Seeing in the dark

August 20th, 2008

It was past midnight when my husband nudged me in the dark. He stood by my side of the bed, fully dressed, and I was confused from early, deep dreaming.

– Can you sit with Georgia? She’s been awake for hours and I have to get some sleep.

I scrambled up. For some reason I felt happy to do it. I must have been dreaming.

In the early days, months and years, getting the tots reliably to sleep is an elusive goal, but one of those goals we keep hammering away on. We think there is some way, some place, some trick to doing it so that it sticks. Many times we hoist that congratulatory banner and do a happy dance: Mission Accomplished! But sleep is like all things, like all mysterious forces and fields. It moves in waves with the moon and moods and invisibilities. Sometimes we hit a patch, like now, when the night’s first nod is a short one, and our daughter startles awake to hours of restlessness.

It’s been a while since I was called up for this tour. Georgia prefers her daddy’s consolation at night, probably because I’m not very consoling when I have to work a double shift. Last night I went into her room and, still half-asleep, stunned her by getting under the covers of her slender twin bed. She scooched over and in minutes we were both sleeping. It was the best night of sleep I’ve had in a long time. But was I sleeping? Twisted onto a sliver of the mattress about a foot wide, ears enfolded on one side by a fuzzy dolphin, the other by a plush poodle, lulled by the gurgle of two fish tanks, I dove into a heavy doze in which I kept repeating in a marvel: I’m asleep, I’m asleep, I’m asleep. Surely, then, I was awake?

In the darkness, much later, the dog put her wet nose to mine and I rose to resettle her into the room where I had enclosed her hours before, the door still firmly latched. Perhaps that part was a dream?

Around daybreak, my daughter began to sigh and toss herself awake. We smiled and giggled at each other. It was barely 6 a.m. I told her that I’d had a good night’s sleep.

– I did too! That’s why I always wake up so early! Because I sleep so well!

This she said without any recollection of her hours of sleepless agitation. Perhaps her wakefulness was the dream? I don’t much care. I just give up, so I don’t disturb the dream. It’s the sweetest dream, and if I can keep from pinching myself, it never ends. Never, ever ends.

Photo copyright: Glenn Millington


  1. I think that it’s ALL just a dream.

    Comment by Mama Zen — August 20, 2008 @ 4:59 pm

  2. I love sleeping with the kids, all warm tangled limbs and sweet breath. Even though they’re far away and dreaming, I feel close to them then.

    Comment by She She — August 20, 2008 @ 5:52 pm

  3. yes I always feel naughty when I go creep in with my kids, against all the routines, not helpful for teaching them to sleep themselves but there you have it, it’s so wonderful to curl up with a little body settled to yours. I take it when I can this opportunity it won’t be there forever.

    Comment by Honey — August 20, 2008 @ 6:32 pm

  4. I miss the cuddling next to my boys when they were young – the family bed is a nice thing in its time.

    Comment by Cat — August 20, 2008 @ 6:48 pm

  5. In our home, Daddy takes care of bath and bedtime (I assist in preparation). Sometimes I feel a little sad that I am not part of the settling-down, end of day sleepy time. Sometimes I wonder if she is getting enough cuddle time and love with me, because I’m not the one who puts her to bed or rises in the middle of the night if she awakes. Yet I doubt there would be much of me left during the day if I did do those things.

    I do anticipate there will be a someday like the one you describe, where I will curl up next to my sweetie in her bed on occasion. Well, I hope that this dream comes true.

    Comment by Kathryn — August 20, 2008 @ 7:12 pm

  6. It’s so true, that sleep struggle can be so frustratingly elusive. And other times, I interfere with perfection – last night I got off work at 2:30 am and wanted to just hold my baby girl, but she was sound asleep in her crib. I held on for 15 or 20 minutes, but then I succumbed – I just love her and need to be there with her, especially when I have to be away.

    Comment by Mrs. B. Roth — August 20, 2008 @ 7:49 pm

  7. Thanks for your support yesterday. Day two was worse than day one. Hysterics and all. I missed out on the trip to ND. The “little” one needs me at home. I feel sad AND everything is as it should be.

    Just to cheer you up…ALL of our children slept with us until they were ready to leave the family bed. It happened around 10 I think. Those are some of our fondest memories. Every family has to find their own unique rhythm. It makes for creative sex too!

    Comment by kathleen Botsford — August 20, 2008 @ 8:09 pm

  8. i’m going to think of this post tomorrow morning when my daughter, nestled in the crook of my arm and taking deep, nose-diving breaths into my stinky sleepy armpit, wakes at 5 am and wonders if we can take the dog for a walk yet.

    Comment by Holly — August 21, 2008 @ 12:02 am

  9. there is something lovely about snuggling next to their warm little bodies, isn’t there? even though i never sleep quite right when i end up in their beds…i know that the day will come when they won’t need me in their beds…or i won’t fit in there with them!

    Comment by Phyllis Sommer — August 21, 2008 @ 3:48 am

  10. Oh dear! You mean it can happen again? My son JUST started sleeping through the night about a month before his third birthday…and I’ve just started remembering my own name.

    I best go purchase a pack of those “Hello, my name is….” stickers.

    Comment by Wendy — August 21, 2008 @ 11:11 am

  11. I’ve had those nights… “I’m dreaming, I’m dreaming…” a delicious restful wakefulness.

    I am so glad you visited my blog so that I could find your blog. I am delighted! I look forward to reading more.


    Comment by Stacy (mama-om) — August 22, 2008 @ 5:49 am

  12. Oh yes, the challenges of sleep. I sometimes miss those nights of perching on six inches of a twin bed. My son still comes into our bed after nightmares, and we both welcome him happily. I realize now that sleep flows — as you said, in waves — and that the tide comes in and out, always.

    Comment by Judy Merrill-Smith — August 25, 2008 @ 5:13 pm

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