Last night I swore that I had done my time bent double over the side of a cot patting someone to sleep. My eyeballs hung out on my cheekbones and I folded my body over and into the cot like a serpent; my top half was right in the cot so I could be close to Master 1. I could hear his rattly breathing and smell his milky breath.
My wrists ached from holding, carrying and patting my children. My back ached from standing, bending and couching to assist them.
Yet I continued to pat his back and kind of bounced him on his mattress in the process (which he likes) and after a few minutes he was sound asleep. I lifted my hand from his back and waited, still as a statue and I didn’t dare breathe. I was poised to continue if he stirred but he didn’t. Then I stood up, took a step away and my knees cracked loudly and he sprung up and started bawling again.
I picked him up and shusssshed him over my shoulder. He wriggled and squirmed and tried to get away from me even though he wanted the comfort. I cradled him in my arms and rocked him to and fro, dancing the parental dance from one foot to the other and wondered if this counted as exercise.
I sang ‘Ruby-Tuesday’ by the Rolling Stones (his all time favourite) out of key and he loved it. Within minutes he was back to sleep; out cold. Carefully I put him down in the cot and rolled him out of my arms and onto his side. He murmured and I froze and waited. I wasn’t game to move and thought maybe I could just sleep here standing up to save myself further trouble. He didn’t wake so I inched towards the door as insignificantly as I could. I carefully opened the door and it creaked loudly. Fuck! Instantly he sat up and screamed at me. Silently I screamed at him. Where could I find some patience and resilience?
Master 1 is teething and has gone from a happy-go-lucky little person to very grizzly and unsettled particularly at night. I know this. I know he is not himself and he is sick. But I am tired beyond repair and at three, four and five in the morning I struggle to find a suitable motherly attitude.
I decided it was time to dose him with Panadol but I couldn’t put him down to do so since that led to more screaming. So we were both blinded by the kitchen light as I fumbled to find a syringe and open the fucking medicine cap one-handed. Then I discovered it is really hard to draw medicine with a syringe one-handed but I did it. Then we had to go to the change table so I could hold him down to get the stuff in his mouth. That was also a screaming match as he pushed and kicked me, thrashed about and flapped his hands everywhere before I could hold them. Most of the medicine went in; some was blurted into my face.
I then got him a drink and sat down on the couch to soothe and rock him. He didn’t want the drink and threw it onto the floor and again struggled to get away from me. I held him against my chest and patted him, I tried resting him across my lap and rocking him, I cradled him and bounced him gently . . . nothing worked.
Why do I keep doing this to myself I wondered? Why don’t I let him learn to self-settle like I did with the other boys? The answer is quite simply that our house is very small. If I let him scream the place down then another child will wake up all wanting me (not Dad) and so I will then have to go from one to the next to settle them all and this can take hours. I’ve done it. In addition to this, I hate hearing crying. I hate my own crying and I hate anyone else’s. Always have, so I will do just about anything to make it stop, even to my further detriment.
I got up off the couch and walked him around, bouncing all the while. The crying settled but he was still wriggly and getting very heavy. I decided to revert back to the patting and singing in the cot and was finally on a winner. He went out like a light within minutes. But I couldn’t move because I didn’t want to do it all over again. Yet I wanted my bed so much that tears welled in my eyes. Feeling very sorry for myself I wondered if I would ever sleep properly again. I waited until I could hear his deep breathing.
Steeling myself for departure I began to creep from the room like some stupid cat-burglar from a bad movie. I slithered through the door without making a sound and quick-stepped into our room and slipped into bed. I lay there waiting, my body taut and anxious, just waiting to hear the crying again. I was cold because I dare not rustle the covers. I carefully reached for the doona and had to flick it over me. It made a crunchy sound and my heart sank as Master 1 roared to maximum volume. I sprung up angry and hopeless to shussssh him before he woke the others. Cursing every part of motherhood and my lot in life I was on the verge of losing it completely.
Another round of ‘Ruby Tuesday’ ensued with much dancing and rocking and all the other bullshit. This time it worked for good, he was asleep but I was wide awake. I did my rounds of the house, checking doors, going to the toilet, getting a drink and checking the other kids. It was 5:00 am by this time as I crawled into bed.
At 5:30 am Master 4 woke up and announced loudly and repeatedly from his top bunk that he needed to do a poo. Fuck. This. Shit. I kicked Mr Magentafrog telling him it was his turn.