creep out the door.
It is 7:03 a.m. I am awakened by a series of familiar sounds: the creak of a door opening, small footsteps coming down the hallway, then footsteps leading to my bedside. I open one eye to see a child in cat pajamas, hair askew, smiling sweetly in the early morning light. She wishes me a good morning and snuggles into bed with me. This, I think, is worth it. This represents a good night’s sleep.
Sarah Milligan lives on Vancouver Island. She is grateful to her children for the joy they inspire, not to mention the endless writing fodder.