As a teenager and even into my early 20s staying up all night was fun. Many times my large group of high-school friends would camp out with a bonfire on the river bank. We would cook sausages on a barbecue, drink, joke, muck-around and sometimes hook-up. We would watch the moon rise and the evening star set. The more wild among us might’ve stolen alcohol from their parents or conned a joint from an older sibling, while others braved a night-time skinny dip in the shallow rapids of the river. There were shenanigans but it was mostly the small town innocent fun of young kids desperate to grow up and get out of the place.
I remember the nights being cool and still with young faces lit bright by a roaring fire. We would stand or sit for a while near the fire before turning around to warm our other side.
The main object was for everyone to stay up all night to see the sunrise. After getting our ‘second wind’ it was easy – tiredness passed and we became kind of hyper and silly which kept us awake. Then after seeing the first blush of an orangey-pink sky we’d all pack up our cars and head home to sleep if we could.
I have stayed up all night many times in my life since, not always willingly. None of the recent times have been as much fun, let me tell you. These times have been lonely. There has been no adult awake (Mr Magentafrog would sleep through a truck driving through the room) with me to hang-out with, no-one to cook me food to sustain me throughout the night, no alcohol and not even a skerrick of illicit drugs! As I have sat rocking and patting or leaning into the cot to soothe a crying baby many, many times I have wished for drugs both for them and me, but mainly me.
Since becoming a parent I think I could count a handful of times where I feel that I have slept all night. The rest of the time is broken sleep; broken by my child-related things like dirty nappies or wind pain or nightmares or falling out of the bed or night terrors . . . There have been a few times where all three children have simultaneously slept through the night, but I have still woken up anxiously and religiously at eleven, two and four wondering what’s wrong with them and checking if they’re still breathing.
So now my relationship with sleep is skewed. I want it but as night falls I fill with dread about the fact that I will not enjoy a solid sleep if and when I finally get to sleep. So I stay up waiting to get more tired. Then I go too far and get my second-wind and do silly things like write to you, make yoghurt or wander around my vegie patch chasing cane toads away. I am wide awake when I should be going to bed. Then about the time my head hits the pillow is the first time that Master 1 stirs and I may be in and out of my bed three or four times before he finally settles again. Then he might wake again later for no apparent reason. Master 2 often cries in his sleep throughout the night and Master 4 announces loudly from the top bunk at 5:00am every morning that he needs to do a poo.
I often think about my life before children and those nights of doing whatever the hell I pleased. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I actually want to stay up all night, but it would be nice to be able to feel like I had a choice in the matter.
As a mother in her late 30s I couldn’t give a hoot about seeing the sunrise. These days I’m happy if everyone is fed, watered and bathed by sunset!