wide awake at 3 AM

25 Feb wide awake at 3 AM

Saturday night (or should I say, Sunday morning) at 3:00 AM, Bronwynn woke up and cleaned her room. 
I heard her down the hall banging around. I figured she’d gotten up to go to the bathroom or have a sip of water. She’s five now, and she sometimes wakes up and takes care of her own needs, and then goes back to sleep without any intervention from me or Kris.
But this sounded like more than a potty break. Strange noises were coming from behind her bedroom door. Eventually, she came out and told me “Mommy, I cleaned my room so that I can have a playdate.”
I glanced around her room. It was spotless. She hadn’t just tossed everything in her closet or crammed junk under the bed. She carefully re-shelved all her books. She placed all her stuffed animals in the toy basket. Dress up clothes in her dress up box. Her dollhouse was staged like it was for sale.
She made the bed that she was supposed to be sleeping in. 
My sweet girl looked at me expectantly, longing for approval. I stammered. “Honey, you did an amazing job tidying up your room, but it’s the middle of the night. Couldn’t you wait and clean it in the morning?”
“No mommy. Daddy said if I wanted more playdates with friends, I have to tidy up my stuff. And I couldn’t sleep because I wanted to do it RIGHT NOW.”
I peeled back her perfectly straightened quilt and tucked her in, then stroked her hair until her mind settled back down and she fell asleep. 
I always assumed B was more like Kris. Free spirited. Unapologetic of her messiness. She’s the kid Kris takes backpacking, because she loves dirt and adventure and having no agenda except fun. She, like Kris, has an uncanny ability to live in the present.

Two weeks ago, that’s exactly what they did. (Photos of their trip to the Superstitions Wilderness, by Kris)

But standing in her moonlit bedroom, I realized this kid is like me too, and that scares me. 
I am a hopeless insomniac, unable to let go of to-do lists or worries at night. I’ve learned to keep a journal on my nightstand, so that when I wake up I can write until my mind is clear and ready to drift back to sleep. Some of my best writing and problem-solving happens this way, at 3 or 4 AM.
I’m careful about what I read or what I watch right before bedtime, because I take the stories and images to sleep with me. Same is true for B. We have a no-TV-before-bedtime rule. We try to discuss happy things as we tuck her in at night, because otherwise her imagination takes over, holds her hostage until morning. 
Now, it seems, we need to be careful about what parenting instructions we give her at bedtime. She is so incredibly social, a playdate is the ultimate carrot. And Kris, tucking her in the night before, had inadvertently dangled it in front of her.
At the same time, it makes me smile, because what if our kids get to inherit the best of both of us? Kris’ adventure and free spirit is a wonderful balance to my constant planning and organizing. Whenever I’m too mired in the past or future, he reels me back to the present. And whenever he’s too free-spirited or impulsive, I can keep his feet a little closer to the ground. If disaster strikes, I’m the one with the contingency plan.
I remind myself B is only five. Miles is three. There’s beauty in the mystery of it…these kids who are still becoming who they are, who they will be. 
Sunday afternoon found us all napping, the house quiet and peaceful, no agenda — the ultimate embrace of now.

  • Rita Arens
    Posted at 16:15h, 26 February Reply

    I used to wake up and clean my room in the middle of the night, my mother tells me, and I sleep like a rockstar now. I remember the first time I caught my daughter (now 8) reading books to her carefully arranged stuff animals at 4 a.m. Thank goodness, she stopped. Kids!

  • Gina
    Posted at 16:42h, 26 February Reply

    That’s good to hear, Rita!

  • Deirdre
    Posted at 21:04h, 05 March Reply

    I so had this exact thought last night when I was battling with my 7 year old. He has my sensitivity, feeling hurt by a slight tone or misplaced word. The awful part about that is that it’s also a trait of my mother’s, which I’ve come to resent over the years. I have to do my best to separate his anxiety and sensitivity from both mine and hers, which ain’t so easy!

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