Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sleepless in Orem

It's 2:12 a.m. and I'm awake. I'd say "wide awake" but that sounds a little too chipper to describe me right now. So I'm eating a bowl of generic Honey Bunches of Oats and writing this to take my mind off of how frustrating it is to be awake when I could, conceivably, be asleep. I could do what my dad does when he can't fall asleep, which is call me since we have a 7 hour time difference, but for now I'll just whine on paper.

Sleep seems to be my one big, unattainable goal in life, not only when I'm pregnant but pretty much year-round. I am not one of those people who can get by on 6 hours of sleep and still remain functional - I can do it to a certain extent, especially in situations where I'm really busy, like a vacation or something else entertaining. But on a regular day when I'm doing my home with the kids routine, lack of sleep makes me grouchy. And the whole family ends up paying the price.

Oh, how I long for those irresponsible days of teenager-hood, when I could stay up all night and not care about the results! I remember a time when I went to a party until like 4 a.m. and then when we went home, I hopped in the car and drove down to Irvine to pick up a free KROQ t-shirt. Or maybe it was a bumper sticker. I got home at like 8 in the morning, and went to a singles ward activity. I was awake for like 40 hours or something and thought that was a badge of honor, like how cool am I? Of course now as an adult I'm screaming at the teenager, trying to convince her that driving on so little sleep is a horrible idea. I wouldn't go so far as the grocery store this tired, for fear of falling asleep at the wheel. Okay, so I don't long for the stupid irrationality of teenager-hood, but the freedom is still pretty appealing.

We had a friend who was single for years longer than us, who used to make fun of us for how early we went to bed. After all, the singles dances didn't even get good until after 10 when everybody showed up. At ten tonight I was polishing off the end of the Heroes season finale, watched a little bit of the news, and then went upstairs to put on pajamas and read scriptures. I was in bed by 10:40, right when the single me would have been debating with her friends whether the dance was good enough to stay, or should we head over to Denny's?

Those days are behind me, never to return. Now, every minute of staying up late is counter-balanced by the amount of tiredness I think I can handle the next day. Some days it's worth it to stay up late, talking to DH or watching a movie, or going to scrapbook at a friend's house. And that's why it stinks so much to be unable to fall asleep in the middle of the night - there's no compensatory enjoyment taking place, for which I'm willing to pay the tiredness price. No offense, but I certainly could have written this blog entry at some reasonable hour of the morning, and it might have actually gone quicker without the ridiculous number of typo's I'm correcting along the way. (I wouldn't be surprised if someone had switched the keys around on my keyboard - that's how bad I'm typing right now.)

The worst is that the kids bear the brunt of it. They are good kids, really good most of the time, as long as I can manage the things that tend to set them off. Boy #1 is set off by boredom, if he can't find a friend to play with he is so miserable and sulky it's hard to be around him. He would love a parent to do something with him when he's bored. Boy #2 is hunger, primarily, and for him all it takes is feeding him regular meals and regular intervals, with snacks in between, and he's good. But that means he needs to be somewhere reachable, say, in our house or backyard, and the noise and friend-levels can get really high when he's here.

Boy #3 is just starting to throw some really good tantrums. He is set off by being forced to do things he doesn't want to do. He is entering that independent 3-year-old phase which we've always found harder than the terrible two's. For so long, he could be manhandled into doing whatever it is we needed him to do, and since he has been a fairly easy going child (bless him!) there wasn't even all that much manhandling that had to take place. We'd get in the car, and I'd buckle him in. We'd decide it was bedtime, and carry him upstairs. Not anymore. Now he needs reasoning, persuading, coercing, and yes, bribing. Just a little, mind you, he's not all that manipulative, nor is he intelligent enough to push this as far as he could. But just try to make him stop playing with something, or keep him in the backyard when he wants to play with his friends, and all heck breaks loose. With him, we need to readjust how we handle things and react to situations, because our former skill set has been deemed obsolete, and unless we are looking to be downsized, we better get some new on-the-job training.

I wonder if anyone can answer the question, "How much yelling can the kids take before we've scarred them for life?" Am I close to the limit? Can I read the gauge to find out which yelling incidents the kids are going to remember, and which ones they will forget? Is it possible to raise these kids without giving them a reason to complain at length about our parenting failures? During General Conference this year, the most guilt-inducing talk for me was "The Tongue of Angels" which is a reference to a mother speaking to her child. With the tongue of angels. When I'm tired, I really wonder if I'm speaking with the tongue of Devils instead. I've read all the conference talks, but this one I had to skip, because "the guilty taketh the truth to be hard" and boy, is that one hard.

I feel particularly bad when I've yelled at Boy #3, because he is still young and innocent enough that he gets really hurt when I yell at him. Consequently, I yell at him less and try hard not to yell at him at all. He still gets that wounded look, which the older boys have long since abandoned, and now mostly tune us out when yelling. But my guess is it's still hurting them.

