On any given morning around 4 a.m. my eyes open and I know that my long lost friend sleep has abandoned me yet again. I used to lie dormant, praying to go back to sleep, tossing and turning trying to figure out how I was going to function the next day. Some time last year, I embraced these early morning wakeups as a time of peace and stillness. I don’t set my alarm clock but when I wake, I get up. I trek downstairs in the dark, make myself a big cup of hot tea and find something to work on for the next three hours. Since I now get up, I’ve put the anxiety of not sleeping to bed. It just doesn’t bother me. So I fall asleep just fine, just haven’t mastered staying sleep.
My husband is my polar opposite in the sleep department. He has trouble falling asleep. He’s a night owl and usually doesn’t shut his eyes until about 2 a.m. Unbeknown to us and unintentionally, we usually, silently pass each other in the night.
It’s one thing for the of us to walk around sleep deprived, but a few months ago sleep also left my baby girl’s bed. She has never been great at soothing herself to sleep and recently has struggled to stay sleep for more than four hours at a time. So we did what any loving parents would do. We panicked. I made a diary of everything she ate, in hopes of finding the culprit. We continued our nightly routine and incorporated toddler Tai Chi after bath before prayer. We scented her room with lavender oil. We dimmed the lights. We tried melatonin. We even tried letting her sleep with the dog although his snores quickly proved to be too much. I was really starting to stress over it. I was reading everything I could on how to help a toddler sleep. I made an appointment with her pediatrician. We even had a parent teacher conference with her teacher to report her sleep issues and check up on her school “attitude.”
But one early morning last week something happened. I got out of bed about 3:58 a.m and by 4:36 a.m. I had already cleaned the kitchen and was about to start writing and I heard a soft voice say “mommy” I replied with a quiet yes and she made her way down the steps in the dark. When she came in the kitchen I am sure she expected me say what I also say “go back to bed, your body needs to rest, lay there quietly and think happy thoughts until you fall back to sleep.”
Instead, I asked her what was wrong. “Mommy I can’t sleep. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t sleep” she said. So I gave her a hug and I told her I understand and that sometimes that happens to me too and I offered her some tea. She smiled and accepted.
As we sat on the couch cuddled up with a warm cup of chamomile, we didn’t talk much, the lights were out and we watched the sunrise through the blinds. I empathized with her struggle and thought about my own. And that’s when she said it. “Momma, this is the best time of my life. I will remember this forever. Just you and me watching the sun come up with a cup of tea.”
I couldn’t help but smile and hug her even tighter. And while my quest to help her get the rest I know she so desperately needs won’t stop I recognize that at 5 years old she cherishes moments with me, even the sleepy ones and for now….that’s enough.