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?



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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.