Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Graveyard Shift

My older cousin just had his second baby girl, well his wife did. I recently wrote asking her if she was getting any sleep. “Hee hee…sleep? What’s that?” came  the reply.

 I know exactly what she means. 

You see, all you nice folks out there think I am a hard working, homeschooling, busy mother of ten. You  probably picture my days filled with children running around with text books and toy guns, diaper changes interspersed between toting kids to parks and sports, while I stir huge pots  gruel on the stove and check the baby for Scarlett fever. Any woman foolish enough to have ten children must be struggling under the weight of all that laundry and mending! When does she ever get time to darn all those socks? Something about having a large family conjures up images of Little House on the Prairie for most people and has rocketed me backwards in time in their mind.

Actually, Scarlett fever isn’t much of a threat since penicillin came along, and I absolutely hate gruel, but I digress. What I was trying to get at was that while modern life has made it easier in many ways to have more children  (I have a killer front load washer and dryer and the microwave is also a handy little gadget to have for a busy Mom on the go.) But,  there are some hidden things about parenthood that make it a real challenge no matter what time you live in, or how many children you have.One of them is the graveyard shift.

You’d probably never guess what an active night life Fred and I have around here. I post pictures of sleeping children and bedtime stories, but what I don’t tell you is how often the little thump of feet announces itself in our house each night after bedtime.  We do try to run things spit spot for the most part, and so 8 pm is in fact the designated bedtime. Then Fred and I sit with the older kids and chat, or watch a show, or play a game to wind down from a long day.

We head off to bed late, around 11 or 12 most nights. Fred and I usually stay up talking at that point, until one or  the other can no longer laugh at a joke or hold our eyelids open another second. Then we drift off to a peaceful sleep…

 Until- the door gets flung open and in marches Mary Joan about 2 am. Like clockwork. Mary, being the kind of kid she is, thinks it necessary to bring all her bedding paraphernalia along with her or she won’t go back to bed at all. So she drags blankets, and pillows, and a few bears and dolls, and something silky to hold to soothe her back to sleep. If she drops any of this on her way in, Fred or I are made to fetch it. Then we set her up on the floor next to us. Approximately 3 minutes after she is settled, she decides she needs to use the bathroom. Up she gets and heads in. She closes and opens doors at full volume, and uses the lights of course to blind us both temporarily.We settle her back down and begin once again to drift off…

 Until about 3:30 am when Sarah comes skulking into the room. She also insists on carrying along her bedding and needs to be set up on the other side from where Mary has chosen.(Which depends entirely upon who is ahead in her parenting polls each day). Sarah is not potty trained yet so no she doesn’t march off to the bathroom. Instead she announces she needs a change ( I know, I know, a child who can announce the need for a change can also use the potty, but it doesn’t always happen  that way in real life, trust me, I’m working on it ). And then we drift off to sleep …

Unless of course Michael wakes up. Which he doesn't every night thankfully. Just some nights.  He also doesn’t wake up at the same time on those nights. Usually, it is his bladder that beckons him but he doesn’t always get up right away and so he may or may not need a change of clothing. If he doesn’t need a change of clothing he heads directly for the bathroom where he proceeds to pee over the entire room getting almost nothing into the actual bowl.  So we need to scrub the bathroom some nights at various hours. Then we proceed to try to bring him back to bed. And then he objects and wants to come to our room. And so we set him up as well on the side of the bed. Unless of course Mary and Sarah are already on the sides and then we’ll move him to the foot of the bed.

But of course all of us know that the foot of the bed is the least safe place on the floor, as all the monsters are naturally at the foot of the bed waiting to pounce on any children that might have had the unfortunate mishap of being laid down there. And so after we begin to drift Michael will slide in between us, and rather then fight we just grumble and shift and make sure he doesn’t steal any more of the blankets than absolutely necessary.And then we fall blissfully off to sleep…

Unless of course Sophie wakes too.You see, Michael isn’t the only one that gets up just some nights. So does Sophie. Not often but occasionally. And she always needs to be changed if she wakes. And usually she needs a bottle too. And so then after we visit the refrigerator and the cupboards off she goes. And we fall happily back to sleep…

Unless of course someone is sick, or scared, or heard a noise that was unidentifiable. And believe it or not that happens sometimes too. Not often, just sometimes. Like once every week or two. And then we begin to drift off to sleep until the alarm clock rings at 6 am and we both find someone has called in sick and as luck would have it we are both scheduled  for the day shift too.


  1. I definitely feel for you. I have one dog who has reached an age where he needs a middle-of-the-night potty break. That's enough to mess up my repose.

    I will say that he is reasonably considerate about things. He doesn't bark or make the sort of fuss that would wake the others, but rather just walks up to the head of the bed and looms over me while quietly breathing in my face. It's effective.

  2. Just getting around to reading some old posts. This is great! It's refreshing to know that even a parenting pro is up in the night, although for your sake I wish all the kids were sound sleepers! (And by the way, Silva still isn't potty trained either. We're working on it! Maybe I should tell her it's a race with Sarah...)