I sit on the couch, my head bobbing as I desperately try to keep my eyes open.
Every fiber of my being cries out for sleep . . . dear Lord above please let me sleep.
Keeping me from drifting off is my firstborn. She’s as tall as I am now, sitting next to me, laptop open.
“Mom!” she shouts a little and my eyes bolt open as I try to shake off the sleep that I dream of letting overtake me. “I just need you to read through this and give me some feedback. It’s due tomorrow for AP Lit. And I need $20 for the choir field trip . . . oh and fill out this form.”
It’s 10 p.m. and this kid is just getting started.
Why does no one warn you that when you become a parent you might just never sleep again?
When my bigs were babies, the robbed me of sleep right out of the gate. Up at night for feedings, then early to rise no matter what day of the week. We’d try to nap when they napped and relished early bedtimes because there was a small slice of quiet in the house from 7:30 to 10:00.
Then came the teen years.
Their body clocks reset and mine never stood a chance.
Not only were they staying up later, but there was also so much they still needed from me.
I wrongly thought they would stay up later and I would just saunter off to bed and finally reclaim some of that sleep their small selves had stolen.
But nope. All the nopes.
These tall people have rhythms all their own and just as the newborns brought us into their cadence of waking every few hours our teens ask us to walk alongside this season with them as well. Still as tired as ever.
And it’s not just staying up late to help them do homework. There is so much more they need from us as long as their days are still going strong.
Advice about friends and boyfriends. Chatting about the business of the day, which of course they didn’t want to discuss when asked all the questions at dinner. And meals at weird times . . . so many meals. And of course, the wrestling through the last years under our roofs asking the big questions about where they will go next.
The business of parenting teens revolves around things so big that even when my kids are sleeping I often find myself staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night just as I did when they were babies and I was wondering if they were crying because they were in pain or because they didn’t like the dark or if they were just plain scared. I remember wondering if one kid would ever say her Rs correctly and if another would ever learn to walk. Then worrying about school work and friends. And now driving and college plans.
I’ve spent so many nights staring at my ceiling and the things I am worried about just seem to get bigger as they do. And the same way, my mind would try to make a plan to help them (and me) sleep for longer stretches, my mind still wrestles with how to best help them take their next steps into life (and how to get them to bed earlier, for the love).
It’s a whole thing.
Next to me my girl is wrapping it up for the night at midnight. I have dozed off beside her and she gently shakes me awake.
“Thanks, Mom,” she says. “I appreciate you helping me tonight.” She leans in for a hug before heading off to her room.
And just like that, I remember that this nighttime mothering has always been worth it. How when they were babies I would sometimes cuddle them long after they had finished eating, looking at their sweet sleeping faces and taking in the miracle of their little hands before tucking them in. In the quiet of the house, they were mine in a way they weren’t during the day.
And now, as I hug her close, I touch her hair and give her a long squeeze knowing all too soon she will be saying goodnight by text from a college campus. But tonight she is still mine to mother and love. She is still a miracle. And what a gift it all is.
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