Olivia had a very rough night this past Saturday night. She woke me up no fewer than six times, each time to ask me to fix the blankets on her bed.
Each time she woke me up I felt my patience fraying just a little more. She has been sick for fifteen days as of Saturday. Of those fifteen days, she’s slept through the night once. That is one night out of fifteen during which she didn’t wake me up at least three times.
During the height of her cold, I was the epitome of the patient, loving mother. I got her drinks of water, fixed her blankets, brought her a wet washcloth to wipe the crusty snot from her face. I went down and got medicine, refreshed her water, refixed her blankets…over and over and over for the last two weeks.
But Saturday night, I was tired. I was at the end of my patience. My love for this child is infinite; alas, my patience is not.
She’s been on an antibiotic since Thursday. Her congestion is so much better now that we have a prescription level decongestant to give her along with the antibiotics, which are fighting off the infection that is causing the congestion.
My sleep-deprived mind couldn’t grasp why this ten-year-old child wouldn’t just sit up and fix her own damned blankets. She has two hands, she can grasp. She was the one who kicked them off, she could pull them back up over her.
Because, see, the reason she woke me up six times that night was mostly to fix her blankets.
But the fourth request for straightened blankets, I snapped at her to go to sleep. I told her that she could fix them herself and I was so tired that she needed to NOT wake me up again.
Five minutes later, she requested the book light.
I think I might have growled at her. I refused her request for the book light because it was two o’clock in the morning and it was SLEEPING time, NOT book-light time. She sniffled at me and said the book light made her not feel so lonely because it made the dark go away.
I rolled my eyes (remember, it was dark because I’d refused to give her the book light, she couldn’t see my distain) and told her that I was three feet away and if she’d just go to sleep, she wouldn’t be lonely.
As I lay there, seething at 3am because of yet another wake-up call, this one asking if she could come lay in my bed (nope), that voice in my head told me I was being a horrible mother for being so short with her. But! But, but, but, that voice was quickly followed by a softer, kinder voice that reasoned, “She’s ten years old. It is not unreasonable to expect her to just go back to sleep if she wakes up. She very obviously knows she can wake me up if it’s an emergency, ie, she’s sick or scared, but just because she kicked her blankets off? No. I’m not a terrible mother for wanting to sleep through the night.”
That right there is progress. That is a moment fourteen years in the making. I’ve been trying so hard for so many years to be perfect. To be perfectly kind, perfectly patient, perfectly available at all times that I’ve trained my kids to think they can ask anything of me, day or night, reasonable or not.
And that’s not fair. It’s not fair to me or to them. They need to understand that I am not an extension of them and just because she’s awake, Olivia doesn’t need to wake me up to keep her company.
It’s okay for me to sternly (yet, lace that sternness with a little kindness) tell her to go back to sleep. She’s not sick anymore. She’s just bored. And the cure for boredom at 3am is to go back to sleep. And I’m finally okay with telling her just that.
It feels good to be just a little bit righteous sometimes.