I know exactly what you mean

My kid has a few sleep problems, and as most parents know, kiddo’s sleep problems are your sleep problems.  She sleeps in her own bed—most of the time.  Strange noises will drive her into ours, and we’re far too tired to try to get her back to her own bed.  Like most small children, she cares nothing for Euclidean space and is able to occupy an entire king-sized bed.  Not infrequently, I end up sleeping in a smaller bed in a pink room.

More commonly, she has trouble falling asleep.  She requires a parent to stay with her until she’s out.  This is usually more my problem than hers, but lately it’s started to bug her.  Last night she was tossing and turning and looked at me in frustration.

“Daddy, I’m never going to fall asleep! Never ever!”

This I understand.  So many complaints of childhood seem mere annoyances to adults.  How much sympathy can you have for a child who claims to be bored while surrounded by toys?  How can a chubby adult understand why a kid won’t eat anything but an occasional chicken nugget?

Tonight she was what most parents would call “over-tired”.  I only read a few paragraphs of Moby Dick and she lost it.  She wanted more and was nearly inconsolable.  My wife came up and wiped her nose and rubbed her back, calming her until she dropped off to sleep.  It was magic.  Until I got up and bumped into the dresser, extending bedtime by another fifteen minutes.

Even these frustrating moments are drops of ecstasy into our lives.  I give a lot of bad news out during the day, enough that it sometimes weighs down on me, fracturing the boundaries set up to protect both me and the patient.  This is one of the reasons I’ve cut back a little bit on some of my overtime. Without time for self and family, it’s not possible to deal with the psychological consequences of developing important relationships that are fostered in part to be able to give devastating news.

And so I lie in bed with my family, watching my wife soothe my worn-out child, feeling the warmth and strength of the closeness, but knowing—really knowing—its fragility, a fragility best not shared too readily.

5 thoughts on “I know exactly what you mean

  1. Lovely! I know it’s a cliche, but they really do grow up so fast. My little girl, who had to had someone lie down with her for years, is off to high school next year! If I could go back to those cuddly sleep-deprived nights, I would do it in a heartbeat.

  2. — I love Moby Dick as much as the next English major. Deeply. Profoundly,.But it never occurred that it would help send my child to the land of Nod. Quite the opposite.

    — What’s lulling bye-bye about “Take heart, take heart, O Bulkington! Bear thee grimly, demigod! Up from the spray of thy ocean-perishing—straight up, leaps thy apotheosis!” (Chapter 23, Lee Shore)

    — Or a bit later when the captain arrives:
    “Am I a cannon-ball, Stubb,” said Ahab, “that thou wouldst wad me that fashion? But go thy ways; I had forgot. Below to thy nightly grave; where such as ye sleep between shrouds, to use ye to the filling one at last.—Down, dog, and kennel!”

    Starting at the unforseen concluding exclamation of the so suddenly scornful old man, Stubb was speechless a moment; then said excitedly, “I am not used to be spoken to that way, sir; I do but less than half like it, sir.”

    “Avast! gritted Ahab between his set teeth, and violently moving away, as if to avoid some passionate temptation.

    “No, sir; not yet,” said Stubb, emboldened, “I will not tamely be called a dog, sir.”

    “Then be called ten times a donkey, and a mule, and an ass, and begone, or I’ll clear the world of thee!”

    — Jolly thoughts to curl up for the night with. Perhaps maybe the whales … ?

    “In one respect this is the most venerable of the leviathans, being the one first regularly hunted by man. It yields the article commonly known as whalebone or baleen; and the oil specially known as “whale oil,” an inferior article in commerce. Among the fishermen, he is indiscriminately designated by all the following titles: The Whale; the Greenland Whale; the Black Whale; the Great Whale; the True Whale; the Right Whale. There is a deal of obscurity concerning the identity of the species thus multitudinously baptised. What then is the whale, which I include in the second species of my Folios? It is the Great Mysticetus of the English naturalists; the
    Greenland Whale of the English whalemen; the Baliene Ordinaire of the French whalemen; the Growlands Walfish of the Swedes. It is the whale which for more than two centuries past has been hunted by the Dutch and English in the Arctic seas; it is the whale which the American fishermen have long pursued in the Indian ocean, on the Brazil Banks, on the Nor’ West Coast, and various other parts of the world, designated by them Right Whale Cruising Grounds.

