It’s been happening for about a month now, this 3 a.m. visit. It starts with a creeping tip-toe, then a gentle tap on my shoulder. Sometimes there are tears, sometimes there aren’t. But it always ends the same, really, with an elbow in my ribs and a foot jammed into my husband’s back.
We’re really not sure why they started, these visits. If you ask my daughter during the daytime, when she’s wide awake and lucid, she wouldn’t be able to tell you. It’s a mystery even to her. But for whatever reason, every night for the past few weeks, she’s visited our bedroom in the wee hours of the morning, scared and needing comfort.
So, of course, we open up our arms to her. Of course she joins us. First of all because we’re not awake enough to deter her and secondly, because she’s our baby and always will be, even when she’s nine and completely able to sleep through the night in her own bed.
This doesn’t, of course, change the fact that we’re pretty exhausted by now. Sleeping with your child is fun. Until it isn’t. We all know this, right?
First, there are pointy elbows. Then come the headbutts, the kicks, and the rollovers. By the end of the night, both my husband and I are relegated to a one-foot-square corner of the bed while this tiny little human—whom we love more than life—is sprawled in the complete dead center, taking up more bed real estate than seems possible for her tiny frame. There isn’t much sleep to be had in our bed for anyone over 10. This is for sure.
And I find myself saying often these days, usually as I’m staring into my tenth cup of coffee, “I can’t wait for her to get through this stage so I can sleep again. I’m so tired.” And I wish this stage away, begging for relief and an empty bed and a fully uninterrupted night of sleep.
I forget then, maybe because I’m so tired, just how soon I will long for this closeness with my daughter. How soon she’ll be too old and too cool to even want to be in the same room as me, much less the same bed. I forget, like I often do with life and parenting, that “This Too Shall Pass.”
I didn’t know this yet when my oldest was a colicky newborn who cried for what felt like one solid year with only tiny intermittent bursts of sleep. I thought I would never rest again. I had no frame of reference, no understanding yet of this universal parenting truth until one day my Momma said to me, “Meg, you will sleep again. You know this, right?”
I didn’t know this. Not yet.
I hadn’t yet learned that this too shall pass.
I forgot again when my middle son was nine months old and refused to let me out of his sight, even for a second. I couldn’t leave the room or, heaven forbid, put him down or let someone else hold him without big tears and loud wails. He was stuck to me like glue. I was exhausted.
I forgot this truth as I begged for just a second alone, wishing he would let me rest, let someone else hold him. I was worn out and needing a break.
And I forgot that this too would pass.
This is the universal truth of both life and motherhood: this too shall pass. It stands for the good things you want to stay forever—the smell of a baby’s head—and the bad—a sassy tween’s eye rolls and disrespect. They won’t be a newborn or a toddler or a teenager forever. Your children will grow; their stages will change. And this too shall pass.
This is the drumbeat of motherhood.
This doesn’t mean you have to savor every moment or feel guilty when it’s hard and you just want a break or a full night’s sleep. This isn’t one of those well-meaning yet simultaneously infuriating calls to “savor every second” because “they’re only young once.”
Because it is hard. You are tired. And there are periods of parenting that are just plain difficult and unrewarding. You shouldn’t feel guilty if you’re a nearly insane and exhausted newborn mother and some well-meaning older lady gives you this lecture. You should want to punch her.
(Just kidding on the punch part.)
But it’s okay to love your baby and not savor the exhaustion. And it’s understandable to wish for a night without headbutts while your now-older child sleeps in your bed.
It’s not either/or. It’s but/and. And that’s OK.
So, dear mom who is tired or worn out or everything in between: you don’t have to savor it or memorialize it or even glamorize it. You can absolutely say, “This is hard and I am tired.”
But, dear mother, you can also rest in this truth: this too shall pass. I promise you this. It will.
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