“Mommy.” It is 2 a.m. The voice is very close and very urgent. I can feel her breath on my cheek. “Mommy, I dreamed I was a panda cub. At the zoo. And a bunch of kids came on a field trip, and they beat me up. And then they all went and ate hot dogs while I was bleeding. Mommy, come get in my bed. I’m scared.”
I don’t even argue. I am too tired to argue. I roll out of bed, and Ruby and I stumble back to her room, collapse into her bottom bunk, cocoon ourselves in the pink sheets and Rapunzel comforter. Half the time, I fall asleep there and wake up hours later, confused and bleary with her Size 1 foot planted squarely between my shoulder blades. Half the time, I lie awake until her breathing slows, until I can safely extricate myself and go back to my own bed.
Ruby is never going to be a good sleeper. I made my peace with this fact long ago. When she was a tiny newborn, everyone said she would start sleeping at 12 weeks, so I told myself I just had to hang on until then. When she was 12 weeks, everyone assured me she would settle into a regular pattern by 6 months, so I readjusted my plans. At 6 months, they said it would improve for sure when she started an actual structured day care program, so I moved the goal posts again. By the time she was 18 months, I had given up. The only good part was that things that derailed the sleep habits of other babies – colds, teething, developmental blips – didn’t affect us. We already weren’t sleeping, so it’s not like a few more wake-ups per night would faze us. We tried co-sleeping, a crib, a toddler bed, elevating the mattress, a variety of reflux medications, crying it out, No Cry Sleep Solution, night-weaning, pacifiers, sound machines, nightlights, light-blocking shades. When she was older, we tried sticker charts, threats, and bribes. And now? Honestly, now I don’t even care anymore. She is 7. The only goal post I have at this point is that she will go off to college one day and her sleep habits will officially no longer be any of my concern.
But right now, I will do whatever it takes just to get some sleep for everyone, particularly because we are still having to do the crazy-mad-dash-scramble on school mornings – and will be until June 20. I have seen everyone else’s end-of-school pictures on Facebook: kindergarten graduations, award ceremonies, half-days and water days and field days. But we had our mid-trimester parent-teacher conference yesterday. We are nowhere near done.
In some ways, that’s good. One of the concerns, especially at a mixed-income urban public school like the one Ruby attends, is that with a long summer break, kids who rely on the school lunch program for meals will face more food insecurity. That, thankfully, isn’t an issue for us, but even though we’re not worried about where our next meal will come from, we are also not so flush that we could blithely pay for three full months of summer camp. An extended school year also helps kids retain more academic skills than, say, a long summer spent watching horrible tween sitcoms on Disney. I know all of this intellectually. But I am ready for summer.
Ruby, having never known anything different, is completely OK with the long school year. She loves her friends, and she loves her teacher, and she would happily go to school year-round. I, on the other hand, am programmed to expect summer to start no later than June 1, and I am balking at the homework and the projects and the early morning wake-ups. Her school uniforms are getting ratty, and her school shoes are getting tight, and her school folder is held together with duct tape, and I don’t think I can even find two plain school uniform white socks that match at this point. Increasingly, I am sending her to school with a pizza Lunchable because I am so damn sick of making peanut butter sandwiches on whole wheat bread with the crusts cut off. I am so ready to have a break from worrying about tardy slips and number bonds and what behavior color she got that day.
It feels like forever, but I know we don’t have much longer to go. The end is in sight, really; I keep trying to tell myself that. Next week is a short week because of Memorial Day, and then we just have three weeks after that. Nineteen more days. I can handle 19 more days.
And then seven blissful weeks of summer, where even though Ruby will wake up at least once a night, I won’t have to drag us both out of bed at 6:45 a.m. and rush us both through breakfast, dressing teeth-brushing, hair-brushing. I won’t have to throw her shoes at her and say, “Put them on in the car; we have to go, hurry up; come on; HURRY UP; COME ON NOW; OH MY GOD WE HAVE TO GO NOW NOW NOW SHUT THE DOOR AND BUCKLE YOUR SEATBELT!”
I can’t wait. And I can’t help but hope that by the time she starts second grade in the fall, she might actually be sleeping through the night. Right? Right?
OK, that might be an impossible dream. But at least it’s not a dream about being a poor, besieged panda cub.
Who else is still in school? Are you ready for summer, too? (If you’re already done for the year, please don’t gloat.)