My daughter is a dream baby the vast majority of the time.
She has been sleeping through the night since she was 2 months old, has the sweetest
disposition, and rarely ever cries for long. I actually feel bad ever
complaining, because typically she is so easy to be around. Recently however,
we have entered the teething zone. A place where there have been a handful
of particularly fussy nights (occasionally a succession of fussy nights), which
have left me considering the possibility that I may never sleep again.
Those are the nights when we inevitably cycle through the five stages of parenting exhaustion.
This is the stage in which I attempt to embark upon enlightened
conversation with my 5-month-old, as though she might be capable of listening
to reason. It is during this stage when I might say things like:
“Honey, mommy has to work tomorrow. And you have to play. We
both need our sleep. So why don’t you just stop crying now, and go to bed? Mommy’s so tired.”
Bargaining is the first stage where my exhaustion really
becomes evident. This is the stage when those conversations with my daughter
might include sentiments such as:
“Sweet girl, how about I get you another bottle and you fall
asleep eating it? Or we could sing your favorite song? Read just one more book?
I will buy you a new car if you fall asleep right now. Whatever you want, just
go back to sleep. Please, mommy’s so
Maybe a little whiskey on your gums wouldn’t be the end of the world.
I’m not always proud of the words that come out of my mouth
during the threatening stage:
“If you don’t stop crying right now, mommy is going to put
earplugs in and ignore you. Or I’ll bring you over to the neighbors. I know you
barely know them. Heck, I barely know them. But they totally offered to take
you if I ever needed any help. I have no problem calling that favor in at 2 a.m. Don’t test me kid, pull it together. There’s no crying in baseball, and mommy’s so tired.”
The stage when I inevitably begin crying right along with
“When was the last time you had Tylenol? Is it too soon for
another dose? How about teething tablets? Motrin? Maybe great-grandma was
right. Maybe a little whiskey on your gums wouldn’t be the end of the world. So
what if I’m totally opposed to the idea in the light of day. People did it for
centuries, right? It can’t be that big of a deal, could it? Don’t look at mommy like that. I get it. I
know booze isn’t the answer. Not for you, and not for me. But mommy’s so tired!”
Eventually, I always reach a point of acceptance, the stage
when I realize we are just going to be up all night—taking turns with our
“Fine then. I guess neither of us will be getting any sleep.
And tomorrow you will be cranky and unmanageable, and I will be a hollowed out
shell of a person incapable of interacting with others or hiding the
bruise-like appearance under my eyes. Awesome. Sounds like a heck of a day. Screw it, mommy’s making coffee.”
mommy, personally, has never actually left her baby on the neighbor's doorstep
at 2 a.m., resorted to ear plugs to drown out the tears, double-dosed
her kid on pain medications, or rubbed any amount of alcohol on her daughter's
gums. Doesn’t mean she hasn’t thought about it, though…