By John Jericiau
My husband left me and the boys for a five-day medical conference across the country. He’s staying in a five star hotel with room service and all those other fabulous amenities. He’ll be giving a presentation to the largest crowd of physicians that he’s ever stood in front of. And he’s receiving a national physician award in honor of his work with end-of-life care. Sounds so exciting, doesn’t it? I think so.
I’ll be holding down the fort with the three boys, making sure they make it to school and their other assorted activities each and every day. I’ll clean the clothes, make the beds, wash the dishes, feed the hungry, wipe the pooped, rock the tired, and punish the bad. The husband’s left on a rocky note. Not only did we have a minor disagreement before his departure, we are in Day 4 of a painful left ear infection that’s attached to the head of our oldest son. He is barely participating in his activities. (He won’t swim, he takes breaks during basketball, and even his violin hurts his ear – okay at this early juncture his violin hurts MY ears.)
Our middle son is feeling scared or mad or sad at bedtime these days, so he can go downhill at any time without notice. And our four-month-old, although the love of our lives and overall a really really easy baby, has started to sleep more at night but not with any predictable certainty, making sleep for me a disruptive uncertain mess.
On top of everything else this week, we have just put a rental property of ours on the market, our housekeeper comes this week, income tax returns are nearly due, and a handyman is spending time (and money) around the house trying to begin to return our old beach house to its former luster. We’ve started to carpool with neighbors to kindergarten, so the morning crunch just got crunchier on the days that I have to get Devin to their house by exactly 8:05am. It is awesome, however, not to have to make the 11-minute schlep up to school.
Needless to say I’m completely spent by the time I duct tape the boys to bed each night. Actually we’re really fortunate, because they go down quite easily. The problem is that they get back up if we forget to leave fresh bedside water (with ice), or if we didn’t get the lighting just right, or they have to pee, or they need to say I love you just one more time. Other than that they are like adults. Our infant, on the other hand, goes down around 7:30pm and it’s a complete crapshoot as to when he will rise again, but it’s pretty much guaranteed to happen when I’m in my deepest REM sleep.
So this week I found myself holding my head between my legs, rocking back and forth and moaning uncontrollably as all hell broke loose around me. It was 3 am right smack in the middle of the week when battle fatigue was already setting in from the 24/7 schedule. I was shaken from my sleep by the cry of Devin and his ear, as he came down the stairs complaining of the severe pain. I quickly offered him a spot beside me where I could get him comfy-cozy, and miraculously the pain subsided as a smile took over his face. “I got this”, I thought.
Less than two minutes later, Dylan slithers down the stairs, mumbling something about the spiders and the darkness and the bed is too small and “hey it’s not fair that Devin can sleep with you and I can’t!” Tipping the scales at 68 pounds (at age 5), it’s no easy feat to figure out how to configure Dylan in the current sleeping arrangement, but he finds a spot and after a quick whisper of “I love you so much Daddy” he is off to dreamland while I wonder where that Sleep Number bed is when you really need one.
Inevitably the little guy decides that right then was as good a time as any to cry for milk and some delicious attention. It took me nearly a minute to carefully extricate myself out from between two snoring 5 year olds, peeling away the limp limbs as I tried. And since Dustin did not instantly stop crying despite the nipple (of the bottle, not mine) being plunged down his throat, the boys gained consciousness and everyone was awake now. Orders rushed in for chocolate milk and fresh water and more blankets and a massage, but I reminded the crowd that those amenities were not available for another three hours or so. I feel my body shutting down quickly as I try to get everyone as comfortable as possible. I even suggest that all those who are under 10 years old return to their base positions (if they ever want to see their favorite toy again) but the boys stay put. I glance at the clock and watch my dream of exercising for an hour before everyone wakes up evaporate before my eyes. But then a few minutes later I look at my angelic sons sleeping soundly around me, and I realize that I truly am living the dream – and it’s an awesome one.