Saturday, September 20, 2008


The first thought I have every morning upon waking is not, "Oh, this is going to be a great day!" It isn't even, "Man, I have so much to do today." The first thought I have is, "When can I take a nap?" It's not looking good. So far it's looking like I can sleep past 6am on October 11th. And that is depressing.

Sleep has always been a precious commodity in my life. There was never any sleeping in allowed in my family growing up. The noise of ten other people in a three story house with no carpeting made that pretty much impossible anyway, but Dad's rousing us with his early Saturday morning cleaning command of "Grab it! Bag it! Don't be a fagot!" (which wasn't a homosexual slur, I'm sure, it just rhymed, and Dad had to rhyme.) made sleeping past 7am very unlikely. And it still makes me twitch just a little when I hear a garbage bag been shaken open. But anyway.

My four years of high school were accompanied by near perfect attendance at early morning Seminary, a scripture study class for teens that is held from 6am-6:45am each weekday morning before school. My dad was my teacher for much of that time, and we lived a good distance from the church building, which meant the car rolled out of the driveway at 5:30am. And it was the 80's in Jersey, which meant some considerable time was involved in getting one's hair big enough and makeup dark enough, so my alarm went off every ding dong day at 4am. Forget twitching. I almost have seizures, still to this day, if I hear that hideous "BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!" of an alarm clock. The memory of being jolted from coma-like sleep after only having gone to bed 4 or 5 hours earlier, my feet touching the ice-cold hard floor, and springing across the room to shut it off are forever imprinted in my psyche. I beg my children to please wake to music for my sake.

High school is an exhausting time anyway. Starting at 4am, Seminary, straight to school. I can remember the sleepiness overtaking me right about 2nd period History and fighting my conquering eyelids, desperate to close. Just for a second. Just for a brief second. Please. After school came sports, clubs, and play practice. Getting home in the evening, and then of course homework. Lots of it. Sometimes I was working a job in the evenings too. Sometimes I had to walk to that job, several miles away at the mall, selling Chick-fil-A to strangers, and hooking up my family for one incredibly tasty dinner. Falling into bed at night and counting the days till Saturday when at least I didn't have to start 'grabbing it and bagging it' till 7 or so. I vividly remember coming home from Church on Sunday and taking a nap. Not just any nap, but a three or four hour nap, that left me feeling drugged and lethargic when I woke, but I knew I still needed it.

And then of course, you become an adult and besides college exhaustion, there is employment fatigue, and the zombie-like state of early motherhood. It never ends. And here I am marvelling at how just when I get my youngest weaned and sleeping well through the night, the oldest few go and become teenagers with that same insane schedule I thought I had left in some dark corner of my past. It never occurred to me how utterly wiped out my parents must have been keeping up with the busyness of their children's lives. Now I'm getting up to get a daughter to and from Seminary when it's still dark outside. Now I can't seem to even go upstairs before 10pm as my older kids are slaving over literature assignments and history projects. Now it's a Saturday morning and Dylan had to be at his scout leader's house at the (as my sister, Abby likes to say) 'butt crack' of dawn for a bike ride down the L.A. River towards his bicyclist merit badge. I was grocery shopping before 7am, and Lyndsay had a babysitting job immediately upon my pulling into the driveway. Tomorrow is early church, with Dylan having to be at a race before 6am, and then it's Monday and it starts all over again.

I actually was sitting in my bed last night ready to just be done for the day at 9:24 and I was so excited about that. I didn't have to pack school lunches or anything. Lyndsay came in and plopped down on my bed to chat. I tried to be enthusiastic, but then I just had to give her the boot. "Okay, love you, get out," I said with a smile. She laughed. "No, seriously? I really need to just be done for today. I love you." She totally understood.

"I know," she said. "I think I fall asleep within seconds of my head hitting the pillow. I have never been so tired in all my life." Hugs. Kisses. Own bedrooms.

A few days ago, a jet-setting, Hollywood scene friend of mine called me up and told me she had gotten VIP tickets to a concert at a club in L.A. and she wanted me to come with her. It was on Thursday night, and the plan was to go to dinner first. I immediately thought of sleep. "Well," I said, "it sounds like so much fun, but I have to teach piano lessons till 7. What time is the concert?"



"I know, it's a late show. But we would get dinner first. We'd probably be home by 2."

"Yeah, I'll be dead by 2. As fun as it sounds, it would take me weeks to recover from that."

She understood. She has no children, and her husband is on tour with another performer's show. As cool as I'm sure the night would have been, sleep was so much more appealing to me.

I am an advocate of early bedtimes for children and naps for one and all. I can usually close my eyes for 20 minutes or so around 1pm, which is a lifesaver, and I do what I can to plan ahead and manage my time well. But motherhood is simply a tiring job, especially motherhood of many. The sleep deprivation just goes with the territory, even with daytime hours maximized. Of course it's worth it. When I stay up 10 minutes later to write little notes for my kids' lunches each day, or when I'm slogging behind the stroller walking Aiden to school in the morning, or when I think that I might even want to have just one more baby, I remind myself that someday there will be no lunches to pack or little ones to walk to school. No one will even have Seminary in the morning or a Geometry test to study for at night. Someday all the Eagle Scouts will have been earned, and no one will need a ride or a bedtime story. Someday I'll need less sleep and get more of it. Someday the house will be quiet. And empty.

