Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Silent Nights

Our Eldest is home for the holidays. She flew in just a week ago in the midst of a spectacular hailstorm. My husband and I watched her as she told us all about her favorite subjects in university, the classes she really enjoys, the teachers who bore her silly. She seems so different. A little more sedate, a little more mature -- and, amazingly, even more sure of herself.

And weirdest of all, she sleeps.

From the get-go, our Eldest has not slept. I'm a lifelong insomniac and I seem to have passed it on to both of my children, but our Eldest has given me some stiff competition. When she was six months old, I asked her pediatrician when she would start sleeping regularly. She was only getting half of the sleep other mothers reported their babies were getting and I felt cheated. The doctor told me it would soon straighten out -- that our baby would soon get into a sleep rhythm and get all the sleep she needed. And the good news was, she did. But the bad news was that she hardly seemed to need any sleep.

This continued straight through her childhood and adolescence. And she was a night-owl. We'd get her into bed only to find that she was up again, ready to be kept company and entertained. She made curtain call after curtain call right up past midnight until I was at the end of my wits. I began to dream of a time she would start keeping sociable hours. It never happened.

We've kept in touch, so I know for a fact that at university, she goes to bed at five in the morning to finish assignments (she is also a first-class procrastinator, another genetic trait of mine she has managed to acquire). "So what time do you get up?" I asked her recently. She rolled her eyes at me. "Don't go there, Mom."

So the other day I was astonished when I got home from work and found her sprawled on the couch, out cold. She stayed like that for six hours too. I was so alarmed, I took her pulse.

In the morning I asked her if she was okay. "Sure. Why?"

"Because you slept straight for over eight hours!"

She looked surprised. "Yeah, I guess I did."

She did it again the next day, then the next.

"Are you sure you're okay?" we asked her.

"Yeah, I'm fine."

"Have you been doing a lot of that lately?"

"Not really."

It's just amazing. In fact, it's so unprecedented, I've taken to standing and staring at her while she's sleeping. When she was a ten-year-old, I could wake her up by breathing as I walked past her room. The other day, she slept through a storm strong enough to uproot trees. She slept through the last call to prayer, searing the air at full volume. She slept through my dropping a saucepan lid on the kitchen floor and her father's ear splitting sneezes.

I'll tell you something even more shocking: she didn't bring us home any laundry. This is a kid who used to go through three or four outfits a day. Who used towels like we were a hotel. Who had a knock-down-drag-out fight with me only a few years ago because of all the laundry she generated.

"Got any clothes you want washed?" my husband asked her on the first morning she was back.

"Nope." We traded looks.

"My friends said Why don't you just take it home so your parents can wash it?" she said.

"So why didn't you?"

"Because I'm a superior being."

And so she is.

I can't help but feel a little sad. You let your kid go and before you know it, they come back like this: a calm, confident stranger.

Yesterday, I was leaving for work when she peered at my face and frowned at me. "Mom, come over here, okay?"

I did. Shaking her head, she licked a finger and wiped my chin. "You're still not putting your make-up on right! Hang on, I'll go and get my make-up brush."

I followed her into her room -- and had to avert my eyes. Dear God, the state of it!

She's still bossing me around. And her room is still -- well, I won't go there. But it's nice to know our little girl hasn't entirely changed.

Merry Christmas, everybody!


Wendy Nelson Tokunaga said...

Mary, enjoyed your post as always. Happy Holidays to you! Sorry to be so out of touch. Hope all is well. We're enjoying a sunny day in Half Moon Bay. :-)

Charles Gramlich said...

Yes, it's nice to have those little touchstones that let you know there is continuity. Your child has NOT been replaced by a replicant.

Helen said...

Isn't it funny how much time we put into raising our children to become independent adults, but when they do, we aren't quite ready for it, or it surprises us, and sometimes we even feel left behind. My children are far from that point, but even the small acts of independence, sometimes makes me shudder. I'm glad shes's home with you for Christmas - enjoy her and congratulate yourself on surviving to this point. Have a very festive Christmas with your family Mary, and a safe and happy New Year!

