I’ve been struggling lately…again?…always? Anyway, over the past three weeks my toddler stopped sleeping again. I’ve been fighting this respiratory nonsense forever but seriously over the last two months and I felt I was just getting ahead of it when she decided to stop sleeping. It has knocked me off of my feet. I felt that I had this really good ritual-like cycle going, I was looking forward to 4:15 every morning. I even got up most weekend mornings. This has knocked me back several steps on my road though.
I admit I was all of the things you’d expect. Exhausted not the least of them. I was frustrated at not being able to help her sleep, at seeing her become angrier and crankier every day because the girl just needed rest. I was crabby and short with my other children, I apologized endlessly for not having patience, not doing the “fun” school stuff. Truthfully I ached for the time I’d suddenly lost more so even than the hours I was spending awake each night, well equally as much. It took losing the time to see how much it meant to me.
More than all of that though, I was angry that God had encouraged me so strongly to take this time for myself, to create this space in my day only to then yank it away from me when I was actually enjoying it. I tried to fall back into old rhythms of praying for those I l knew needed it, praying these deep circles around people expanding outward from the one to the edges of our friendship circles (there are a couple of books about this though I haven’t read any of them.) As the seemingly endless waking continued I couldn’t even do that, I would fall into bed each time I settled her, begging for sleep, for rest, for peace in her little body so that she could sleep! So that I could sleep.
I began to let myself sleep later, losing my writing time, my reading time, losing any sense of quiet in my day or night. I began to dread the calls from her in the night, sometimes just needing to be retucked, sometimes having terrors and needing me to wake her daddy to calm her even for another short hour of fitful sleep. The dread built up and caused a deep anger in me. While I had a few ideas about why the child wasn’t sleeping, I was more frustrated because I was unable to comfort her well enough to actually help her. She does not often want to be rocked or snuggled, she did not want me to lay in her bed with her or rub her back or pet her hair. None of the things I trust as “go to” comforts were allowed by my restless teeny. She wanted me there, but not to do anything more than ensure she was covered up.
I had intended on going somewhere with this post, but my eyes were just opened to something in actually typing out that last sentence. I’ve been trying to fix a problem, she just wanted the relationship. Is she waking every half of an hour simply because she wants to be with me, not necessarily doing anything, but to have the time with me to herself? Or could it be that in new or scary or changing situations-growth times-that she just needs me to sit with her? Not do anything, not fix anything, not change her little self, but just be with her? Why am I so oblivious to these things?
I read something when my brother passed away about the Jewish custom of sitting Shiva. Now, I am not claiming to more than vaguely understand this act, but it has stuck with me all these years. Going to simply sit with a mourner, perhaps bring a meal, write a condolence in a book. You don’t try to fix their ache or repair their broken heart. You are there with them in their sadness, joining with them and acknowledging their feelings. I’m feeling like that may be what is needed of me from my small girl. She wants me to be with her in this time of restlessness, not to fix it -not to fix her- she does not need repair she needs relationship. Trusting that I will come every time she calls, trusting that I will rearrange blankets, fill water bottles, and click nightlights on as requested. She’s asking me if I’m going to continue to come for all of the small things, because in trusting the small she will grow in trust for the large.
This realization only reinforces my belief that all of my learning is cumulative. There is no end to this lesson called life. If something I learned of while in a place of deep, broken sadness could be applied to my exhaustion in motherhood then clearly all of life works together to grow us into the people we are. It would be easier if all of the knowledge would come at once, but I suppose I am not always ready to receive the full lesson. This makes me wonder what other hard things are waiting for me to accept, to figure out, to sit through the long night with.
I don’t know what else there is to say this morning. The words still fail due to lack of sleep, lack of peace, though I have been stealing it from my readjusted margins. Maybe that’s okay? Perhaps I just need to sit with this lesson for awhile, see what it wants of me. Or if I just need to be here with it, let it do it’s good. The hard and holy work of building me is not always work done on my part but more so the allowing of work to be done in me. This one might be just for me and my tiny girl…
For now the teeny and I will stay awake in the night. While that doesn’t fill me with joy I suppose I can embrace the learning that rests there in the wee hours of the night. It’s funny how God works, I can still laugh with Sarah at His ways sometimes. When He opens my eyes to these little things I am reminded how small my problems are, how easily solved if I stop trying to fix them. I sit here with this final thought that I cannot shake; “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
Peace, it’s here. I don’t need to seek it out, rather just let it envelop me.