Last night L. couldn't get to sleep until after 11:00, and then woke up twice with bad dreams. And T., who I hope so fervently is not gearing up for another migraine, woke up several times, thirsty and fussing in the middle of the night wailing that way small children have--the wails that cut through your dreams and shake you awake, to be worried and then grouchy, and then sleepless. I, of course, had to drag myself out of bed at 6:00 (still hoping to accomplish some work in the early morning hours--and look!--I am, I'm writing this post!) and T. proceeded to sleep until 10:00. At the pool yesterday, a neighbor and I commiserated about sleep habits. The neighbor has an 18-month-old, though, and I'm sure she was crossing her fingers during our entire conversation and hoping against hope that when she has an almost-eight-year-old and a four-year-old that she won't be swapping sleep-deprivation stories at the pool with someone like me.
One of the most tedious and tiresome aspects of early parenting for me was this whole sleep business. With all the reading and research and collection of anecdotal evidence we'd done in the months leading up to L.'s birth, nowhere did we read anything about how children have to be taught to sleep. I still remember how shocking the discovery of this was for us. Up until L. was born, I think we'd imagined that babies just naturally sleep like dogs and cats do, curling up for some hours whenever they felt tired. It was a jolt to discover that a baby or a small child can be deeply exhausted and yet still not curl up for a long nap in that effortless way. It just seemed so counter-intuitive, really, to have to teach sleep to someone so small and unencumbered by ordinary stress.
We resigned ourselves long ago to the fact that neither one of our kids was/is a solid and "easy" sleeper. T. loves to sleep now, but between her colic and her surgery at six months, and a strange period after that lasting about a year (during which she'd be awake for several hours three or four nights a week), we pretty much lived and breathed chronic sleep deprivation for the first two years of her life.
My conversation with the neighbor yesterday reminded me of another conversation I had a few months ago with another neighbor. Last fall some new neighbors moved in across the street from us. That first night they moved in, we all trooped across the street with a bucket of Trader Joe's dipping cookies and a welcome card. Back then, the new neighbors had one young daughter, R., recently adopted and, as fate (no stranger to irony) would have it, the wife was pregnant with another girl, due that winter. R. is a delightful child, toddling about on her little chunky legs and shrieking spontaneously at everything. She loved meeting L. in particular, and stretched out her little hands to pat his hair and cheeks.
"Is she always this happy?" I asked the mother.
"Oh, yes!" she said. "She had a very loving foster home."
Later in the conversation, when bedtimes were mentioned (the little girl's and T.'s), I asked her the million dollar question:
"Does she sleep well?"
"Wonderfully!" The mother answered, her eyes lighting up. Then she patted her bump. "We're spoiled, though. When we adopted R., her foster parents had already taught her to sleep through the night!"
This fact made me smile a little inside. It reminded me of a secret and insane fantasy I'd had when I was at my most rock-bottom sleep-deprived with L., and again, in the wee hours of the night with T. I think I had appeared to Scott one afternoon, eyes probably wild and hair rumpled with exhaustion and frustration, and put to him my fantasy: a place filled with caring and competent people with whom you would leave your poor-sleeper-of-a-child for a few hours each day--sort of a sleep-teaching camp--and then by the end of the week (or however long it took) you could collect your child and find, presto! that he or she was sleeping like a champ.
Oh, I would have paid top dollar for such a camp.