When my kids were little, I looked at the bleary-eyed older parents around me with pity. They spoke of weekend nights staying up till their teens made it home safely and complained of pubescent bodies lying in repose until well past noon. I was dealing with three-year-old middle of the night banshee screaming and kids needing help pouring the milk at the crack of dawn. Teens who stayed up late and slept in all morning? Sounded like a dream come true. I couldn’t wait till my kids grew up and adopted the same schedule I already wanted. I was ready to binge watch Supernatural all night and sleep all day. Bring it on, puberty.
But then we started getting up at 6 a.m. each morning to shove them in the big yellow school bus when it was still pitch black outside. My body started waking up at 6 a.m. on weekends. WEEKENDS. No-no, body. Stupid body. Saturdays are for sleepy. But the damage was done and I was reprogrammed. Up at dawn, exhausted by seven at night, I’d make it till bedtime then shut down fast. Then I crossed into my forties and seven became six, became five, became four, and I was drinking an entire French press carafe to make it through the afternoon.
Then BOING! I would wake up at six in the morning, then five, then four. What was this horrifying trend? I was becoming my father, who accomplishes an entire day’s work before sunrise.
Nobody warned me that just when my kids started staying up later at night and sleeping in in the morning, some latent genetic code from my morning people ancestors would kick in and render me unable to keep my eyes open past ten and raring to go by four in the morning. “Sleep when the baby sleeps” no longer works when the baby is sixteen and crawling in bed with me to unpack her day.
Even in my zombielike state, I love these late night conversations. As I drift off to the Land of Nod, first my daughter, then my son, sneak into my room, suddenly energized and ready to talk about their feelings, relationships, burgeoning political opinions, and thoughts on everything from vaping to teen pregnancy. These are the moments I live for. I am ready to hear their innermost secrets, as soon as I pull my saliva-coated bite guard out of my mouth, coax my earplugs out of my ears, slide my glasses onto my face, and pretend like I was awake and waiting for them this whole time. KEEP READING