For most of O.'s life, I've automatically kept an eye on the clock -- if it isn't time for him to eat, nap, or be changed, it's almost time -- and we both do better when he gets his needs met on a reasonable schedule. Of late, though, despite my attention to his usual signals -- half-mast eyelids, a sudden interest in cuddling rather than running circles around the sofa -- O.'s barely been sleeping during the day, and I have yet to figure out why.
I've grown skittish of his new quickness to wake. And resentful of every rumbling truck, yapping dog, and shrieking middle-schooler passing our door at certain times of day. Our walls are thin. While O. used to slumber through almost anything, the slightest disturbance now raises his banshee howls right away.
I know he's not fully rested. When he used to nap for three hours straight, he'd wake up babbling to himself and thump the bars of his crib with glee. His screams of distress complain of interruption, of the sudden, abrupt transition from a dream state to reality, almost like the indignant cries of an infant just born. I'd pity him more if his predicament didn't mean a similar disruption of my own work. I am inevitably writing -- I've stepped into that ever changing current of words and thoughts that will only be here in this form on this day now when, unexpectedly, I'm hurled from the stream onto the rocky shore again and someone has made off with my towel and shoes.
Today, though I'm tempted to hustle him off to his crib right away, I buckle O. into his high chair and put his favorite foods on the tray. It's hard to know if this is the right choice -- if I delay putting him down, am I missing that magical window where he'll naturally fall into his deepest sleep state, or if I don't, will I set him up to wake too soon because he's hungry? He seizes a pork rib, bone and all, and gnaws contentedly. That he has the patience for this tells me all is as it should be for now.
I take O. to his room an hour later. There's minimal protest -- a whimper or two as I leave him, but he's quiet in seconds. At last, I can sit and think, the blank page before me, only the slight hiss of air through the floor registers for company.
But I can't settle. Three delivery trucks motor through, engines thrumming. Our neighborhood school lets out, and children call after their friends as they head to the park down the street. It's not the noises themselves distracting me -- I've written in a college dorm that faced a local fire house and in an apartment under another inhabited by an old professor who thumped around with his cane at all hours. He'd swear in Greek every time he couldn't get his PowerPoint slides working for his next day's lecture, which seemed to be a frequent problem. No -- I only cringe now because I'm anticipating a rude awakening for O. and me, though I haven't even entered that meditative state I've been looking forward to.
This can't continue, I tell myself. You can't jump at every potential disturbance or you won't get anything done.
But there is no solution for this when I am both mother- and writer-in-residence. I laugh wryly at the idea of parenthood as a post one might apply for like a guest lectureship at a university. I enjoyed the visiting professors who rotated through my department when I was working on my MFA, but as they weren't permanent, the connections I made with them always felt tenuous and harder to guarantee. That certainly wouldn't be an ideal dynamic for me or O.
Still, I wish in this moment for a little less mother brain and more of the focus that only a particularly emphatic stream of profanity from the old man upstairs could break.
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