When I pad barefoot down the darkened hall and quietly open the door to Lily's room her big brown eyes are open and dancing. She's happy and alert.
"I wake up?" she asks brightly.
"No, baby, you have to go to sleep. Wake up in the morning," I whisper, trying to be as low key as I can.
I know Leslie had been in the room for a while at least, and wasn't able to calm her down and get her back to bed, so I bring Melatonin and she gamely allows me to administer it orally with a pipette. Melatonin is a natural hormone that the brain secretes that helps regulate the sleep cycle. When we originally tried Lily on ADHD medications (I have still not blogged about that debacle), the doctor prescribed Melatonin as a means to get her to sleep despite the stimulants she was taking. The prescription says to take it twenty minutes before bed time, so I expect it to start working at least that much after I give it to her. I've had a couple hours of sleep. I'm patient.
She's making her sleepy sound. It is a low guttural clicking noise in the back of her throat like she's sucking at the roof of her mouth. She's made it since she was an infant, and it always presages sleep. She rubs her eyes. I close my own, thinking that if she sees my eyes closed maybe she'll stop trying to look at them. Maybe she'll try it out. I crack one open just a hair to make sure I'm not about to get the ol' Moe eye-gouge and to see whether she's buying the sleep I'm selling.
Her eyes are open, looking at my closed eyes. She rubs the index fingers of each hand with the other fingers of that hand. It's hard to explain. It's even harder to emulate. Her index finger angles in and she overlaps it with the middle and ring fingers to scratch it. She does this almost nonstop when she's awake. The index finger of each of her hands is swollen a little, the skin is ragged in places, scratched and dry and slightly frayed. I place my finger in her fist and her fingers straighten out and she grasps my finger, curling hers around mine. I cup her fist in my hand and she quietly tolerates it, but does not drift off to sleep.
I stroke her hair gently. I've noticed that sometimes when I stroke it very lightly, almost feather light, her eyelids will ease closed, only to snap open again as if in startled betrayal at being tricked into dozing. She pushes my hand away. My leg is draped over hers. She almost never protests this at bedtime, and without it, she sometimes kicks free of the covers and meanders all over the bed, keeping herself occupied flinging pillows from it, or laying on her back, kicking the siderails as she looks up at the ceiling. If I sense that she's trying to move her legs, I give her space to do so before snuggling her back in, trying to calm her body and get her back to sleep.
It's been a half hour. She's still making her sleepy sound that we call her "clicky noise". Her eyelids still occasionally drift shut only to open again. I hear the door open and curse softly to myself. Leslie is checking on us.
"Did you try Melatonin?" she asks, innocently.
"Yes, Leslie, go to sleep," I almost growl, and she leaves almost apologetically, though she is only doing what I myself would have done in her place.
Lily is holding her stuffed puppy "Poopers" in her clutches. She quickly twists her wrist 180 degrees, examines him, then snaps her wrist back 180 degrees to examine the other side of him. She does this repeatedly. I don't know if she's getting something visually from watching him, or proprioceptively from the movement of her wrist back and forth. I just know that it's keeping her from settling down.
I take Poopers from her and whisper, "Poopers is sleepy, Lily. He has to go to bed." I'm inwardly irritated with myself for attributing a male gender to her toy. I keep thinking it would be better for Lily if I automatically assumed girl genders for her stuffed animals. Why should they always be boys? I'm tired and almost mentally wave my hands dismissively at my thoughts as if to say, "shut up, you asshole, get her to sleep." My patience is starting to fray a little. It's been 45 minutes at least.
She is wet. This is her version of "Suck it, dad, I told you I wanted to wake up." She's fully capable of holding her bladder for a full eight hour sleep. Awake she's held it as long as five or six hours. I'm irritated. No, I'm borderline pissed. She was just on the potty 45 minutes ago. Illogically I hold it against Leslie for sending me in to put her to sleep even though it has to be one of us; even though I want to do this for her because she's feeling sick.
Leslie materializes blearily in the hallway. Our version of the chinese fire drill, the potty accident pit crew. When one of us arrives to find Lily wet, the other changes the sheets (off go the old tires, on go the new) while the first changes the girl and puts her on the potty (in goes the gas, vwip vwip goes the air wrench, and the car is back on the track). I've caught Lily before she can wet the sheets. They don't need to be changed and I wave Leslie angrily away before she can spoil my martyrdom; before she can share in the suffering of a sleepless night and claim part of it as her own, devaluing all the good "credit" and license to bellyache that I'm building up. I guess. It's such a selfish and stupid way of looking at it. We both work so hard to be good parents. This is no balance book. But I'm sleepy and already frustrated with the potty accident and thinking selfishly.
