Last night was one of those nights. You know what I mean, mamas.
I am recovering from the stomach flu, so I meant to go to bed early—but, I’m recovering from the stomach flu, so I need to get caught up on the life stuff that I completely neglected for several days while I lay on the couch and watched Noah and Sally tear our house apart.
So I didn’t get to bed as early as I’d hoped, and then I lay there with my mind racing for a while, and of course within what seemed like minutes of drifting off, I woke with a start to Noah shrieking my name. And when I say shrieking, I mean ear-splitting, world-ending, he-must-be-dying screaming.
Certain that he had probably caught my bug and was vomiting his guts out as I had been a few night before, I raced to his room and pulled him into my arms.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that, no, he was not throwing up: his maniacal screams were due to…are you ready for this?…a stuffy nose.
Yes, a stuffy nose.
I just—yeah I’m not sure what to say here.
Don’t get me wrong, I know stuffy noses are uncomfortable. And I know that three-year-olds aren’t used to discomfort and don’t like such sensations. But stuffy noses don’t generally cause death, and they aren’t usually cause for ballistic wailing at 2 a.m., so even as I tried so hard to be loving and patient, I will admit that I was annoyed.
I offered him a Kleenix. I rubbed his back and offered to sing him a song. I assured him that everything would be okay and asked if going to the potty and getting a drink of water would help. When he continued to wail and flop around like a suffering fish, I realized that he wasn’t even hearing me—that he could not be reasoned with at the moment—and I just had to leave. I gave him a kiss and told him I hoped he felt better soon and I would see him in the morning. And then I left.
Maybe this wasn’t the “nurturing mom” thing to do. Maybe I should’ve gotten in bed with him and endured his shrieking and just been there for him until he calmed down. But this kid’s emotions are always 0 to 60 in a second, always insanely intense, and I do a pretty good job of being patient during the day and even most nights (he’s been waking up and wailing in the night a lot lately)—but last night, I just couldn’t do it.
So I left, and then I lay in my bed and listened to him howling for another thirty minutes. Of course I couldn’t sleep as I lay there and wondered if I am ruining my child.
Am I too soft? Am I babying him too much? Is that why he has these fits--because I put up with it?
Am I too hard? Should I be more compassionate? Is that why he has these fits--because he is having a tough time and I am not giving him the attention that he needs right now?
Should I just let him have a good rage and settle back to sleep on his own, or does he feel scared and abandoned and need me right now? If I go back in there, will it just reinforce that he can wake me up on a whim any time he wants in the night? If I don't go back in there, will he feel like my love has been withdrawn in a time when he is confused and struggling and needs me the most?
As usual, the answers weren’t clear, so I just followed my heart, and once his shrieking had calmed to a whimper, I went back in and hugged him and told him I will always be here for him—but sometimes mommys need sleep too, and sometimes noses just get stuffy and there’s nothing we can do about it, and I wish I had a magic wand to make his snot go away but I just don’t, and when he wakes up in the night, can he try to take care of whatever it is without waking mommy unless it's a *real emergency* because it’s really hard to take care of him and Sister when I am exhausted the next day?
He seemed to understand, and after I snuggled with him for a few minutes, he willingly let me leave and told me he would see me when his light turned green in the morning.
So that ended semi-well, but the night’s adventures weren’t over yet. I will spare you all of the gory details (I really didn’t mean to give you so many about the stuffy nose incident--apparently I needed to get that off my chest?), but suffice it to say that Sally has a terrible cough and couldn’t sleep without being held, so Ryan and I took shifts with her, and her hacking often leads to throwing up, and the night ended with me covered in spit-up with a crick in my neck from “sleeping” in the rocking chair with a sick baby on my chest.
Not the best night of sleep I’ve had in a while. Which is fine. A few poor nights of sleep never hurt anyone. I'm not writing this to complain--I don't even know why I am writing it, other than that it seems to be a pretty revealing snapshot of motherhood, and I want to remember it.
I also want to remember that most of the time, I had no idea what I was doing in this midst of this mothering gig. But I always tried my best. I really did.
And this morning, after the night from hell, Noah came wandering into Sister's room to find me with the baby asleep on my chest, and the minute she heard his voice (informing me that he had wet the bed, of course, because, well duh that would happen after a night like we had!), she woke up and grinned like she wasn't sick at all, because she adores her wild brother more than anyone on the planet. And then Noah asked if he could snuggle with us and he climbed up into the chair, damp pants at all, and I just held them both, feeling inexplicably peaceful and completely bewildered by this experience that I'm having.