Okay, so maybe that's all a little too honest. Maybe it makes you feel uncomfortable to read about my flaws in such blunt detail. And maybe when I re-read this at some decent time of day, I'll cringe and wonder if it's too late to edit my post to take all that out. But unfortunately, this is a weakness of mine that I seriously struggle with. It's the thing that makes me dislike Mother's Day so much - all of the stories and accounts of how important the mother is in the life of her child just makes me feel worse for the things I do so obviously wrong. I'd much rather hear that mothers are basically replaceable by day care and that once the kid leaves home is when the real influence starts. I think it's the importance put on motherhood that makes me wish I could just stay home from church on Mother's Day, preferably alone, so that I could have one whole day when I wasn't kicking myself for not being a good enough mother. Why I thought having a fourth child would be a good idea is beyond me, I don't know how I'll handle the guilt next year at Mother's Day when I've got four kids I'm neglecting instead of three.

So, to wrap it all up, I'm hoping tomorrow that I can keep it together. Knowing how tired I'm going to be, I'm going to aim to keep activity to a minimum. Today I thought I could handle taking the kids to Lowe's to pick up a can of paint to touch up the craft room walls, and because none of them wanted to go, there was a fair amount of grouching about it. (I didn't yell, though.) Now that I have to go back to Lowe's (because the paint they gave me did not, in fact, match the walls, and now I have a gigantic light blue spot in the middle of the lavender room), maybe I'll arrange for them to play with someone while I do that. Or maybe I'll get that done during kindergarten hours, when I only have Boy #3 with me, and then take the kids somewhere fun in the afternoon. There's this place called Kangaroo Zoo which is basically a warehouse full of inflatable slides and bouncy things which the kids adore. That way not only am I not damaging the kids, I'm actually earning brownie points with them! Oooh, I like that idea!

It's 3 a.m., my battery has 12 minutes of juice on it and I can't remember where the plug is, plus it took me a full ten seconds to decide the correct spelling of "warehouse" (wearhouse? wherehouse?) so I think I might be tired enough to go to bed. And if I'm still up at 4, maybe I'll call my dad.

1 comment:

Drake Steel said...

This churned up a couple opinions:

Opinion #1: I can match your 3am with the other night when I called you I could not get back to sleep and finally at 4am (after talking to you for almost an hour, watching 2 documentarys and a History Bites thing and an attempt to "just lay in bed") I tried the just lay in bed and listen to a book on Ipod. The secret seems to be to listen to something that I really like rather than (which seems to be obvious) something so boring its not funny. Kind of counter-intuative that way.

Opinion #2: It was amazing how much energy I had back before I got married. I remember when Joan and I were dating that we wanted to make it a goal to go home before midnight and couldn't seem to make it. When we came home from our honeymoon and were living in our apartment I could not get to stay up for Johnny Carson. Back then it came on at 10:30! And... that was the easy life compared to when our 1st child was born. Since then I learned and Joan was such a soldier that I slept through many things. In my simple world the guy works as much as possible to provide for the family and the wife/mom takes care of the kids.

Opinion #3: I agree with the concept that when you can't sleep this is not productive time. I think I could send emails or write letters to Dan, say or something. What I wind up doing is surfing the net in the least productive way possible.

Opinion #4: If I were a better person than I am I would have written a blog entry for Mother's Day + the Church titled, "The Stand of Shame..." I'm not that good person instead I gabbed with Joan about it and that's as far as I got. One of the earliest things I read on the net was all the pain that some women felt from being honored on Mother's Day. I was then, was later when I was in the position to do such things, and am now as a dad, father, husband and person who loves my wife and feels honored to be included in her life. Plumbing the depths of this issue seems impossible. Infertility, uber-fertility, just the right amount of fertility, working, not-working, working part time, home schooling, not home schooling, living were there is good schools, or not good schools... are all things that I've heard of reasons why woman feel like bad mother's. Oh, that isn't the whole list its the easiest to show the ridiculous self hatred that woman have about themselves. I wonder if its the Church that makes women this crazy or is this the reason why the feminist crazyiness took root about the time back when I was born. I won't even try to do the impossible and explain or attempt to understand it. Everyday that I notice that I'm not a truck driver in Somers is a good day. Everyday that I'm a father, husband and member of the true church is a good day. Each day that we have a family prayer and all my kids (and their kids) are still healthy and are members of the true church is a good one.

Opinion #5: Having children is one of the first comandments we were given by God. The shocking thing is that though it doesn't appear that way, the birth things are the easy part. Oh yah, I know every woman has the story of the 30 hours of labor or whatever to give birth. These kids need you to guide and teach them. How do you do it? Sometimes its yelling, most of the times its nagging and going over the same things over and over. Sometimes, very rarely, you need (in my opinion) need to do something that Adam Clayton Powell said in the 1960's... You need to go back to the jungle. Kids need to know there is a terrible thing that can happen when they do things wrong. I know this is much easier say when you're the grandparent.

Opinion #6: Is there a way to spell check in the comment area.