2011/06/28

Go the Fuck to Sleep

DaGoddess @ 06:00

“Go the fuck to sleep.” I remember thinking those words sometimes, when the hour was getting late and whichever child it was decided the night was going to be a long one had pushed me just a bit too far.

Mostly, though, my kids and I had a fairly decent bedtime routine. We’d read a book or two, or a couple chapters from a story. Stories didn’t put my kids to sleep. They excited their imaginations and we’d end up talking about “what if…” scenarios for a while if time allowed. But then, out came the big guns! The real sleep maker was music. To be more specific, it was (maybe) the CD player going softly in the background and me singing. The only time my voice has ever sounded anything close to enjoyable was when I sang to my children.

Mojo had an extensive setlist. It grew weekly. At least until she was about 6, and then song time was over. She just wanted to look at books until she passed out. But LD, once you had him tucked in with his Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises book, he was ready for the songs.

There was overlap, thank goodness, in that both kids liked John Denver. I was pretty well versed in his catalogue, so it was no hardship for me. The tough thing was really working in their individual favorites so they both felt that individual musical hug.

There were nights, though, when nothing seemed to work. Where the bogeyman was, apparently, hiding everywhere, with HELPERS! Or the rain was too loud, the dog’s collar was clinking too much, the washing machine or dryer was swishing or rotating too loudly, or maybe because they just wanted a few more minutes with me. At the time, those moments were the ones I looked forward to because, oh my God! I’d spent all day long chasing, cleaning, feeding, and wiping off hands and faces. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy doing those things, but there was a distinct lack of time for myself or to interact with another adult. My one friend, Michelle, worked most days, but she’d still try to call when she got the chance. She was bored at work, but she knew all too well what I was experiencing at home with young ones. Other friends, within the neighborhood, had their own things going on. The only kids that really were approximately the same age as Mojo were also in school. so the moms used that time to go shopping, take a class, take a nap, or bake their afternoons away. I did what I could to get through the day and to get to the point where we’d wind down and I’d get the kids in bed so I could take a breath that was meant solely for me. Again, it’s not that it was a horrible way to spend one’s day, but I longed for a few minutes to step away from the chaos and get a little peace and quiet and not be only “Mommy”. I kept tell myself I’d once been somebody, doing important things, helping people, but then I’d have to give myself a little mental bitch slap and remind myself that I was still doing important things and helping people: that’s what parenthood is! It’s just when you’re in the midst of it, it feels very different.

Bedtime could easily become “go the fuck to sleep” time. Especially after a long, noisy, chaotic day. Just as the kids were able to get all nice and clean for bed, shucking the dirty clothes and playing in the tub, I, too, wanted to strip off the mommy layer and wrap myself in a robe of “self”, of individuality, of being just a woman without all the extra jobs on my daily list. That’s not how it went more often than not. And thus, this book speaks directly to me, to those nights when bedtime dragged on for hours, while I sat cross-legged and antsy because I hadn’t been able to go to the bathroom for hours and it was creeping up on me, or because there was still food to be put away, lunches to be made for the next day, clothes to launder, a dog to be let out, or a migraine to be beaten into submission. “Go the fuck to sleep” was the everymother’s mantra that you allowed only to float within your mind. You never spoke those words aloud. Never. For fear of scarring your children and someday having to explain to the police years later that you’d told them to “go the fuck to sleep” accidentally while they were under the age of 8 and now that was why they were barricaded in a tower, raining terror upon all the innocent passersby with the gun they bought from some dark, seedy character that I could have helped them avoid if only I’d kept that innocuous, but still deeply felt phrase to myself all those years ago. Yes, that’s what goes through your mind in an instant and keeps you from saying such things when your children are of tender years.

But we thought them. It’s what kept us momentarily sane. Or at least still on the verge of sanity. We hadn’t quite rounded the corner just yet as long as we only thought such things.

I remember those days fondly now. Funny how that goes. I’d almost give anything to kiss those little fingers and toes. To stroke their silky soft hair. To hear their gentle breathing. To see them twitch a bit as they began to dream. To linger in the doorway, hesitating to step away because you knew it wouldn’t last forever…

And then they become teenagers and you get a whole new set of words you mumble to yourself.

Update: There seems to be some incredibly harsh backlash because of this book and video. Too many people aren’t getting that it’s a joke…a joke on all of us (thankfully, someone else has pointed this out as well). This book isn’t an attempt to condone bad behavior or bad parenting. It’s a satirical look at being human, at learning to laugh at ourselves, for trying to be supermom or superdad and then feeling like an absolute monster for having a fleeting thought that’s less than “perfect and loving”. We’re engaged in loving acts all day long and we continue to provide for our children in loving ways even as these thoughts occasionally enter our heads. That doesn’t mean we dislike parenting or wish we didn’t have the responsibilities of parenthood. It means we are human and exhausted and sometimes covered in food, vomit, and other unpleasant things. And we’d really like to go to the bathroom, take a shower, or even just change clothes. Unlike a job where you can clock in and out, parenting does not allow you to check out. We’re on the clock 24/7, 365. Having a fleeting thought? That’s only human and it’s also because we’re human and loving parents that we never speak such things, that we don’t act upon them. And it’s important for us to forgive ourselves for those moments. That’s all they are…moments. Despite the fact that we are fallible, we humans, these thoughts…these very brief thoughts…are blips on our psyches and not at all indicators of our true feelings for our children. We love them deeply and it’s an honor to parent them. For those who take offense at our humanity, especially those without children, I can think of many parents who could use 30 minutes for a shower, a bite to eat of something that isn’t pureed, and a brief nap. Please, volunteer for one of those folks. Give yourself a month of parenting experience and you’ll understand why it’s better that we learn to laugh at ourselves and let off some of the steam that comes with the pressure of parenting. It’s what keeps us going — that, and those beautiful children we have chosen to bring into our lives.

