In all honesty, though, things aren’t as crazy at our house and my children aren’t as wild as I make them out to be. (Okay, Ryder really is that wild . . . like a wild stallion. I can see him growing up to be a bull-fighter, using only his bare hands to throw the bulls around. He is freakishly strong! And so willing to fight! I think a bull is the only animal that could give him a challenge. My neighbor, Ray, was watching the boys play in our backyard once. He comes from a family of many, many boys, and he was laughing about Ryder. “I love watching him play,” he said. “He is just a little bulldog.” See! I’m not the only one that notices it!)
But they really are great kids, if I do say so myself. And they are quite well-behaved (in front of other people, at least). And they are all really sweet. I am so thankful that they haven’t yet reached the age where they are embarrassed to hug me or say, “I love you.” I’m going to enjoy that for as long as I have it. They are the most endearing little jungle monkeys ever. (Monkey is a term of endearment at our house. I’ll ask, “Who’s my jungle monkey?” and Ryder’s face will brighten up and he’ll say, “Me! Me jungle monkey.”)
You know, now that I’m thinking about it, I want to write a list of all the advice I can think of that you won’t learn in a parenting book, such as the four lessons at the beginning of this series. These are just the kinds of lessons that we learn as we go, the lessons that humble us. The more kids you have, the more you’ll understand.
#1 This is by far the hardest part of having a new child . . . the lack of sleep. When you first have a child, you will have to learn to function in a fog. That’s just the way it is. So go easy on yourself when you start to go a little loopy. I remember waking up for the second or third month in a row with my first (and my second) and just crying out in the dark, “Lord, if You love me at all, You will let me sleep. Please, Lord! Please! Why . . . oh, why can’t I just sleep?” with tears streaming down my face.
I never did get the desired amount of sleep, but I did learn to function in a fog. And remember, when you are up at night crying, you are not alone. Millions of mothers around the world are doing the same thing at that very moment.
But you know what the funny thing is? Even if the baby is sleeping, I still can’t fall asleep easily. I think there’s a Mommy-Insomnia (Mommy-Insommy? Too cutesy?) that comes with kids, a hyper-alertness that keeps us half-awake. I will lay there for an hour or hour-and-a-half thinking about stupid things, like this brilliant chain of thought that went through my head the other night:
Hmm, I wonder if we should try raw cocoa? Raw or regular? Which is healthier? Is it even healthy to eat cocoa? There’s debate about that. I won’t give up chocolate. If God made it, it must be okay. Except pork and shellfish. Never pork or shellfish! Refuse-cleaners of the earth. I could do without meat. But I love vegetables. Cocoa in moderation. Fine with me. My grandma eats chocolate and drinks coffee. And she’s in her 90’s. Eating locally? Pineapples? No, I’m not so much about eating local as I am about eating healthy. Coconuts? Tropical! Wow, my hair feels dry. Why can’t I sleep? I need to go to sleep. The kids are sleeping well and I’m wasting my time. My mind just keeps running. And running. And it’s not running anywhere. My goodness! If people could see what goes on in my head when I’m trying to sleep. I should write this down to add to my book later. Okay, now I’m thirsty. But I can’t get up or I’ll really be awake. I want coconut cake. Yertle the Turtle. Yertle the Turtle? Where did Yertle the Turtle come from? How did I get from coconut to Yertle the Turtle? Haven’t read that book in ages! I can see soup connected to turtle. Mock turtle soup. But coconuts? Hmm, did Yertle climb a tree, like a palm tree? Are coconuts from palms?
I’m not kidding. This is the kind of grand planning that goes on in my head and steals my sleep. It’s ridiculous. Anyway, learn to function in a fog. You will not get the sleep you want, but you’ll get just enough to keep you alive. And you will get through it! You will get through it alive!
[Which is totally contrary to what I once told Hunter about sleep. When he was about three years old, he asked me, “What happens if you don’t get enough sleep?” Now, in my defense, he had asked me this late in the day, at a time when I was thoroughly exhausted. And I could not stop the words that came out of my mouth. In a dramatic, serious tone, I looked at him and said, “If you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll DIE!”
At the time, it seriously sounded like a reasonable answer. And my reasoning was that if you were never able to fall asleep, your body would eventually wear out and you would die. Because our bodies need sleep to stay healthy. Anyway, my husband’s eyes opened in horror and he gave me “the look” from across the table, and I changed my answer to “You will get really, really tired and not be able to function well during the day.”
Well, poor kid, months later I was putting him to bed and he asked me if Daddy and I were going to go to bed right away. And I told him that mommies and daddies can stay up later than the kids. He got all upset and, through tears, he looked up at me and said, “But then you’ll die!” (Okay, sub-lesson for #1: Be more careful what I tell the children, especially when I’m tired!)]
#2 This is also usually a consequence of number one: It is perfectly acceptable to start crying over seemingly small things because you are so sleep-deprived that you can’t think straight. If you have to change the baby’s outfit again because they got some kind of body fluid on it again, go ahead and cry. If you just dropped the paper towel for the third time because you are too tired and weak to keep a grip on it, let the tears roll. Or if all of your children have taken up the tribal chant of “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom” at the same time, but no one can hear your small, pathetic plea to stop talking because your head is about to explode, then curl up the fetal position in the corner of the room and sob. That’s not being too emotional; that’s being smart! If we didn’t let it out in a cry sometimes, we might explode in a fit of rage! (And just keep telling yourself, “Sleep will come . . . sleep will come. When I’m sixty-five and develop narcolepsy, sleep will come.”)