The hardest thing about being a parent has to be the sleep deprivation, the fear of sleep deprivation and the before and after affects of sleep deprivation. I have spent the last three and a half years in a perpetual state of anxiety regarding how and when I will catch up on my sleep and how best to sleep when catching up on this sleep. I know I am not alone in the tired department and I also know there is an army of crazy-ass moms out there who not only function well on a few anorexic hours of shut-eye, they get off on it, much like a line-backer enjoys a good bone- crushing tackle even if he is on the receiving end and it happens to be his bones that crinkle up like a potato chip in a front pants pocket.
I recently ran into a mom and dad I barely know through a friend of a friend of a pal. They are a super sweet couple with three great kids and a huge dog and a house the size and feel of the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port. According to the husband, the wife suffers from an unquenchable desire to have yet another child with or without his say so, a condition I gather may run on both sides of their families. Without hesitation he shared with me his long ago intention of only wanting one child and that dream having quickly morphed into a Brady Bunch episode of muddled misunderstandings and too much laundry detergent. I have a knack for not only attracting the run-on sentences of Olympic over-sharers but for being truly, madly and deeply enthralled in the contents of the soliloquies in question.
Yes, it was weird and sure, a bit inappropriate on both our parts, him for talking to a virtual stranger about his marriage and his runaway sperm donations and me, for listening with an ear the size of a half-deflated pool floatie. But, I had to know how they did it, how they kept it all together and how the heavy metal balls stayed up in the thick, smoked-filled air of their rock ‘n’ roll arena.
As the mom took off after the tiny toddler and the kids, including my own, chased the dog and raced around like a wild and out of control hockey team on melting ice, I asked the husband point blank. “How do you do it and how will you do it with four?”
Without a pause or a hiccup or even a facial tremor, he simply said, “My wife hasn’t slept in six years. What’s another three?”
Every organ in my body convulsed simultaneously, with my uterus leading the charge, grabbing my ovaries by their mock turtleneck collars and heading to the nearest exit with the speed and precision of Jeff Gordon on the final lap of the Daytona 500. I, of course, was right behind them with bags packed, train tickets in hand and a pitch fork for protection if anyone got any ideas, including the super procreator to my left, a dude I was even afraid to pat on the shoulder for fear that I may become impregnated through an exposed hangnail or a blinking eye.
For a week now I have not been able to stop thinking about having a lifestyle in which sleep was lower on the list than forming complete sentences and eating one square meal a week. And for that reason and that reason alone I realized that Dave and I had truly made it through the rough sleep patches and could now live a little. I needed to start opening up my mind to the possibility that a life existed outside of my early to bed, early to rise nursery rhyme that I had on a loop in my paranoid head.
So, what did I do? Last Friday night, after running into an old friend I haven’t seen in a decade, I went out with her and her platinum-sprinkled party posse on Friday night and had a blast with a bunch of smart, cool chicks I had just met who were not afraid of alarm clocks or creeping morning sunlight. I even took a cab to and fro and stayed up later than I had in four years. Then, the following night, Dave and I went out for game night with a group of parents from school, a group I can luckily and honestly call my friends and laughed as hard as I have since the 1980 opening of Airplane! and a glorious introduction into off-colored humor, tasteless fart jokes and seamless, sexual innuendo.
Sure, Sunday came and it was my turn to get up with Otto and I felt like I had swallowed an anvil through my left nostril and beaten my head against a cement pillow for simply sacrificing a few hours of precious sleep. But if it were not for those few hours I spent awake instead of drooling on my pillow I would not have experienced some of the greatest conversations I have had in eons and some of the hardest guffaws I have guffawed in months. Sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and keep your eyes wide open. That, and birth control!