The Idiot's Guide to Knowing When You Are Really, Really Tired

You might think that being tired is fairly obvious. You might think that only an idiot would not be aware that she needs more sleep. Such is the nature of sleep deprivation, that those who suffer from it for long enough forget how important sleep is or how much they need it. But then, something usually happens to break that cycle and bring home the point that we mere mortals do need to sleep.

Here's how it happened for me:

My son goes to soccer practice in Alameda, a good half hour away from our home. Getting him there means hanging out in Alameda for two hours, rather than heading home only to turn around and go back when it's time to pick him up.

Which is how I found myself last Friday afternoon in Alameda, toting my 5 and 3 year old daughters with me, after dropping Sam at practice. I was looking for a Chase Bank, so I spent the first 30 minutes or so driving around, passing several watering holes and watching with envy all the after-5-on-a-Friday revelers, talking, laughing, drinking and relaxing on one of the first nice evenings of the Spring. In contrast, I was trapped in a mini-van with two complaining, restless girl-children who were picking at my nerves with abandon.

I finally found the bank, hauled myself and two wee-ones in and back out, loaded 'em back in their seats (my most favorite thing to do 10 times a day!), and started looking for a place to get them something to eat. I ended up, somewhat unimaginatively, at Starbucks. I got myself a tea --BOOOOORING -- because I really wanted a latte, but it was, after all, 6:30 in the evening and that would have been nuts. I got the girls some fruit and cheese trays and some chocolate milk boxes, and we set up shoppe at a little round table with a cushy bench.

The warm, yellow light of the April sunset streamed through the wooden blinds of the west-facing cafe windows. My two tired girls were mellowing, with food in their bellies and sunlight on their feet. One sat heavily on my knee, leaning comfortably into my chest; the other curled on the cushion next to me, her head resting on my unoccupied knee. All three of us sat hypnotized by the sunlight, the half-empty cafe, the lateness of the afternoon, and the soft music wafting over our heads. We sat for awhile in a very peaceful kind of state.

Which is what got the water works flowing. The very unfamiliarity of simply sitting and listening to music made me absolutely wistful for days gone by. (Even piped in Starbuck's music!) Rick and I really used to enjoy listening to music at cafes and bars, especially our very own Murphy's Irish Pub, back when my parents owned it. I have great memories of taking the boys there when they were babies. We were so much more mobile when we had two kids; now, the younger ones have no idea how much fun we used to be.

That made me sad for them, and sad for us, that we don't or can't make time for those kinds of simple pleasures any more.

And then, through the Starbucks speakers, came this song, one I have always, shamelessly, loved with that crazy sappy folk-music kind of love. And I started to weep. Couldn't stop. I buried my face in Tallulah's mass of curls, and let her hair soak up my tears. I'm sure I looked like quite a sight. Two strung out little toddlers in need of baths draped over me...crumbs splayed far and wide from their less-than-civilized eating habits...kid blankets, backpacks, books, detritus everywhere. I may have looked like a woman who grabbed her kids and the clothes on her back, and fled a bad scene, using Starbucks to plan her next move, figure out where to crash, or where to drive the camaro for the night.

This is how I came to realize how numbingly tired I was. Am. I'm a sucker for sappy music, but this was ridiculous, even for me. Right out there in public, I let memories, regrets, hopes, fears, a lilting guitar and some wicked harmonies get the better of me. A little time and space and quiet came up behind me and knocked me off my game, rendering me defenseless against the possibility that I'm not a perfect mom. Somehow, in that little world, all of the things I want to give my children seemed fleeting, like the afternoons spent watching Sam dance to fiddle music at Murphy's, gone and not appreciated nearly enough when they were here. So I cried and cried, and sniffled, hiding behind Tallulah and listening to Emmylou.

It went on for awhile. The girls were so sleepy themselves, I don't think they noticed. Or else they were just all "Oh, mom's crying again. Who broke something?"

Pretty soon, one of them had to pee, and the trance was broken. But the mood stayed with me for the entire ride home and on into the rest of the evening. I was suddenly, acutely aware of just how exhausted I was.

And that, my friends, is how you can tell when you need a little sleep. Or at least, that's how I was finally able to tell. I refer you to the title of this post.

Maybe I should go get some sleep?

* * *


Teacher Mommy said…
Yes. Yes you should. And I don't know how that will happen, but it needs to.

Sigh. I wish I could help.
Viv said…
Three children was the point at which I broke. All the things that I could do so easily, the barely perceptible changes to our life that had come with Thing 1 and Thing 2...came to a screeching halt when my third child was born. After Jay was born, everything seemed hard, exhausting, daunting. It is still hard, exhausting, and daunting...oddly, no more so with 6 than with 3. Then I wonder if it has anything do do with the kids at all, maybe I just got old?

Our standard Starbucks order is a Venti Peppermint Mocha with two extra shots, and the fruit and cheese plate with chocolate milk. :)

Sometimes I laugh because your life parallels my own, even when the subject matter isn't funny, I think they are nervous giggles because I'm so relieved to not be alone. I hope you got some rest, but, I know all too well that one night rarely makes the difference.

{chugging my second energy drink tall boy of the day}
Homemaker Man said…
There was a song I learned in 1st grade: 'It's alright to cry, crying makes you feel better." That's all i got. Hoping you get some sleep. While melancholy, the story itself was lovely.
TM: Sigh. I wish you could too! :)

Viv: laugh along with me...we're in good company!

HM: Crying is always a relief. That's a good song to remember. Thanks.
nicole said…
i love you, friend.
Kelly said…
Yes...the melancholy brought about by a great weariness. I get it!

(Oh, and love Emmylou, too!)

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