Brother Ass and the Midnight Mommy Vigil

Brother Ass and the Midnight Mommy Vigil

Everyone, including me, has a bit of a cold: runny noses, coughs, sore throats. Poor Anthony has it the worst. Of course this means that nighttime is worse than ever. Anthony, who was sleeping through the night more than not, screamed for hours on Friday night. Then Saturday night he slept so solidly that I had to wake him up to nurse at 3 am because he hardly nursed all day (because of his extreme congestion) and then went to sleep for the night without nursing on both sides. I hate to wake a sleeping baby and only did it in desperation after laying in bed for a solid hour without sleep. This was after either Ben or Sophie had got me out of bed. On Friday night poor Sophie just wandered from spot to spot, trying to find a place where she could sleep comfortably. After being in her own bed for less than an hour, she moved to the futon in the office, then the couch in the living room. Finally, back to her bed at two or three in the morning.

I won’t attempt to recreate a step by step outline of the last few nights. Suffice it to say that I haven’t been able to sleep more than about two hours in a row without interruption. And so I am very, very, very tired. (So is Dom, by the way. He just came home early to finish up his work here after falling asleep at his desk.)

The worst part of it is the cumulative effect. Or maybe the worst part is when I settle a child easily but then can’t get back to sleep myself but toss and turn until finally drifting off only to be awakened about fifteen minutes after I finally achieve sleep nirvana. Or maybe the worst part is when I settle a kid calmly, go back to sleep, settle another kid calmly, go back to sleep, deal with another frantic child calmly and then when the next kid wakes up I go absolutely batshit crazy and threaten to slit their throat. (That is only a very, very slight exaggeration. I think I did threaten to murder Anthony at 5:30 this morning unless Dom got up and took care of him. The thought—not a real temptation—comes to mind because at moments like that I really do begin to understand why some parents under extreme stress might do harm to their kids. Understand not condone.)

Anyway, I do try to offer it up and all that. To pray in the watches of the night. But sometimes the spirit is willing but the flesh just wants everyone to go the hell away so that it can get a little sleep. That’s when I find myself yelling at God: I thought that your yoke was easy and your burden light. This is NOT easy. It’s hard. Too hard. I can’t bear it. You’re just going to have to find some other way to make me holy because right now I hate you. You are a big meany and I hate you and I just want to sleep. It’s too bloody hard! Then I cry myself to sleep and wake up remembering to be grateful to my poor husband who took the baby so that I could rant at God until I fell asleep. (And grateful later to my sister who takes the kids for a drive while I cook dinner. And for the next door neighbor girl who invites all three of the big kids over to play with the little boy she’s babysitting.)

The other night midrant I thought of St Francis and how he referred to his body as Brother Ass. (This came up in the book that Bella and I just finished reading.) He was frequently at odds with stubborn Brother Ass who wanted all sorts of things that Francis didn’t want. The thing is I used to think that “Brother Ass” was a rather contemptuous way to refer to his body. Suddenly I saw that in fact it was a reminder to the part of himself that was tempted to be contemptuous toward his body that he owed that poor abused body the same degree of love that he would show to any of God’s creatures that Francis found it so easy to love: the birds, the lambs, the wolves.

Of course, I’ve actually got the opposite problem. I tend to be contemptuous of everyone else and want to coddle Brother Ass (or should that be Sister Ass?) giving in to every twinge and whim. It is really hard to deny yourself when you are tired and strung out. I don’t know how the saints do it. All I can say is that motherhood is a very hard school. I’m glad my children are so willing to forgive me when I am tired and cruel and snappish. This morning I screamed at Sophie and spanked her when she interrupted my prayers (yes MY PRAYERS) because she wanted to ask if she could read my book and then when I said no she threw a fit and tossed a bunch of my books onto the floor. Never mind that I was actually falling asleep during said prayers. Or maybe that was really the problem, that she interrupted MY SLEEP.

I am sometimes tempted to think that monastics have it easier in one regard in that their night watches are usually scheduled and predictable. If I knew that I was going to be up every night at 3 am I think I might learn how to cope. It’s the unpredictability that makes me a bit loopy. Will it be one wake up or three or five? Will it be Sophie or Ben or Anthony or all three? Will they want Dom and scream if I come near or want me and scream if Dom tries to help? How long will I be awake? Five minutes? Three hours? I long for routine, rhythm, predictability. The only sure thing is that nothing is certain. Last night Sophie fell asleep in the car at 5:30 (my sister had taken them for a drive while I was making dinner) and we couldn’t wake her for dinner. I put her to bed fully expecting that at some point she would wake up screaming. Instead, she slept through the night for the first time in forever while Anthony was up several times, who had been sleeping very well until he caught a cold. Now I’m having to retrain him on the night sleeping thing.

I forgot what my conclusion was going to be when I started writing this several days ago. Something profound about motherhood and monasticism? But I’m left with a jumble. Probably the sleep deprivation taking its toll. The lesson that I seem to be discerning this Lent has been that I’m not spiritually well. I need a physician. Really. I can’t fix it on my own. And yet I’ve still not learned how to apply that lesson at 3 am or at 5:30. I have a long way to go.

Blessed Are They Who Weep and Mourn—Midnight Mommy Vigil Part II

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