I’ve had two discussions with MOBD about this and have taken heat for my position. But then I read the article (linked above) from which he got all his information. He didn’t see the video. He didn’t take a moment to think that it wasn’t meant as anything harmful. So I was told straight out that I must not be very grateful for being given the honor of parenting. He said I was a bad parent if such horrible, violent (violent? Really?) thoughts had ever occurred to me. I read him this post. I told him how much I loved my children, even when times were hard and there was no one to help me with sick babies that couldn’t sleep or eat or who had to be rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night. He didn’t understand that whatever quick thought comes into your head isn’t something that you act upon or that you really mean. You don’t speak it. You push it out as soon as it appears. Because you love your children more than life itself. And still, there’s no budging on his part. I asked him if I was such a bad parent, such a hateful, cruel person, then why, WHY?, do I have a 14 year old son who still wants to cuddle with me, wants to hang out with me and explore the world, and who still occasionally lets me hug and kiss him in public? And if I’m such a horrible person, why does my 18 year old daughter call to tell me jokes or ask for advice, texts me when she’s sad or has the giggles?

There is a significant disconnect happening in this world when humor that’s meant to help us let off steam is taken too seriously. When we can no longer laugh at ourselves, forgive ourselves for being human, for wanting just a small piece of “me” instead of “mommy” or “daddy”, when that happens, we’ve lost the plot to life completely. Without humor, we can’t cope with the challenges that life hands us. What are we to do instead? Stand about wringing our hands, bemoaning every minute of life? No. We are meant to find a way to keep our chins up, to soldier on. In healthcare, rescue, and in battle, it’s called gallows humor. Anyone remember MASH? Some of the most poignant moments came from being able to laugh through tragedy or adversity. Sidney Freedman, played by Allan Arbus, encouraged the doctors and nurses to laugh. It’s what helped them cope. Parenting is often a lot like war — it’s a battle to get through each day with all those tiny, precious limbs entrusted unto you intact. It’s a battle to not cry along with your child who comes home from the playground with a broken heart. And at some point, despite your overwhelming love for your children, the rare thought of “please, enough is enough” pops into your head. But you push it out just as quickly as it comes. This book makes fun of us for thinking we’re inhumane for such things. We’re not though. If we were as rotten as that author would have us believe, or as MOBD would have me believe, those thoughts would become words and actions. And for the vast majority of us, they never do. For the few who do allow them to become spoken and acted upon, well, it’s not because of a silly book, but rather they lack the coping mechanisms necessary to navigate life, to interact with other human beings, including our children.

I don’t want to live in a world where it’s not safe to laugh at ourselves. Parenting is serious business, but life isn’t so damned serious and precious that laughter is out of place. If anything, laughter enhances all that we are and all that we do. A humorless world just doesn’t cut it in my book.

6 Comments

  1. What a sweet post, actually. I’ve felt (and still feel) a lot of these same feelings around our little guy’s bedtime. I’m just ready for me. And a glass of wine.

    Comment by Jason — 2011/06/28 @ 09:33

  2. It’s not the first time anyone has said or felt this about their children, but damn, that book is funny! Making it funny makes it less taboo to have those thoughts. The first time you had that run through your head, you felt like a monster, I bet. You felt like a failure as a parent. But parenting is grueling as much as it is rewarding and anything to help you realize you’re not the only one thinking this shit is reassuring that you’re not the monster you feel like when it happens.

    Hopefully, we’ll all be spared intensive therapy bills for our children (and ourselves) if we can find a way to laugh through it.

    Wine definitely helps, but laughter helps even more.

    :zombie: + :cocktail: = :wave:

    Comment by DaGoddess — 2011/06/28 @ 10:15

  3. I’ve never been there; the girls were too old by the time I came on the scene. Never knew I was missing out on anything until a parent described what it was like, as you did here. Hindsight is unhurried, and of course, 20/20. ;)

    I took the whole thing to be satire. And we all know that comedy is a coping mechanism. :biggrin:

    Comment by pam — 2011/06/29 @ 01:25

  4. If only you could slap some sense into those who don’t understand what humor is.

    Comment by DaGoddess — 2011/06/29 @ 01:27

  5. Beautiful post. And I laugh at the critics of the book. Seriously, do they realize what they did by writing these posts and putting into mainstream media? They’ve taken it from parents sharing it discreetly on the internet and put it into a venue where more kids might here about it. I think someone needs to tell them to go the fuck to reality land.

    Comment by Mrs. Who — 2011/06/29 @ 11:07

  6. But, Mrs. Who, that would make sense! there’s no reasoning with the nannygoats of this world.

    Comment by DaGoddess — 2011/06/30 @ 14:33

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