Robin said...

I burst out laughing at the end of this post. I'm silly happy at the thought of her room still being a mess. Right after fixing your make up! I love it!

Robert the Skeptic said...

It's fun to watch your children grow into adults. Aside from that fact that you can now use profanity in front of them, it's wonderful to see them make their way in the world. And if you squint a little bit, you might see where you had some influence on that.

On the other hand, they can go terribly wrong and start their own Blogs [sigh].

Vijaya said...

In a few decades, Mary, the roles will be reversed. It is nice to see our children growing up ... though I can't even imagine mine leaving. Every year I say this was the best year ever ...

Merry Christmas!

Suelle said...

Great post again! And I love hearing about people with messy rooms--it's such a relief, knowing I'm not the only one!
Happy holidays!

Falak said...

This is such a wonderful post! Loved the ending...... I guess staying away from family does change you a in a lot of ways. Happy Holidays! Have a great time with your daughter!

Falak said...

Oh!I forgot to mention it before but I loved the title of this post. Really apt:)

Mary Witzl said...

Wendy -- Thank you for reading my blog and commenting! I'll be over to see you soon. It's sunny here too (for a change), but it's COLD -- and unbelievably windy.

I will email you! Merry Christmas!

Charles -- She's still bossy, lazy, and messy. But the sleeping thing is utterly phenomenal. And about 18 years later than it should have been.

Helen -- I'm just amazed that my husband and I have survived almost two decades of a non-sleeping kid. I try to fight the urge to keep her dependent, but I don't need to: from the very first, she has been gearing herself towards total independence. Even when she was a baby, she was perfectly fine with being left on her own or with others -- so different from her sister.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family too!

Robin -- I'm trying to be happy about it myself. I'm sure I'll miss it when she's left. And what will I do without her to point out where my hair needs to be touched up or where I've botched my foundation?

Robert -- You're right about the profanity thing, but for some reason, I'm never very happy about this. My mother used to spell out 'damn' and 'hell' when she felt truly enraged or moved, and I remember thinking that my father had a dirty mouth because he actually said 'damn' and didn't spell it out. I'm still ashamed when I let loose with something worse, but I don't see I've had ANY influence on them.

My kids have blogs too! I'm just not allowed near them.

Vijaya -- In a few decades (shiver) they'll be picking out my retirement home. It had better be a VERY good one. (I have to joke about this; the reality is just too awful to contemplate. I hope I don't hang around too long; I don't think our Eldest has the patience for a long parental convalescence.

Suelle -- If I didn't know it would cause WWIII, I'd take a photograph of the room in question right this minute and post it here so you could see how not alone you really are. But I value family harmony; her secret may be out, but I'll spare the world the awful details (and keep Eldest sweet).

Falak -- I think that the longer you're away from your family, the more you tend to appreciate them. I think Eldest may need even more time away from us to achieve totally spectacular results. Thank you for the compliment -- hope you have some silent nights yourself!

Kim Ayres said...

Hope you and all the Witzls have a wonderful Christmas :)

Charlie said...

Could it be that the insomnia has been cured by boring professors? I knew some who could bore paint off the wall.

A merry and loving Christmas to you all!

Patrick said...

That reminds me of myself, being a night owl-my sleeping pattern's totally messed up. I'll be awake when my family members are sleeping, and vice versa.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family. =)

Bish Denham said...

Superior being! Love it! It seems your daughter is turning into the woman who will be your good friend and companion in your later years. Which means you've been a good mommy.

Merry Christmas Mary.

Mary Witzl said...

Kim -- Thank you, we did!

Charlie -- I doubt it. She's told us that she only goes to the classes that are interesting (sigh -- I went to ALL of mine). Still, she's doing well, so I shouldn't complain.

