Why insomniacs, obsessives, the mildly neurotic and the otherwise troubled and imperfect make better parents

It’s 2:13 a.m. and I am very, very awake, listening to shadows, watching noises (it’s 2.13 a.m. in the morning—that’s when one listens to shadows, you know), and alternating between looking my demons straight in their frightening faces or hiding from them behind empty “life is good” mantras.

Tip-tap-tip-tap. A tiny little body hurtles into the bed, crawls in beside me.

“I can’t sleep, Mama!” the four-year-old lies, and, as he curls up against my body, falls back into deep, deep sleep. I inhale the smell, essence of him. He becomes my non-empty mantra…

Tip-tap-tip-tap. Flop. A not-so-tiny body clambers into bed between her Daddy and me.

“Mom? I had a horrible, horrible nightmare.”

I hold her. She whispers the dream, already fading, into my ear. Closes her eyes. Minutes pass. Maybe hours.

“Mommy? I can’t sleep.”

I tell her to try a little more, a little harder, a little longer—but before long, we both give up on sleep and the bed, and tip-tap-tip-tap downstairs. I wrap her in blankets and put on a show for her. Get her a bowl of cereal.

“You’re the best mom in the world,” she says, and that disarms one of the demons that was keeping me awake. I could probably sleep now. But—I look at the clock—it’s now 5 a.m., and I often write really well at precisely 5 a.m. …

I’ve often had erratic sleep patterns, both in hard times of high stress and in glorious times of high creativity and excitement, and I know that my own knowledge and acceptance that sometimes—often—an uninterrupted eight hours of sleep just wasn’t going to happen—helped me be a better night-time parent. When my littles woke me up at night—and woke me again and again—I was able to take it much more in stride, I think, than an adult who hasn’t known insomnia. An adult for whom the pre-child norm was a solid uninterrupted eight. Who hasn’t been NOT able to sleep, no matter how physically exhausted—no matter how much she really, really wanted to.

It’s always easier to accept what we’ve experienced ourselves—to understand what we’ve also lived. Especially… if we accept that part of ourselves. If we don’t resent it, fight it, hate it.

Sometimes, I can’t sleep.

Sometimes, I get angry. Irrational. Bat-shit crazy, really.

Sometimes, I don’t want to be with people. Not even the people I love. Not even, my most beloved, you.

Sometimes—I don’t want to eat. I know it’s delicious and you worked really hard to make that meal… but I’m just not hungry. Not at all. Or just not for that.

Sometimes, I don’t want to do the fun thing you planned for me to do. I just want to curl up on the couch with my book. (Or blog ;P)

Sometimes, I procrastinate. And procrastinate. And don’t do that thing that I really ought to do before I do anything else…

Sometimes, I’m moody and unsettled.

Sometimes, I’m completely obsessed with this one utterly unimportant, irrelevant thing, and you can’t distract me from it no matter what you do…

Sometimes—oftentimes—my kids, my mate, other people I love, have exactly those same feelings, needs.

Knowing, accepting—not resenting, not hating—those parts of me makes it easier to accept, to love those parts of them.

Being utterly, completely imperfect makes me a better parent. A better friend.

How about you?



photo (17)

P.S. What? I’m versatile. Sometimes, I’m utterly sweet and sappy. Sometimes, I’m an elitist bitch with a tongue like a guillotine. Imperfect. Deal with it. Love me as I am or screw off.

P.P.S. Recent posts in a similar vein from my tribe: Stephanie Sprenger pens a lovely Letter to my daughter who is just like me and Kristi Campbell wishes she was a more perfect mom.

P.P.P.S. If you’re a YYC or AB floodster and you’ve been sent here to read THAT post, and you’re a little confused about what the hell is up with THIS post, you are at the right blog. You’re looking for this: After the flood: Running on empty and why “So, are things back to normal?” is not the right question.


30 thoughts on “Why insomniacs, obsessives, the mildly neurotic and the otherwise troubled and imperfect make better parents

  1. This is beautiful and exactly what I needed to read. It’s wonderful that you can empathize with your loved ones based on your own experiences. I am often able to do that with my son, as well, because he’s a lot like me (but not in all ways, thank goodness). I think it’s the empathy that makes a parent great. Kids need someone on their side, who understands them and relates and can make them feel better. Heck, I need that, too!

    I’m off to read Kristi and Stephanie’s posts… there have not been enough hours in the day to read lately, and that is just really sad. Have a great day! 🙂

    • Have a great day too! I was going to write a sister post about how the most annoying people in the world are the ones who are (think) they’re perfect, but that would be just petty, wouldn’t it. 😛

  2. Being woken up at night is something that I can take in stride. Apparently when I accidentally fall asleep on the couch in the middle of the day I have other issues. My son learned early on that if I fall asleep and if he needs to wake me – avoid the flying fists. Yes, I hit my son when he startled me awake one day… I felt horrible, it was a total accident. But he’s learned to stay by my feet if I happen to fall asleep in the middle of the day! 🙂

  3. Cofffeeeee! And “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is SOMETIMES an effective empty-mantra. I prefer to think of procrastination/slacking-off as “Stockpiling my Relaxation”. HAHAHha

  4. Never thought about it like that, but maybe you are right. Maybe, just maybe. I definitely dealt fine with the uninterrupted nursing nights, so yes there. The moodiness and craziness… I still have a hard time believing that they make me better. I love you for trying, though.

  5. Oh I love this. I also had insomnia pre-child and it actually (not surprisingly) has gotten much worse. But then it seems like that’s a good idea because we have a flea epidemic, and since I’m not sleeping anyway I can keep Isaiah’s hands from itching his many bites. That are often bleeding when he wakes up.
    Also I’m crazy.
    That’s why I love you. We are very different but very the same.

  6. “She whispers that dream, already fading…” so beautifully perfect in its imperfect “I’m not asleep and neither are you”ness…I love this post. I adore you. You are wise and I completely agree that our neurosis make us better. Sleepier. But better. More here when we’re here. xo xo and huge thanks for the mention.
    (more sloppy kisses here or too much??)

  7. I loved this! Everything about it. I’ve had sleeping issues for my whole life, but for me, motherhood made them a lot worse. But I was able to accept the idea of uninterrupted sleep as a discarded ideal easier than others — like my husband — who have never had sleep issues of any sort.

  8. Ah, sleep.It’s my achilles heel. Does not help that I have had insomnia. Does not help one bit. I can’t even imagine not resenting getting up to make a bowl of cereal. I can imagine the other things that you mention connecting me to my little girl. I connect to her tantrums, her jealousy, her fear, her anxiety. But the sleep…that’s another ball of wax for me. This was a really insightful post. Your posts usually are. But this one in particular. Thanks!

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  11. I read this and everything so closely resembled my life, and the fact it is almost 6 a.m. and soon time to get my two beautiful, moody like me, daughters up for school. So, sleep will be awhile coming. Insomnia has come and gone with me since I was 12 years old. So, insomnia is like my love/hate life partner. This post is worth more than I can say. So happy I found it!! Via Finding Ninee – Kristi.

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