The last time I was in Paris a street artist rushed up to my brother and me, drawing frantically while mumbling compliments and flatteries (in reality he was probably saying “Stand still you pasty American” but I choose to believe the former).
What came from that encounter was a portrait that showed a side of myself I had never seen before. The eyes he drew were mine but held a power in them that I couldn’t appreciate at the time.
Through many moves and years of storage in the back of the closet, I finally hung it up in the hall. I pass it every day on the way to my room and smile at it because now I know the power behind the eyes.
The reason I don’t recognize myself in this picture is because my eyes are too alert, too focused, too sharp. I was smart then, you see. But as we mother’s understand, when that precious bundle of sweet-smelling, sleep-sucking joy pops out of you, so does about 40% of the brain power you once had.
At that point in my life I had no children. I could go to bed when I wanted, wake up when I wanted, take a nap when I wanted. There were no heels to my eye in the middle of the night when someone was having a bad dream. There were no deals made or bribery used at night to get little ones to lay down. There were no wake up calls in the middle of the night with sheets soaking wet (but don’t we always thank God it’s just pee). There were no tiny bodies who took up 98% of the bed, leaving you the tiniest edge of mattress to cling to.
And the more children you have, and the closer together you have them, the less sleep you get. Which in turn, drains more of that focus and brain power away. I don’t know how mothers of multiples do it! My best friend has twin boys who are incredibly precious, but when they were babies, I clearly remember being proud of her for having matching shoes on her feet. I mean like give-me-a-hug-because-you-are-rocking-at-life-today kind of proud. My Grandmother raised seven children… S-E-V-E-N… and was a knockout in pearls in every picture I’ve seen when the kids were young. How did she do it?! In pictures, I look like a raccoon-eyed slob with clothes that don’t fit and hair that won’t do what it’s told.
Now that my kids are a little older (my baby girl just turned 10!) and are sleeping through the night, I’m sorry to say that sleep has permanently abandoned me for someone else. I try to go to bed early, I want to go to bed early, but there just always seems to be one more thing to do. So by the time I lay down, I’m so tired that I don’t get good REM sleep in the (what feels like) 15 minutes before the Supremes start singing “You Can’t Hurry Love” (that actually is my alarm tone – I’m special like that). And the cycle continues until I can lay down again to…
But here is the crazy part: After the kids go to sleep and I stand at the bed looking at their little faces, I miss them. Like an idiot, I miss them. They are sleeping right in front of me and were making me nuts just an hour before, but I’ll stand there smiling like a lunatic at them. I’ve actually drifted off leaning against the door frame doing this…
Go to sleep!