Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sloth Mom

image by Stefan Laube (Tauchgurke) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I'm not a morning person, and I need more sleep than most people my age. My circadian rhythm is offbeat. After a quick google search, I have diagnosed myself with Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, which is a much nicer term than the one I grew up with: lazy bum.

I don't see it as a disorder, just a difference. However, over the years my teachers and bosses and friends who appreciate punctuality would disagree.

If I have no commitments, my body naturally prefers to sleep from about 2 a.m. til noon. I didn't fully consider this when I decided to have a child. The first few years weren't that big of a deal. I was blessed with a "good sleeper". Kate began sleeping through the night at four-months old, and she routinely slept around thirteen hours. So even if she fell asleep earlier than I did, say at 8 p.m., she wouldn't wake up until around 9 a.m., which is way better than the nightmarish stories I'd hear from friends with kids her age. Some of those little monsters would want to go to bed by 7 p.m. and arise by five or six in the morning. I can't even.

I was also blessed with a husband whose circadian rhythm is the yang to my yin, so on days when I simply could not haul my ass out of bed even by nine in the morning, he was there to help our daughter with her needs. And for those days when he had to be at work earlier than I could get out of bed, Will taught Kate how to push the button on the remote to activate our electronic babysitter. I'd wake up refreshed late in the morning and find our sweet girl sitting on the living room floor with her books and toys scattered around her and "It's a Big Big World" on the TV.

Some days I'd look at the screen and sigh. I wish I were a sloth like Snook, the protagonist on the PBS Kids show. Life would be so much easier if I'd been born a sloth instead of a human. Everyone accepts that sloths are slothful. It's just the way they are. Not as many people understand human slothfulness.

Luckily, Will understands, or even if he doesn't understand, he accepts. He's a workaholic, full of energy and drive, but he doesn't bug me to be more like him. Like a person gifted with a high IQ doesn't expect someone with a low IQ to understand complex thoughts, Will understands my need to sleep.

Will himself needs just five or six hours of sleep each night. He's one of those "early birds" who hops out of bed and flits around like it's going to be a great day or something. Once, when were were first dating, I went on a camping trip with Will and his parents. I was appalled at the entire family's morning chipperness. I'd stumble out of my tent with the sun high up in the sky, only to be greeted with such obnoxiously friendly comments as, "Good morning! Or should I say good afternoon!" and "Did you sleep well?" and "Would you like some eggs with your coffee?" The nerve. Who are these people? What kind of weirdo wakes up happy to start a new day? Oh, seemingly everybody but me? Well shit.

Kate began foraging for her own food in the mornings at a young age. Occasionally she'd get a hankering for something she couldn't make on her own. Don't all three-year-olds request broccoli for breakfast? But usually she'd find something within reach on the counter to eat. I remember feeling so proud of her the day I awoke and discovered that Kate had figured out a way to get a banana out of its peel, despite not having the strength to twist the top off, by slicing the side of it with her fingernail.

Our morning routine worked fine until Kate started school. I was hoping she'd get assigned to afternoon kindergarten, not realizing that must have been a Seventies thing. Like playing hide and go seek with your friends until the street lights came on, and standing up in the back seat of your mom's Vega as she drives, arms outstretched, pretending to fly until--whack!--Mom has to brake for a stop sign and you go flying into the seat in front of you. Nowadays most kids go to all-day kindergarten, and even the ones who go a half-day only have the option of going in the morning. I was screwed.

Kate's in third grade now, which means I've been chronically sleep deprived for four years. I guess it's karmic payback for sleeping so soundly during Kate's newborn years when my friends' kids were turning their hair grey. Maybe I'll catch up on some sleep when Kate's a teenager.Yeah, I know. I doubt it, too.

8:10 a.m. That's what time Kate has to be at school. Which doesn't bother her at all. In fact, just this morning on the way to school she said to me, "I like mornings!" I tisk-tisked under my breath and told myself she can't be just like me. She's half-Will, too.

Plus, I couldn't exactly scold her for being so chipper in the morning after she let me sleep til 8:00. "Mom, it's time to get up," she said brightly while gently tapping my shoulder. When Kate was little I'd often awake with her lying next to me, face-to-face, staring into my eyes, saying, "Mama, ti' ta git uh now." It was mostly sweet and a tad creepy.

"Oh, Honey, I'm sorry I slept so late," I said, looking at the clock. "Why didn't you wake me earlier? Do you need me to make you breakfast?" I swung my legs over the side of the bed and used my feet to find my slippers, trying to rub my eyes awake.

"Nope. I made it myself," Kate said, cheery and bright.

"Good," I said. I coughed up some nighttime phlegm and rose from bed. "I'll pack your lunch in a minute. I gotta pee," I said, walking toward the bathroom.

"You don't need to pack my lunch," Kate said, following behind me.

"Oh, are you gonna eat the school lunch?" I asked.


"Well, Honey, you can't go without lunch. You'll be too hungry--"

"I packed my own lunch," Katie explained.

For a moment it was as if time stood still, we were in no rush to get to school on time, no alarm clocks beeping in our ears. Just my daughter and me, standing there in the hallway.

"Look at you! Big kid," I said, poking Kate in her soft belly.

Her smile was proud, confident, strong. She needs me to take care of her less and less each day. Which makes me feel both happy and sad. It seems only yesterday I still had to tie her shoes and remind her to brush her hair. Now I'm standing here looking at this bright girl, hair neatly pulled back in her butterfly hair clip, dressed in clean clothes, sneakers tied, ready to greet the new dawn.

We made it to school on time. No tardy slips today.

"Have a great day, Punky," I called out as Kate headed toward the front doors.

"You have a great day, too, Mom," she briefly turned and waved, then stepped inside her school.

On the way home I had a sudden burst of energy, as if I took Katie's words as an order. HAVE. A. GREAT. DAY! I began planning all the things I'd get done today. Dishes, laundry, dusting, sweeping, mopping, bathing the dogs, cooking dinner, writing, reading, walking. So many things to do. Oh, and I need to go to the grocery store, and email the basketball team I coach, and call my mom, and pay our credit card, and oh, what's that last thing I'm forgetting?

By the time I got home, I was so exhausted just thinking of my "to do" list I immediately headed to bed and enjoyed a nice, long nap.