Hope you had a good Christmas too!

Patrick -- Do you do this too? I am so relieved; I wondered for a minute there if our daughter had glandular fever (mononucleosis). This sleeping thing must have something to do with teenage brains, which are still growing and changing. Once you turn into adults, you'll be amazed at how little sleep you can get by on.

Hope you had a good Christmas too!

Bish -- It's good of you to say that. I'll remind myself of all her good traits the next time I open the door to her room and feel like weeping. She claims the room she lives in now is as clean as can be and neat as a pin. I'm going to ask for photographs.

Hope your Christmas was good too!

Chocolatesa said...

"Once you turn into adults, you'll be amazed at how little sleep you can get by on."

I don't think this is true for me, or I'm not an true adult yet, but at the age of 26 I still need 9-10 hours of sleep a night to not be a zombie. Hopefully this will change later :P

Merry Christmas! I'm glad to hear she's finally sleeping :P

Lily Cate said...

My son is still a preschooler, but I do remember the looks from my parents when I came home after my first year of college. It was such an adjustment, being seen as an adult by everyone at school, and then as a child again at home.

Anonymous said...

The part where you took her pulse cracked me up. :)

I never slept much as a kid either. My parents gave up and said that as long as I kept my grades up I could go to bed when I chose. They probably just got tired of checking to see if I'd once again snuck on my light.

A Paperback Writer said...

Funny, funny, funny.
Well, at least it seems to be all pleasant differentness she's picked up. I mean, she has come home with an unplanned pregnancy or a drug habit, thank heaven.
The sleeping thing is weird, but it's an okay weird.
great tale. enjoy her stay.

Mary Witzl said...

Chocolatesa -- I went through a really late adolescence myself: my best time for sleeping was during my late teens up until about age 22. After that I went back to my old insomniac ways. I think we all have totally different sleep patterns, but I do believe that the older you get, the less sleep you need. One of these days it's entirely possible I'll find myself only needing half an hour or so. It's heartening to realize that this happens as our time grows more scarce -- and precious.

Lily -- I remember that too. As a university student, you have such a wonderful rush of independence as you are treated like a fully-formed, capable adult, then suddenly you are back with people who remember you as the girl who doesn't make up her bed and never puts the milk back in the fridge. I've tried to respect our daughter's autonomy and newly found personhood, but when I keep finding her dirty dishes in the sink, it's tough.

Gypsyscarlett -- My hands were ice cold too, and yet she snored right through it!

What you describe reminds me of our own situation. I can almost guarantee you that your parents DID get sick of telling you to turn off your light: we had many long discussions about this and finally decided that if the kids got up on time for school and kept up their homework, we'd cut them slack on the sleep issue. But it was still tough.

APW -- You're right: better that brings home a sudden narcoleptic tendency than narcotics -- or worse. And I'm not ready to be a grandmother by a long shot. Certainly not until I see her clean out the kitchen drain on her own.

Chocolatesa said...

Loll, that made me laugh! "You're not allowed to have kids till you're able to clean out the kitchen drain by yourself!" :P

debra said...

I missed you post as well as others these past few days, Mary.

My oldest is home, too, confident and strong; still at times, she reminds me of the little girl who put black olives o each of her fingers so she could suck them off.

#2 is in Australia for 7 weeks. She did leave her room a mess, too.

Wishing you all the best

Mary Witzl said...

Chocolatesa -- I read somewhere that being able to clean out a drain is the true mark of attaining adulthood and I have to agree with this. Anyone who can do that will also probably be able to get up in the middle of a sound sleep and clean up a sick kid who's just managed to throw up on his pillow, blankets, and mattress.

Debra -- Our Eldest swears that her dorm room is spotless. I've demanded proof. Glad to know she's not the only one who does this, though.

I used to eat my olives like that too, but oddly enough, my kids never did this. But really, what else are those olive holes made for if not kids' fingers?