Thursday, July 24, 2008

My Daughter the Vampire by Jenny Gardiner

There are certain things I cannot get over. One of those is the "no waking the child" policy borne of desperation in those early days of parenthood when sleep deprivation got the better of me and I caved like a prisoner of war under interrogation, flinging aside my wise grandfather's advice. That wisdom issued forth on one rare moment when he dispensed his nugget of knowledge to me when upon a visit late in my first pregnancy: "Don't go tiptoeing around the goddamned babies. Let them get used to noises in the house." My grandfather had a salty tongue, by the way.

So I was determined to employ this wise counsel from this father of seven, grandfather of 21. Clearly he must've known whereof he spoke. No way would I worry about whether my kids woke or not, noise be damned.

Fast forward to those bleak sleepless weeks/months/years when an hour's sleep was far more precious than any sparkling gemstone unearthed in a DeBeers mine in South Africa. Those were the days, when I resorted to desperate measures to ensure that my children remained soundly asleep.

I'll never forget my lowest of low points, when my youngest was a baby. Now, unlike my oldest, who took NINE MONTHS to sleep through the night, she slept six straight hours the very day she came home from the hospital.I got used to her accommodating my needs. But then she pulled the old bait and switch, and at six months began waking constantly, not such a courteous gesture for a mom managing three kids under the age of four. So one night, after re-settling her down in a completely darkened bedroom, I slowly lowered myself to the floor and onto my hands and knees. From there I slunk down to my belly. And then I ever-so-gradually inched myself backwards out of the room, kamikaze-style, as if barbed wire and bullets was what I was dodging rather than a wakeful baby. The theme song to Irma LaDouce, "If They Could See Me Now" was playing on an endless loop in my head. Because I couldn't believe how far I'd fallen from the carefree and well-rested girl I once was, in such dire need of sleep that I'd evacuate a child's bedroom as if fleeing a snoozing Nazi captor.

Since then I have been entirely unable (and unwilling) to wake any of my children from sleep. To the point of maternal failure.

Take for example my youngest. The wakeful one 13-1/2 years ago? These days she keeps vampire hours. Sleeps in a darkness-cloaked cave of a bedroom, eye mask firmly in place, sometimes until 2. In the afternoon. She has a leisurely "breakfast" around 3:30. Lunch becomes a suggestion for her just about when I'm pondering dinner options. I think she finally decides upon dinner well after we've gone to bed at night. Because my day begins at 5:30, mine is well on its way to completion by the time she lifts her sweet head from the pillow.

A few weeks ago I got up around 2:30 and saw lights on in the hallway, only to discover her having just switched out laundry loads. At 2:30 in the morning!

Honestly, I'm starting to think I should look for fangs, perhaps vials of blood laying around that are sustaining her in this nighttime vigil of wakefulness.

Now, of course my older two went through this crazy sleep mode. And I refused to allow myself to wake them either. Nowadays they arise at far more reasonable hours. I have an awful lot of empathy for the crazy demands on their lives during the school year. It's as if the summer is their time to compensate for the sheer exhaustion of their daily grind.

And yet I cannot shake this child-waking aversion. Up at dawn, I go to extreme lengths to enforce a modest level of quiet in the house. Even after the other two awaken, instinctually I flinch at noise while she sleeps on. And on. And on. When the dog barks (which she does constantly), I reprimand her in a hushed voice. When the doorbell rings, I wince. But then I remind myself: It's afternoon! the girl's not a vampire.

Or is she?


Daisy said...

Some of that is biological. My daughter (age 21) keeps vampire hours when she can. That is, when she doesn't have morning classes or an AM work schedule! I've finally learned not to worry about it. She'll get herself to work and school without my nudges.

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

I guess there's not a whole lot you can do about it--not like you can force someone to actually sleep! We certainly learned that when they were infants!

Insane Mama said...

She is a teenager, which means she is part vampire. The two go together.

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...


devilish southern belle said...

Haha, I am almost like her since my nights and days got mixed up due to a much lighter recent work schedule. The great thing about older kids is that they'll go back to sleep if they don't want to get up!

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

That is so true! in fact yesterday I dragged her out of bed at 1. She fell back asleep around 2:30 because she wasn't ready to get up.
Man it's gonna be a rude awakening when school starts!

Kalynne Pudner said...

We have the same problem in our house -- times six. For a brief shining moment this summer, I had cleaning help, and had to instruct them , "YES! Please do change the sheets upstairs! Just dump the bodies onto the floor."

Three days before school starts, we help them reverse by implementing POW torture: keep them standing, awake, for 36 straight hours. Guess whose torture that turns out to be?

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

Wow, Kalynne, you're hard-core! They have to adjust one way or the other!

Suzanne Macpherson said...

Teenagers are just scary aren't they?
That is why they are cute when they are little.
Like puppies.
Cuz later-~~ they aren't cute anymore.

LOL on the cleaning help -dump the bodies- Done that myself! Just clean around them please, and vacuum their heads while you're at it!

Laura said...

I found myself so jealous of Pom's sleeping-in this week that I woke her up as we were leaving the house one morning just because I could. Though she hardly keeps vampire hours--I'm usually still awake at midnight when she passes out on the couch!

I'm such a hypocrite....