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.