Go To Sleep
I used to enjoy night-time, the quiet streets, the closed work folder, and the gentle tug of sleep. Then I had children. Every night became a battle for my pre-children evening routine, for which I have yet to win. What is worse is that the battle can sometimes go on for hours, with surprise ambushes occurring, even after I have managed to go to bed.
I was prepared at the beginning for such battles. All the child experts explained that most infants do not sleep through the night for the first year of life. What I was not prepared for was the second, third, four, fifth, sixth, seventh and even tenth (you read that right, tenth!) years of fighting.
The reason for the battle is simple, I strive for quiet and peace after eight in the evening, and my children wish to stay up and have more fun. The first resistance begins when I demand they hand in their phones to me. “But it’s for school!” They chorus. “You can’t take them yet.”
“School ended at one o’clock,” I tell them. “It is now eight, whatever you are up to, most likely can be dealt with tomorrow. Please go brush your teeth.”
This task is where swords are drawn amongst themselves. I hear shouting from the bathroom.
“I was here first.”
“No, I was here first.”
Stepping into the bathroom I ask wearily, “what is so complicated about brushing teeth, what is the problem!?” Though I know the answer without either of them replying. It’s clear the two of them want the bathroom at the same time and neither one is willing to wait for the other. Trying to settle this dispute for territory, I tell them both to be more considerate of the other. In return I am met with a double eye roll. Succeeding in turning their annoyance; their anger at each other is forgotten. My first victory!
After the toothbrush wars, I proceed to phase two; reading a story with the one I like to call, ‘the indecisive story chooser.’ My instructions to choose a story from the bookshelf are almost never heeded. Why? Because she simply can’t choose. Crouching down, I select four stories I am willing to read and lay them out before her. She marches out, proceeding to select a book from a shelf in a different room. When a book is finally chosen, we cuddle on the bed together and begin reading.
A page in, and I am interrupted by my older daughter, “Mommy, do we have powdered sugar?”
“Not sure, why?”
“Because I am making donuts on zoom tomorrow.”
“I’ll look for you, soon.”
Turning back to the story, I asked, “where were we?” My daughter shrugs and I am forced to start from the top of the page.
After reading a few more pages I am interrupted again, this time by a loud shriek. Rushing towards the shrieking, I find my daughter huddling in the corner, a moth on her pillow.
“Get it away,” she screams. “It will eat my eye lashes while I’m sleeping.”
“No, it won’t.”
“Yes, it will!”
I struggle to contain my own eye roll as I escort the non-eyelash eating insect out of the room. Returning once more to the bedtime story, I manage to read the rest of the book without further interruption. After we recite the nighttime prayer called the Shema I kiss her smooth forehead and give her a hug goodnight. She places a hand over mine, “don’t go, one more squeeze.” How can I resist such a request? So, I give her another hug.
“One more kiss,” she says. I give her another kiss.
“My turn,” She plants her lips on my cheek for what seems likes a whole minute. Finally, she lets go and says goodnight. As I head towards my bedroom, on the cusp of victory; I am ambushed in the hallway by a child I like to call the ‘master procrastinator.’ My plans of a writing for a few minutes in peace are blown to smithereens. The procrastinator informs me that she needs us to make cookie dough since the teacher decided that donuts are too difficult to make over zoom. So, I detour to the kitchen and we make cookie dough at nine in the evening.
When that is finally finished, I lock myself inside my room and whip out my laptop to write down a few thoughts before I lose the inspiration. I write for an hour, savoring the silence. Then I prepare for bed, pull back the covers and lay down in my comfy, cozy bed. As I turn on a podcast to drift off to, I hear my door creep open.
A menacing figure steps in and proclaims, “I can’t sleep.”
“Why?” I ask, my eyes still closed, fully intending to keep them that way.
“Because (a sister who will remain nameless) is singing.”
I jerk awake, “but she is supposed to be asleep.”
“Well, she isn’t.”
I head into the final battle of the evening. Nice mommy has gone, the monster is out now. I march down the hall ordering all the girls to bed. They scamper under their covers where they should have been all along. Then I return to my room, my eyelids now heavy. For a minute I wonder if moths do eat eye lashes, it would explain the pain of my heavy eye lids. Going to sleep is my prize for winning the bedtime battle.
Nighttime is still my favorite part of the day. The streets are quiet, my work folder is closed, and sleep is finally achievable. But the gentle tug of sleep no longer pulls me; rather it dumps me into bed. I’m exhausted from the battles that I reluctantly, although courageously, fought. One day the wars will cease. When, you might ask; the blessed day my children realize their own crucial need for rest.