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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sleepless Nights and Parental Bliss...

I love being a dad.  In fact, apart from God and my wife, there is nothing greater in my life than my children (I'm sure not unique to most dads).  To think that God created three lives through the marital union between my wife and me is pretty profound. 

However, as most fathers and mothers will tell you, parenting takes a toll; and one of its casualties is sleep.

For the last five years or so, our bedroom probably gets more incoming overnight traffic than Grand Central Station.

Some nights, it's my three-year-old son who wakes up in the middle of the night and makes his way into our bed.

Other times it's my six-year-old daughter who manages to interrupt our sleep by climbing between my wife and me.

Sometimes, it's both (although, we usually send our six-year-old back with her tail between her legs if her brother beats her to our bed). However, on more than one occasion, when she arrives first, we have made an exception and squeezed in when the boy enters the picture (I know, she probably thinks that life is unfair, and it is!).

One night, our six-year-old refused to leave and instead, curled up below our feet sideways in order to stay on our bed. I didn’t even realize she was there until I woke up to go to the gym.

Therefore, sleeping with my wife over the last several years sometimes feels like a kickboxing match; slaps and elbows to the head, punches in the face, kicks to the kidney, and the ever so gentle, but just as effective, head butts.

In my case, since I sleep in the Bermuda Triangle side of the bed, where you get in and have a hard trouble getting out because of the sink hole (we've been meaning to buy a new mattress for years and it doesn’t matter how many times we rotate it), a part of a little body is regularly encrusted under my right shoulder, forcing me to either lift my arm, which eventually causes my arm to fall asleep, or deal with the discomfort. I usually hold it for as long as I can and then just shove whatever kid is responsible towards their mom (hey, it’s sleepless nights survival of the fittest!).

I know, what you are thinking; I would never let my child take over my bed. Yeah, right. That worked for our first child. We were in our 30s and had not been worn down by the sleepless nights for the previous half decade. Our poor first child never got a chance to sleep in our bed like her siblings, at least not as much or as long. We would kick her away (mostly my wife because I didn’t mind; especially considering that it entailed getting up from bed and going to lie down with her until she went back to sleep).

By the time, our second daughter was born and she was old enough to get up in the night and walk to our room, we started getting more lapsed in our bed restriction. We were tired. Parenthood makes you tired.  Then if you consider full time jobs and house chores (my wife more than me), you’re worn down and beat up. You’re even more tired if, like me, you’re in your 40’s.

It takes a lot of effort to make your child go back to bed. There may be crying involved, which could wake up the other siblings, or worse, they could want you to go to their bed, which as someone that sleeps with a C-PAP machine (sleep apnea), really interrupts your entire night’s sleep.

Needless to say, our middle child got used to coming into our bed on a semi-regular basis. She didn’t do it every night but about two or three nights a week.

Now, you can imagine, by the time our son was born, three years ago, forget about being tired. We’re beyond being tired; we’re down right exhausted. So, he got free reign, and would join us about four nights out of the week.

Isn’t it wonderful how when you first get married, you have all this energy to make babies and practice making babies then God blesses you with them and your bed energy drops to almost flat line levels? Forget about renewing our marriage vows, we want to sleep!

After years of dealing with it, we finally decided that enough was enough. We announced about two weeks ago, “That’s it. We’ve had it. No more sleeping in mommy and daddy’s bed! We’re tired and we want to sleep all night without anyone coming to interrupt our sleep (except maybe each other… hopefully a less than subtle hint to my wife). Do you understand?”

The little culprits looked at us in a daze and nodded. Apparently, we got through.

Ok, well almost. We did have a relapse with our son, who came over twice. One night, he stayed. The next night, I took him back when I woke up to go to the gym. Maybe, waking up in his own bed made him think he slept there all night.

Three nights ago, he had an accident in his bed; a rarity but it happens. He came into our bedroom to my side and woke me up saying, “pipi.” I felt his pajama and it was soaked. I took his clothes off and left him naked on our bed while I went to retrieve a clean pajama. I changed him and put him on our bed, thinking we were making an exception, AGAIN; not a good after our big announcement but if not, I would have to go change his bed sheets, and at that point, I preferred the consequences and getting back to sleep as soon as possible (you don't think straight when you're exhausted).

Instead, he got off our bed and started walking to his room and, as I followed, he started crawling into his own bed. “Wait,” I said. Great, he picked a nice time to decide to obey our new Espinosa house rules. Now, at this point, it’s not like I could tell him, “it’s ok to sleep with mommy and daddy tonight,” so I changed his sheets and he got back in bed and, amazingly, he fell asleep right away.

So, for the past two weeks, with the aforementioned exceptions, we have finally reclaimed our bed. Let's see how long it lasts...


Anonymous said...

I have the same issues with my 5-year old daughter. Your accounts of your "sleep" experience are so close to mine it's not even funny! I've tried the "mommy and daddy need sleep and big girls stay in their bed", but it only works for a night or two. I guess persistence is the only solution.

Carlos Espinosa said...

Guess, what? Since writing this blog, our 3-yr-old son has decided to stop listening and has come to our bed for two nights in a row. I've taken him back in the early morning hours but it's an interruption nontheless. We just have to keep at it. At least the 6-year-old has not come back for two weeks; baby steps...