Until then, I'll stick with tired.


Abby said...

I still sing "everybody up get up get uuuppppppp the sun has risen o'er the laaannddddd" yeah I do!

I'm tired all the time too. I even went to the doctor for it a few months ago and everything's fine..seems I'm just a mom. I enjoy Saturdays and wish there were more of them because that's Orion's day to get up with the kids and he always makes me breakfast in bed (which sometimes sits on my night stand till I decide to actually wake up and eat it)..and you *know* I take a nap on the daily right along with the kids.

Maybe this is why the elderly turn in so early..they're making up for the lost sleep.

Dungeon Master said...

High school is exhausting. I don't know how I ever did. Seminary, school, practices, work, homework. I think I got 5-6 hours of sleep every night. But I functioned. I don't remember being exhausted all the time. Now I MUST get at least 7 hours......and it's never enough.

But you're right. Life's not always going to be so crazy. We're not always going to have kids at home to take care of, and the time will go so quickly.

Thanks for the reminder.

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

I couldn't tell you the last time I had a good night's sleep. I've developed sleep apnea (I'm too fat) and I have a child who still has night terrors and sleepwalks so that doesn't help either. I handled no sleep so much better in my teens and twenties. But, not now.

Josi said...

My mother had 9 kids, and she too hungered for the time when the kids were gone and she could sleep in--only to realize that by the time they all left, she'd been getting up at five for so long her body didn't know how to readjust :-) So good luck with that!

Saint Holiday said...


Didn't I really say, "Grab it! Bag it! Don't be a maggot!"? Some one should represent my PC interests and either correct the record or embellish history a little. Don't I have any friends in this world? Poor old, long-suffering dadling. Everybody makes fun of me.

Our Most Gracious Sovereign
The Dad

YogaNana said...

October 11 of what year?

Ah, the BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! I'm so traumatized by alarm clocks that I can't sleep if I know there's one waiting to do that to me, and I have the mid-morning shift at work because I don't want to EVER hear an alarm clock again.

Older Person (NOT ELDERLY YET!) who stays up past midnight,

LB said...

"I remind myself that someday there will be no lunches to pack or little ones to walk to school. No one will even have Seminary in the morning or a Geometry test to study for at night. Someday all the Eagle Scouts will have been earned, and no one will need a ride or a bedtime story. Someday I'll need less sleep and get more of it. Someday the house will be quiet. And empty."

Dear neice type,
Trace Adkins has it right, "you're gonna miss this".
Speaking as a guy who thought he had those days in sight of kids gone and nothing ahead but time for the wife and I and finally getting to chase all of my personal 'selfish' pursuits, (I cancelled a booked, paid for,dream cross-atlantic cruise when we found out about Sophie) I can only say that having started over in my late 40's, and now ready to turn 50 with a 4 year old, I wouldn't have missed this for the world. I know it's hard to believe, but this is the best times of your life. Trust me, as soon as they don't need you every minute, for every little annoying thing, it gets quiet alright, painfully quiet. Yup, you are gonna miss this.

luv ya, uncle L.

Misty said...

what amazes me is, that even 5 years ago I could pull all nighters periodically and live to tell the tale with fondness... Now? Now I can't even pull a couple of semi-late nights without dragging for a week. I hate that.

Hannah said...

Right there with you Jenna. Although, I was lucky enough that Seminary here is built into your school schedule so I didn't have to wake up as early as you did.

I wish I was there to take Conor off your hands for an afetrnoon so you could have one of those fantastic 3-4 hour naps.

Julie Wright said...

I am tired ALL the time so I'm with you enTIREly.

Angela said...

AMEN! I am still without children and I feel tired all the time. I guess when you work full time and a stressful (but enjoyable) calling it can take the wind out of your sails! Guess it is good preparation for motherhood!

Also, I am coming out to Cali next Monday and Tues.. I will you later to see if you want to meet up in the evening.. have a great day!

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

This post made me smile wryly, having stayed up late last night and then been woken up two hours earlier than normal by an exuberant four year old.


Lori said...

Hey Jenna. I loved this post. You have a great perspective, however, I'm not sure if you really believe what you say. I am here to tell you that you are SO RIGHT (of course). I remember the craziness of raising 5 kids and how tired I was and how I couldn't wait for it to end. Here's the thing though. I miss my babies!!!! I miss marching band and athletic competitions. I miss being a mom. Here's another kicker.... I'm still tired!!!! I just found other things to fill in the void and I still need my Sunday afternoon nap to catch up. So just embrace life, do as much as you can and sleep? There's time for that after you're dead. hehe I love you! Aunt Lori

Laurie said...

Oh, I HATE the beep on alarm clocks.
I have one son old enough to be slightly busy and I'm exhausted. You're life is crazy! I'm tired just reading about it. I'm also scared because I'm not too many years behind you. Besides the lack of sleep, I'm terrified of my gas bill. You're a good mom! I love reading about what you are doing with your kids.