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The Anatomy of a Sleepless Night

Posted by Kara Baskin  August 9, 2012 09:00 AM

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I haven’t written in a couple of weeks. That’s because I haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep since approximately mid-July. I’m so tired that I actually mutter “Jordyn Wieber! Justin Bieber!” to myself and break out in chortles. God, I need a nap.

An awful lot has been written about how to coax your child to sleep through the night—or how to get the pesky little cretin to fall asleep in the first place. (“Go the F**K To Sleep” is a work of genius, on par with Hemingway.) I always felt blessed in this regard: Andrew has been an ace sleeper since infancy. Yet recently, around the time of his second birthday, something went horribly awry. Now he keeps the hours of a drunk college student: awake and wanting to snack until about 10, then up again at 2 wanting to watch TV, then “sleeping in” until roughly 9 in the morning, rolling in late to day care like it ain’t no thing.

A study out earlier this week says that kids sleep better when their evening “media diet” consists of “empathy-driven” shows like Sesame Street. I am glad that Sesame Street is so empathetic, because his parents definitely are not. If I have to hear “Elmo’s Got Mail! Elmo’s Got Mail!” one more time, I will willingly enter into a sleep from which I never awaken. Also: Who are these people alert enough to conduct sleep studies? Clearly they don’t have toddlers.

Our evenings unravel thusly:

6:30 p.m.: Andrew sits down at the table for “family dinner.” Brian and I attempt to engage in adult conversation so that Andrew will absorb our banter and will thereby expand his vocabulary. The conversation degenerates within two or so minutes as Andrew waggles his yogurt spoon this way and that, spackling our walls with peach-pear puree.
6:33 p.m.: Andrew reaches across the kitchen table and unearths stale Tostitos chips from a long-forgotten barbecue. He grasps four in his mitt and shoves them into his mouth.
6:36 p.m.: “Baba! Baba! Melmo?” He’d like to be excused from dinner to watch either Yo Gabba Gabba or Sesame Street.
6:36 p.m.: He is informed that he cannot get up until he finishes his dinner.
6:36 p.m.: He bucks! He seizes! He turns beet red! He should be in the Olympics!
6:36 p.m.: Brian tells him that he can get up.
6:37 p.m.: Brian and I get into a spat about enforcing discipline.
6:38 p.m.: Since Brian and I are now not speaking, I retire to the living room and begin updating my Facebook profile while Andy gallops insanely to the soul-battering tunes of Elmo’s World. (Sample line: “Da-da-ta-da! Da-da-TADA! ELMO’S WORLD!”)
7 p.m.: Brian lopes into the living room, sheepishly if I do say so, and roughhouses with Andy. Andy mounts his back and howls like a farm animal, only to fall off his neck and conk his head on the hardwood floor. So long, Harvard scholarship.
7:10 p.m.: I order both boys outside so that I can watch E! News in peace.
8 p.m.: They return home, flush with tales of neighborhood dogs. It’s now “wind down” time. Andy is toted to his bedroom to change into pajamas.
8:01 p.m: Andy howls “No Way! NO WAY, MUMMA!” as I attempt to diaper him. He flips, he kicks, he flops onto his stomach like a beached whale. I finally pin him down in a wrestling hold and jam him into a diaper, praying that I have not rendered him impotent.
8:05 p.m.: Andy trots back into the living room and wants to serve us pretend pizza from his chef’s kitchen. We oblige, hoping this will “wear him out.”
8:07 p.m.: Andy decides that the rug needs mowing with his new Little Craftsman lawn mower. We oblige, hoping this will “wear him out.”
8:10 p.m.: Andy decides that he’d like to serenade us with his saxo-flute, a hybrid saxophone flute, which plays tunes at a decibel melodious only to canines. We oblige and eye each other despondently.
8:15 p.m.: We dim the lights as if we’re conducting a séance. Andy is once again invited to choose a book.
8:15-8:30 p.m.: Brian reads to Andy while I fetch him his evening cocktail, whole milk. He grabs the glass in his meaty paws and settles in.
8:45 p.m.: Andy is placed lovingly in his crib. Brian tiptoes into the living room, hoping to enjoy some Olympics action. Yowling commences. Andy is toted back into the living room and wants to watch TV.
8:45-Unknown Hour: Andy logs more Olympics time than Bob Costas. He and Brian sit in mournful silence, TV on mute, for each time he’s deposited in his crib, he screams pathetically.
Midnight: Brian staggers to bed, ordering me to cease my rousing game of Words With Friends because “the light” is keeping him up. I grunt and dive under the sheets for one more game.
1 a.m.: Mixed with the din of the air conditioner, we hear a grumble that crescendos to a long moan. We both lie still in bed, pretending to be asleep.
1:01 a.m.: I add in a snore for extra insurance.
1:02 a.m.: Brian staggers to Andy’s room and flops back into bed. “He wanted his Thomas pillow,” he informs me. I snore appreciatively.
2:00 a.m.: Another long, slow yelp. I pray it’s just our next-door neighbor having a particularly rowdy argument with his TV set.
2:05 a.m.: I enter Andy’s room to find him standing up in bed. I’m a bit craftier than Brian. I attempt to trick him into thinking that I’m changing the atmosphere in his room, which will make things all better. “Hi Andy! Oh, I see why you’re upset. You clearly want your window open. Should I open the window?” “Yeah,” he sniffles. I pretend to open the window. “Oh, and I see that your Thomas Pillow is a bit askew. Should I adjust it?” “Yeah,” he sniffles. I fluff his pillow. “OK, all conditions are perfect for a restful night,” I coo, pretending to be a delirious Donna Reed. “Have a wonderful evening!” I tiptoe back to bed.
4 a.m.: I am awakened by a urine-logged diaper in my face and a hedgehog-like snort. Somehow Andrew has found his way into our bed. He’s curled into Brian’s armpit, and I am now wide awake. I grope for my iPhone and begin reading the FB status updates of people on the West Coast.
5 a.m.: Cruel sunlight trickles into the bedroom. Only another hour or so, and then Brian’s alarm will go off. I close my eyes. Maybe just a little nap…POW! Andy sleepily jabs his jagged fingernail into my eye. “How the hell did he get into bed with us?” I snap at Brian, kicking him in the shins. He snores.
6:30 a.m.: Brian’s alarm goes off. He staggers toward the bathroom. I am already lying awake, staring at the ceiling, nursing a throbbing eye. And Andrew, of course, is wrapped snugly in the arms of Morpheus, fondling his exposed belly button, not to awake for another two hours.

I’d gladly read sleep books or websites, though I doubt that I could keep my eyes open long enough. My free time shall henceforth be spent scouring the Internet for nighttime nannies willing to work for stale Tostito chips.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Kara Baskin (@kcbaskin) is a Boston-based writer, editor, and mom to Andy. She thinks Sriracha and garlic make everything tastier. She loves Steely Dan and "Murder, She Wrote." Her More »

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