I Don’t Miss Sleep Anymore

Safe haven
My three men…all wiped out together

The other night our double bedroom doors burst wide open at 1:03 a.m., startling both hubby and I awake. From the light in the hallway, I could make out that the perpetrator of our early morning wake up call was our youngest son, Luke.

“What’s up, Luke?” I asked, although I already knew the answer to this question.

Luke is our “good” sleeper. While his brother tosses and turns in the top bunk, Luke slumbers peacefully. He sleeps in cars, on planes, and in restaurants. When he’s down for the count, you usually don’t have to worry about him again.

“I had a nightmare,” he replied as he quietly closed the door behind him with sudden politeness.

“Really? What about?” I said.

As he began to climb onto our bed, he started recalling a dream wherein he was being chased in Roblox, which is some new video game he and his brother have been playing. He sat on the end of our already cramped, queen-size bed telling us about snakes (like Indiana Jones, he hates snakes) and death. He was visibly unsettled. Often he will just tell us about his nightmares, and then head back to his room. Sometimes, though, he needs real comfort. I could tell this was one of those times. Finished with his story, he finally crawled toward the top of the bed, pulled back the covers between me and hubby, and began to insinuate himself between us.

“So…sorry about this, guys,” he told us as he nestled in and began to settle down to get some more sleep.

When Luke was small, we experienced periods during which the only way he would fall asleep was in our bed. He slept in a bassinet in our room until he was four months old. He slept with us again off and on from 9 months to roughly 14 months. Sometimes he would fall asleep in our bed and we would transfer him. Sometimes we were so tired he ended up staying with us all night. When we would tell other people about Luke’s sleeping habits, most would cluck their tongues and tell us what a mistake we were making. We brushed it off.

In the house I grew up in, we were not allowed to sleep in my parents’ room. Ever. It simply was not done. My parents gave us our own rooms, and they expected us to be in them. End of story. When we had our children, I assumed that our kids would have the same experience that I did. But, our kids are not like my sisters and me. Our kids have vivid imaginations and stressful dreams. Joe sleepwalks. Luke, if aroused from sleep by an unexpected noise, is often unable to calm down enough to go back to sleep. We do what we can to get sleep when we can, and sometimes that only occurs when we let the boys sleep in our room. It is what it is. We have made our peace with it.

I flipped around as Luke was in our bed the other night, unable to go back to sleep. I could not get comfortable because what was once 20 pounds is now 55 pounds and takes up a lot more room. I was about to resign myself to taking Luke’s place in his bed while letting him rest peacefully with his dad when, out of nowhere, the announcement came.

“I think I’ll go back to my own bed now,” he said, grabbing his stuffed animal and climbing carefully over his father and out of the bed.

I walked with him down the hall and tucked him back into his bunk bed underneath his sleeping brother to make sure he was truly ready to settle down. He pulled his stuffed Husky dog, Shasta, towards him, curled into a little ball on his side, and closed his eyes. He was calm, and I knew I would not be seeing him again until the morning.

I’ve thought a lot about the way we “spoil” our kids by letting them do things like sleep in our room on occasion. Truth is that I don’t feel the slightest bit of remorse about it. I don’t think it’s undermined their confidence or made them any less capable of handling their fears. Instead, I think it’s allowed them to believe that when things get scary, they can turn to us. When they feel confident and relaxed, they always move forward without us. Sure. We’ve definitely lost some sleep with restless boys in our bed or on an air mattress in our room, but I think the trade off of knowing that they know they can count on us is worth it. Besides, these days are numbered. Someday they will be out of the house, and I will miss hearing that door burst open in the middle of the night and knowing that they need me. I’ll catch up on my sleep then.

Fishing For Shooting Stars

Meteor showers are like fishing. You go, you enjoy nature. Sometimes you catch something.

Oh how I love my Sky View app.

I love outer space. I marvel at the vastness of the universe and how I am but a speck on a pebble in the reaches of it all. It’s very humbling. While in college at the University of Colorado, I took a few courses in astronomy, not because I thought I would do well (I’m an English major and was told there would be no math) but because I wanted to learn more about space. So, I studied comets, black holes, and galaxies. I was aided by a friend who knew the constellations and would point them out to me on random occasions when we were out of the reaches of the light pollution of the city. I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t this the gal who used to have nightmares about UFOs in grade school? And yes, that is true. Although the possibility exists that there is life elsewhere in the universe, I’m no longer concerned that said life is in any hurry to come here, colonize our planet, and turn me into their house pet. (As I told my husband the other day, any life form that is intelligent enough to get here and still desire this rock will have no trouble taking it and annihilating us all. They’ve got higher intelligence and space travel. We have Honey Boo Boo. We’d be weaker than kittens.)