As I get Lily snuggled back into bed she struggles to sit up.
"No, Lily. Time to go to sleep," there is an edge to my voice now that I'm not proud of. I think about Emma. Emma will creep into our bedroom at midnight in tears because she's unable to sleep. She gets so frustrated that she can't get to sleep. Lily is not crying. Lily doesn't care that she can't sleep, because she doesn't want to sleep. She wants to wake up. It's time to play. Still, it must be frustrating for her to not be able to wake up when she's wide awake and be forced to try to go back to sleep. My tone gentles and I tell her "First sleep, then wakeup."
It's difficult to entertainingly encapsulate two hours of time spent coaxing and cajoling, stroking and soothing a child in an effort to get her to sleep. I am very tired and on edge at this point. Melatonin is shit. ADHD is shit. I want to go to sleep. I leave her to soothe herself to sleep and return to the bedroom, burying the monitor under my pillow so Leslie can sleep. But Leslie isn't sleeping. Leslie is worrying about what we're going to do tomorrow, because Lily will have been up for five hours by the time I drop her off to daycare at 7:00 a.m.
"What are we going to do with her?" She asks.
"How the hell should I know?" I snap back without thinking, and immediately regret it. I'm angry that she stayed awake the entire time she sent me in to put Lily to sleep. Now we've both been awake since 2:30. Neither of us have had any sleep. We argue ridiculously for a few seconds about the efficacy of Melatonin as a sleep cycle regulator. My side of the argument is succinct, articulate, "fucking melatonin doesn't work for shit."
We retreat to our respective chilly silences as Lily chatters to herself. I listen involuntarily via the monitor that is muffled beneath the pillow I'm resting my head on. An hour goes by. The longer she chatters the more frustrated I get. When I finally push up from my pillow and switch off the monitor it is 4:30 a.m.
"What are you going to do," Leslie asks, still awake.
"I'm going to get her up and take her downstairs," I grumble, storming out into the hall. But by the time I reach Lily's room, I've calmed down. The decision to get her up has somehow broken the tension. Maybe most of the tension was the stress of not wanting that decision to arrive, and trying to stop it and sliding slowly toward it despite my best efforts.
When I open the door she is babbling to herself. A pillow is on the floor. The sheets are off her. She is wet. But I have regained my patience. And I don't need as much sleep as most people. I gather Lily up and tell her I'm sorry for yelling. I tell her she's my big girl and we're going potty and changing our clothes and then we're going to wake up. And then Lily climbs brightly down the stairs holding my hand.
We watch TV for a half hour before Leslie joins us. I apologize. I tell her I'm sorry that I yelled. I tell her I wasn't mad at her, I was mad that we couldn't get Lily back to sleep. I was frustrated and I handled it badly. We hug and I give her a kiss and tell her I love her and she shambles back upstairs to shower, sleep's syrupy inertia pulling back at her as she pushes toward the work day that is relentlessly and remorselessly bearing down on both of us, heedless of our sleepless night, as it always does and must. And we have to wake up and bear right back down on it, as we always do and must, because we have kids and they have us.
|Just Before Daycare|
The teacher emailed me later and told me Lily showed no signs of being sleepy and was ". . . doing great! She's as chatty and motorically (sic) active as ever!"
That made me feel better.
Leslie just went to pick her up and texted me this, "Many accidents today...they ran out of clothes :-("
That made me feel worse.
Back to the ol' drawing board Jimbo. You'll be a better dad tomorrow! Chop off the peaks and use them to fill in the valleys. Don't ever climb too high and don't ever sink too low. Tomorrow's a new day.
After reading some of the comments, I feel like I need to clarify something. When we sit down during our IEP or meet with wrap to decide services, or introduce ourselves to a new specialist, one of the things that we're always asked is: What are Lily's strengths. We list her laughter and her love of dancing and movement, her cheerful disposition, her singing along with music, and her ability to sleep through the night.
She goes to sleep at 7:30 or 8:00 every night and wakes between 6:00 or 6:30 every morning.
I've read so many blogs by parents whose children are unable to do that. I only glimpse how hard that must be for you and your children briefly on the occasions where Lily wakes and can't get back to sleep. Last night was one such night. But I can't tell you the time before that. It's not really the same is it? One night? If one night sucks that bad what must ten nights be like? Or a hundred? Someone's always got it worse. Those are words to live by.