    “Some pretend to see a difference between the Greenland whale of the English and the right whale of the Americans. But they precisely agree in all their grand features; nor has there yet been presented a single determinate fact upon which to ground a radical distinction. It is by endless subdivisions based upon the most inconclusive differences, that some departments of natural history become so repellingly intricate. The right whale will be elsewhere treated of at some length, with reference to elucidating the sperm whale.”

    — — Waiting for captain and cetaceans? “The Lee Shore”

    “Some chapters back, one Bulkington was spoken of, a tall, newlanded mariner, encountered in New Bedford at the inn [..] Know ye now, Bulkington? Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?

    “But as in landlessness alone resides highest truth, shoreless, indefinite as God—so, better is it to perish in that howling infinite, than be ingloriously dashed upon the lee, even if that were safety! For worm-like, then, oh! who would craven crawl to land! Terrors of the terrible! is all this agony so vain? Take heart, take heart, O Bulkington! Bear thee grimly, demigod! Up from the spray of thy ocean-perishing—straight up, leaps thy apotheosis!”

    —- Or the great white himself:

    Nor was it his unwonted magnitude, nor his remarkable hue, nor yet his deformed lower jaw, that so much invested the whale with natural terror, as that unexampled, intelligent malignity which, according to specific accounts, he had over and over again evinced in his assaults. More than all, his treacherous retreats struck more of dismay than perhaps aught else. For, when swimming before his exulting pursuers, with every apparent symptom of alarm, he had several times been known to turn round suddenly, and, bearing down upon them, either stave their boats to splinters, or drive them back in consternation to their ship.

    “Already several fatalities had attended his chase. But though similar disasters, however little bruited ashore, were by no means unusual in the fishery; yet, in most instances, such seemed the White Whale’s infernal aforethought of ferocity, that every dismembering or death that he caused, was not wholly regarded as having been inflicted by an unintelligent agent.

    “Judge, then, to what pitches of inflamed, distracted fury the minds of his more desperate hunters were impelled, when amid the chips of chewed boats, and the sinking limbs of torn comrades, they swam out of the white curds of the whale’s direful wrath into the serene, exasperating sunlight, that smiled on, as if at a birth or a bridal.It is not probable that this monomania in him took its instant rise at the precise time of his bodily dismemberment. Then, in darting at the monster, knife in hand, he had but given loose to a sudden, passionate, corporal animosity; and when he received the stroke that tore him, he probably but felt the agonizing bodily laceration, but nothing more.

    — Maybe the “shocking sharkish ships are good for drifting off — “Though amid all the smoking horror and diabolism of a sea-fight, sharks will be seen longingly gazing up to the ship’s decks, like hungry dogs round a table where red meat is being carved, ready to bolt down every killed man that is tossed to them; and though, while the valiant butchers over the deck-table are thus cannibally carving each other’s live meat with carving-knives all gilded and tasselled, the sharks, also, with their jewel-hilted mouths, are quarrelsomely carving away under the table at the dead meat; and though, were you to turn the whole affair upside down, it would still be pretty much the same thing, that is to say, a shocking sharkish business enough for all parties; and though sharks also are the invariable outriders of all slave ships crossing the Atlantic, systematically trotting alongside, to be handy in case a parcel is to be carried anywhere, or a dead slave to be decently buried; and though one or two other like instances might be set down, touching the set terms, places, and occasions, when sharks do most socially congregate,.”

    —- f she wants “grown up stories,” how about ones that feature young women (Jane Austen), or the historical biogaphies of Hepseptut, …Queens Elizabeth, Catherine,Mary, Victoria …Don’t get me wrong– Moby Dick is a great read but falling asleep while my mind sailing through shark waters on voyages staffed by strange-named, rough-faced men bearing harpoons and 19th century vocabulariesl –My favorite for falling asleep as a child were the wonderful A.A.Milne poems — far better than seuss, and much more “gorwn up” in important ways.

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