My 3-year-old woke me up one recent morning, saying he was hungry. Which would have been OK if
1.) I hadn’t gone to bed at nearly 2 a.m.
2.) I hadn’t gone to bed at nearly 2 a.m. because I was working
3.) My husband hadn’t gone to bed at 9 p.m.
4.) My husband had regained consciousness quickly enough to offer to get up with him (Hahaha! No. He sleeps like he's made of concrete.)
5.) My 3-year-old hadn’t trotted in at not-quite-6 a.m.
So I got up, coughing (I’ve got a cold. Yes, of course I went to work later that day) and struggled to find the sleeves of my robe and found socks for my feet and stumbled downstairs with my youngest boy, who was clutching both a small stuffed leopard that he insists is a baby jaguar, and a large stuffed border collie that is nearly as big as he is. He requested “Cimmanin Tohst.” Which I made. Which he, sitting at the table, then didn't eat, preferring to chatter on about super heroes and puppies and whether maybe there could be a super hero who actually WAS a puppy and wouldn’t that be so, so, so cool Mama?
When I am under the weather, or stressed, or, in this case, both, four hours of sleep is nowhere near enough. I was cranky and resentful. I had so much work to do. I made coffee and sat down at the table with him and nodded and coughed. And realized: Someday, sooner than I think, I’m going to look back on this moment -- sleep-deprived, borderline sick, to-do list already long -- and I am going to miss it.
Our oldest girls are teenagers now, with their own schedules and social committments and school responsibilities taking up most of their free time. That's the way it should be, of course -- you want them to stretch their wings and be happy and, besides, if kids didn't grow up and become busy and independent, they'd all end up as 40somethings living in our basements.
But when you're in a blended family, it feels like you never have quite enough time together as it is, which makes these years of rapidly increasing independence a little more bitter than sweet. "I think I have a mild case of empty-nest syndrome," I told my husband that night, after peeking in to the big kids' empty bedrooms.
Ten years went by really fast. I mean, really, really fast. We've gone from scheduling every moment around their time with us to wondering if they'll be able to come up for just a long weekend -- something I naively wasn't expecting to happen until college. And then, another shock: Our oldest will be going to college in a couple of years. This is happening pretty much on schedule.
I looked at my 3-year-old, finally munching on his toast, and realized that the next 10 years are going to fly by, too. And I'll be asleep or, more likely, working in the morning while he sleeps through his alarms. I'll be wondering what's on his mind instead of hearing his thoughts as they occur to him. I'll be trying to get his lanky, near-silent 13-year-old self out the door to school at the last minute instead of spending my early morning hours sitting with him at the kitchen table, cinnamon and crumbs all over the place, fielding questions about superheroes.
And suddenly, four hours of sleep felt just fine.