Parenting has an ugly side.
For the past few weeks, Ian hasn’t been sleeping well. He seems to be getting back on schedule, but for a while he was sleeping in three- or four-hour stretches. Which is wonderful for a newborn, but stinks-on-ice for a six-month-old who’s been known to sleep for nine. (…and don’t tell me that he should be sleeping for ten or twelve. It just makes it worse.)
I’m not known for my patience. When I’m woken from sleep, I’m known to be a not-nice guy. While I was in college, my mother stopped calling during the afternoon because I’d snap if I’d been napping. When Ian wakes up crying at midnight, or two, or three, I find myself a very impatient man.
It’s gotten so that I wake up before he does. I can sense his stirrings. I open my eyes, and the walls are flashing with the soft, green glow from Ian’s baby monitor. Only one light. He’s not awake yet.
And I’m already angry. This has been going on for so long, and all I want is a full night’s rest. Now I have to wait until he finally wakes up before I can try to calm him down. Ian finally wakes up, crying. I sigh loudly, throw the covers from my body, and stalk from the room. I roll my eyes, and push open his door.
He’s on his stomach, head lifted, and crying loudly. I roll him onto his side and rub his back, trying to put him back to sleep. I search for his pacifier, but I’ve forgotten to wear my glasses. I search his crib, inch by inch, groping around the edges in a closing spiral before I realize that it’s probably fallen to the floor. All the while, Ian is screaming. In the dim light of the fireflies on his wall, I find the pacifier lying next to the vaporizer.
The search took too long, and Ian’s inconsolable. I put the pacifier in his mouth, but he won’t settle down. His head thrashes from side to side, his legs curl to his chest, and his hands rub his eyes and face, which knocks the pacifier from his mouth and onto the floor. I whisper, “Shhhh. Shhhh. Go to sleep. It’s okay. I’m here. You’ll be okay.” But my thoughts aren’t so soothing. “Shut up. Shut up! Just go to sleep. You’re fine. Knock it off!”
Ian finally falls back to sleep, and I go back to bed. But I’m still angry because I know he’ll only wake up in another hour or so. And in another hour or so, I’m back in his room, trying to calm him down. But this time I’m thinking, “I hate you.”
This is my son. Someone for whom I’d do anything. Anything! I love him more than I’ve loved anyone. My life has become his. And here I am, his father, at 4:37 in the morning, hating him.
He’s teething. He’s having a growth spurt. He’s probably having growing pains. I remember growing pains. They suck. He’s experiencing everything in his life for the first time, and he’s learning a thousand different things every day. And each morning he smiles at me, giggling and wriggling with delight at the sight of his daddy. But at 2:56 in the morning, I’m hating him.