To be sleep-deprived is part and parcel of being a parent. I know a few parents who have been blessed with infants who sleep nine, ten, eleven hours at night, therefore deemed “good” by their well-rested parents and the world at large. But I let my envy dissipate quickly. I have little time for woe-is-me thinking, what with two standardized exams, two awards nights, and one graduation to plan before mid-June, along with mothering my troubled little sleeper and myself. One night, like this Saturday, I might be treated to a five-hour stretch of blissful sleep for both of us. Then, I introduce a new organic baby food, and suddenly her little system readjusts, but with discomfort, and we wake every hour or so. Before, I might have been cranky, weepy, resentful. Now I accept it, this feeling of grogginess, this sense that the day won’t be great.
Today, I allow myself an additional thirty minutes of snooze. The house is even more cluttered as Papa Bear moves forward with another ceiling fan addition. Attic door ajar, ladder against the living room wall, baby’s play area now stacked and folded in her room next to the cot we slept in after a 4am bout of tears. Those thirty minutes mean I have no breakfast, no lunch, and that I make a harried call to my admin assistant. My baby sings along with R&B classics on the drive to grandma’s.
My mother, like my daughter, is in a state of adjustment. Meds for high blood pressure and osteoporosis and her stomach is not accepting the changes. “You have to take her today, ” she says. Her voice is desperate, her face pale.
At work, the office is a beehive of activity. Teachers with copy paper boxes. Students lined up and asking aloud, “where do I go?” My boss, usually cool and reserved, speaking and looking as distraught as my mother did. “You can’t go home. Bring the baby here.” Another mad rush to the car.
Across the street, four boys, two girls. A look I know too well. Punches thrown. I shout, “Stop it!” A fat man in a baseball cap pulls his gray van into the parking lot near the fighting boys. He gets between them. My heart pounds and I think of my daughter, my mother, my day.
Later, as I stand in my mother’s kitchen and gobble a toasted sandwich of cream cheese and strawberry preserves, I watch my little girl fall asleep in my mother’s arms. How can anyone say she is not a “good” baby?