They say sleep deprivation is a lot like walking around drunk.
That must be why I keep running into doors and passing out on the couch and forgetting where in the world I put the new baby’s clean diaper when it’s literally right in front of my face—I’m looking at it and it’s looking at me and I STILL can’t see it.
After the first baby, all those people who have walked in our shoes give us that helpful advice: “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” And if you’re like me, you don’t realize they’re serious until you’ve spent sixty hours awake.
People also give this advice after baby number two and baby number three, which always makes me wonder if they ever really had more than one. It’s just not helpful advice once you’ve passed the first baby.
Kids, you see, at least a tribal group like mine, need constant supervision. The only time I sleep is when they’re ALL sleeping. Which is never.
(Actually that’s not true. My kids sleep like champs. In their beds by 8:30, the first one usually falls asleep by 8:45, and the last one by 10, and then that first one will wake up by 6. Which leaves me a whole four hours for sleep, after I finally wind down from the thirteen times I almost dropped into dreamland only to hear a knock on my door from the one who needs to tell me about that new character he’s developing for the story he’s writing or another one who needs to tattle on a brother for kicking him in the face or another who just wants his third kiss goodnight.)
Sleep while the baby sleeps.
Oh, I wish it were that easy.
Once, when I slept while the baby was sleeping, my 8-year-old, 5-year-old and 4-year-old boys climbed to the top of our minivan parked out front and decided to see what it would be like to pee off the top, in clear view of every house on the block (sorry neighbors). Another time I passed out involuntarily, I woke with a start, five minutes later, because I heard something clinking in the background. Turns out it was my 2-year-old twins, racing out the back door with knives they wanted to use for sword fighting. And how could I possibly forget the time I took a twelve-second nap and my 5-year-old ate two pounds of grapes?
Sleep while the baby sleeps.
It’s just not helpful anymore.
Another piece of used-to-be-helpful advice that is no longer relevant after the first child: Take care of yourself.
Well, see, I tried it one time. I tried putting up my feet for ten minutes of quiet in my bedroom. Just ten minutes. When I came back out there were one hundred paper airplanes scattered all over our living room floor. Another time I went to the bathroom for no more than two minutes, and my third son located a black permanent marker and turned his yellow shirt into a black-and-yellow striped shirt. Impressive, but that doesn’t come out. And then there was that time I felt brave enough to rinse off in a fifty-two-second shower, and my 5-year-old used the time to cut a chunk out of his hair, draw whiskers on his face and glue his hand to his shirt.
“Hold him all you can. It sure goes fast,” they say.
Yes. I know. This isn’t my first infant. That’s part of the problem.
I tried holding him every minute I could. And then a 2-year-old figured out how to open the under-sink cabinets, even though they’re baby proofed, and sprayed vinegar cleaner all over the floor so his twin brother would slip in it, flip his feet over his face, and bust his head on the tile floor. There was that time at the children’s museum I tried to hold him and stare in his eyes for five seconds or so, and the 2-year-olds snuck into an elevator and we searched for them for twenty whole minutes, nearly giving them up for lost before the elevator door dinged and out they came running with grins on their faces and not enough vocabulary to tell us what exactly they were doing in there.
Once, when I thought I’d feed the baby in the privacy of my room so we could share some one-on-one time, because the 2-year-olds were sleeping, one woke up, unbeknownst to me, and colored his entire door red. It’s still a mystery how that happened, since their room holds NOTHING but beds and clothes. I think he was hiding it under his tongue.
OK, kids. You win.
I just can’t use all that well-meant advice anymore.
When I was talking it over with Husband, trying to figure out a new plan, some way we might be able to sleep while the baby was sleeping and hold him all we could and actually take care of ourselves, he looked at me for a minute and said, “Maybe we just need to buy some kennels.”
I think he might be on to something.
his is an excerpt from Parenthood: Has Anyone Seen My Sanity?, the first book in the Crash Test Parents humor series. To get access to some all-new, never-before-published humor essays in two hilarious Crash Test Parents guides, visit the Crash Test Parents Reader Library page.