In November of 2001, when Joe was six months old and we were just two months beyond the terrorist attacks of 9/11, I read there would be a Leonid meteor shower. The earth would be passing through a dust cloud shed by a comet hundreds of years ago and viewers with a clear, dark sky would see thousands of meteors falling per hour. Shunning all better parental judgement, we woke our sleeping child, belted him into his car seat, and drove an hour east of Denver to a country road in the middle of farm country to catch the show. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. Meteor after meteor flashed across the sky as my exhausted husband and I stared up through the open sunroof of our Toyota 4Runner, infant son strapped safely in the middle of the backseat.

Yesterday morning as I was perusing some news sites, I noted that our planet is in the midst of another encounter with the Leonids. This one would not be as spectacular, but I didn’t see how I could pass up the opportunity to share the experience with our sons. So, before bed, I announced to the family that I would be waking up at 2:30 a.m. to check for clear skies. If I found some, then we would be driving a small distance from city lights to look up at the stars. I figured that at worst we would see nothing but constellations and have exhausted boys today. Maybe I’d have a tired headache too, but with a gingerbread latte I could live with that.

At 2:30, the alarm on my iPhone began barking (literally…I like the barking dog alarm) and I begrudgingly awoke. I stayed in bed for a few minutes, debating the merits of my great, big idea. I nearly scrapped it on the basis that I had only slept two hours so far, but ultimately decided that I could sleep when I am dead. Steve was still out cold, so I went in to wake Luke as he was the most excited about my plan to begin with. He awoke fairly easily, hopped out of bed, put some socks on with his long-underwear pajamas, and went downstairs to grab some milk for the road. Steve was the next conquest. When I told him I was going to drive off into the night alone with Luke, he decided he should man up and crawled from the bed. Joe at last acquiesced to join us when we told him he’d be alone in the house when we left. We drove 10 minutes west, parked the car on the other side of the hogback from our home, opened the sunroof, and waited. We pulled out the Sky View app on my phone and searched for constellations. We found Orion’s belt, Cancer, Gemini, and Taurus. We remarked at how bright Jupiter was, and Joe reminded us that the Big Dipper is located within Ursa Major, the large bear. The meteor shower was not fantastic, but we each saw at least one or two cross the sky. Luke remarked that he’d never seen a shooting star before, and that made it all worthwhile. At least we were all together as a family in the adventure of stargazing. That sort of memory is priceless, even if the meteors don’t show up.

Sometimes I shake my head at the things I force my kids to do just so I can share with them things that are important to me. I want them to view the planet and the universe with wonder and appreciation as I do. Something about the unfathomable expanse of space puts everything into perspective when life gets overwhelming. Although the meteor shower last night was less of a shower and more of an occasional raindrop, no worries. I read that the Geminid meteor shower will occur on a new moon on Thursday, December 13th, and it’s predicted to have more than 100 shooting stars per hour. If our boys aren’t at school on December 14th, you’ll know why.

Hope I Die Before I Get Old

Have you ever noticed that sometimes you can go months without thinking about something and then, suddenly, circumstances present that idea to you repeatedly within a short time span, bringing it back to the forefront of your mind? Well, that happened to me this weekend with the idea of growing old. After my 44th birthday at the end of May, I’d kind of drop kicked the getting old concept right out of my head. I didn’t want to think about it anymore. It was too depressing. This weekend, however, I had several conversations about how people are living to be reasonably old these days. Elderly people can live long enough that they, like my grandmother, wonder when they will ever die.

When I was a kid, way back in the 1970s, people talked about wanting to live to a “ripe, old age.” Now that many more people are living well into and beyond their late 80s and early 90s, though, that song and dance about aging has changed. Recently I more often hear people saying they hope they don’t live to be too old. It’s the whole retirement thing. People look forward to retirement, so they retire early. You could very easily retire at 65 today, though, live to be 95, and run out of your retirement savings. That’s a grim prospect.

My grandfathers retired at 65. Neither of them lived to be 75. They didn’t have a lot of time to enjoy their “golden years,” but they also didn’t outlive their pensions either. My grandmothers lived to be 93. They both ended up penniless in less than idyllic nursing homes (not that I think any nursing home situation is idyllic but you know what I mean). When I think about those two options, I have to believe that my grandfathers ended up with the better part of the deal. I’m not entirely sure I want to live to be 98 like the woman who shared a nursing home room with my grandmother during her last six weeks on earth. That poor woman had outlived everyone. She had one relative, and he lived in another state. She was alone and bedridden in a nursing home. No. Thank. You.

Although I seem to be getting older at a rate faster than I would prefer, living to a ripe old age doesn’t appeal to me. What is the benefit in living thirty years beyond your retirement party if you can never afford to party again? I’m not looking to die young (or, in my case, young-ish), but I’m not sure that living to 100 is the greatest bargain either. When I was in college working at the campus movie theater, I got to see Harold and Maude, which is a quirky cult film about a young man obsessed with death. He meets a robust 79 year old woman who believes in living every day to its fullest. It’s Maude’s assertion that 80 is the perfect age to die. When I was 20, I thought Maude had the right idea. Now as I dance ever closer to her magical number, I still find myself thinking she was onto something. But, you might want to ask me about it again when I’m 79 years and 11 months and see if I’ve changed my mind.