“Daddy, the sun’s outside!!!” she hollered in excitement from the top of the stairs. “It’s morning!” Little feet began to scamper down the steps.
In fact, it was 7:40 p.m., and yes, outside was still light, but the sun was not shining. Hannah Grace was doing her best to avoid bedtime. Her brother and sister were already tucked away for the night, sleeping peacefully, but this little girl had no interest in sleep.
“I’m not tired!” she insisted, as I walked her back up the stairs her hand in mine. She probably wasn’t tired. She had snuck away with her sister’s pacifier into her own room at 11 a.m. that morning and proceeded to take a three hour nap. I thought about waking her up, but I knew she was exhausted, having still not recovered from her overnight visit a few days ago to her grandparents followed by dinner at her other grandparents the next night. She reminded me that night of why I no longer allow her to take naps.
I joined Matt again at the table, and we tried once more to enjoy our bowls of baked ziti. I pushed around my pasta and noticed my own tiredness creeping in. Perhaps I would go to bed early that night.
We talked a little bit about our days and what we wanted to accomplish with our evening. I was beginning to enjoy the quiet when we were interrupted once more.
“I see the MOON!!! It’s time to wake up!”
Clearly, if seeing the sun wouldn’t get her out of going to bed, then seeing the moon had to be the answer. Matt pushed back his chair as I let out a sigh. And so the bedtime game would continue.
I cleared the table while Matt stayed in Hannah Grace’s room, using his body to barricade the door. As I rinsed our bowls spotted with red sauce, I checked the time. 8:40 p.m. I pulled out the bottom tray in the dishwasher while doing a mental inventory of all the tasks I needed to complete before 24 and those I could accomplish while watching the show.
The truth is, I had no interest in the show anymore, but 24 had become somewhat of a tradition in our marriage. After our first Christmas as a married couple, watching the season one box set while spooning on the couch, we had continued to watch every season together. I wasn’t going to abandon the ritual with three hours left in the series.
The dishes rattled as I pushed in the tray and quickly moved to the laundry room. I just needed to throw the clothes in the dryer, take a quick shower, and then we could sit together and watch our show. I could upload pictures while 24 was on and write my blog. My mind was blank, but I knew I wanted to write; I hoped inspiration would hit once I started typing.
I finished the chores and swiftly went up the stairs, allowing a huge yawn to escape my mouth. I met Matt in the hallway.
“I don’t think she’s asleep,” he said, “but she’s quiet.”
“Okay, I’m just going to take a quick shower before 24.”
I started to walk away when,”Daddy, don’t leave. I’m not asleep, yet,” came from the two-year-old’s room. I kept walking, not wanting to get sucked into the bedtime drama before getting my shower. Thank goodness for DVRs–it was already 9:00.
Hannah Grace eventually went to sleep, and Matt and I eventually made it to the couch to watch TV. I, half-heartedly, listened to 24 while uploading pictures to Flickr so that I could order them from Snapfish. I really only wanted our most recent family picture from Easter to send to our sponsored child, but my gift card would cover a lot more prints.
“Okay,” I thought. “I’ll just order a few more prints and then call it a night after 24. I’m too tired to write.”
I didn’t want to leave a job half-finished, and I did need to print our daughter’s first birthday pictures–no, not Chloe’s. Hannah Grace’s–the daughter who turned one almost two years ago.
24 was over, and I only had $10 worth of prints uploaded. My gift card was for $20. I proceeded to spend another hour selecting each picture that would find a spot in my half-empty photo album, empty slots that begged to be filled with images of laughter and babies, birthdays and loved ones. I sipped the chai tea Matt had made for me, knowing it was decaf but wishing it would help pry my eyelids open.
Why did I insist on continuing? Couldn’t I go to bed and finish tomorrow?
“No!” I scolded myself. “That’s exactly why I don’t have any pictures of the kids in albums–it always gets pushed off until tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll still have chores, and I want to write. I can’t keep letting days go by without writing. And I can’t get any of this junk done during the day because the kids don’t nap. I don’t get free time. This is my free time. Midnight.”
I felt my blood pressure rising as I argued with myself, the good angel telling me to walk up the stairs to bed, the little demon pressing me to continue. After all, Matt had been trying to get the wireless printer to work for the last two hours, too. Neither one of us was ready to call it a night.
I finally made my last selection, confident that I was close enough to that $20 mark. Tax and shipping should get me there. I scratched off the back of the gift card, little silver flecks falling in my lap, revealing the coupon code. I carefully entered the numbers in the box and hit enter.
Snapfish did not recognize this coupon code.
Okay. I tried again, pushing each number key with my index finger, double-checking my entry as I went along.
Same error message.
I flipped my gift card over. Shutterfly. The gift card was for Shutterfly, not Snapfish.
At that moment, the fatigue knocked me down like a wave crashing to meet the shore. I had spent two hours, arguing with myself the whole time, in an attempt to accomplish this task. Just something. I wanted to accomplish one thing that wasn’t related to housework or kids, yet I had nothing to show for my effort.
I angrily packed up my laptop and woke up Matt. He had snoozed next to me on the couch, giving up on his own venture a few minutes before.
As I wearily walked up the stairs, I thought to myself, “Why do I do this? Why do I fight sleep? I’m no different than Hannah Grace….”
I, just like my daughter, had searched for every excuse to stay up when my body was begging sleep:
“The sun’s shining!” ” There are dirty dishes!”
“The moon’s out!” ” I must print some pictures!”
“I’m not tired!” “I’m so tired…but”
I fight sleep in a quest to feel productive, in a quest to elevate my worth. The more things I can check off my to-do list, the more examples I can cite for my excellence as a mother, as a wife.
I fight sleep so that the next day I can fight with my children and my husband, my body full of fatigue, my mind empty of patience. I fight sleep so that I can fight with God about the way I should act, about how hard my life is, about why I can’t concentrate when I pray…yawn…
I fight sleep…when really…I should just go to bed.