By 10 p.m., I was exhausted. The espresso shot I’d had at 5:30 p.m. and the back-up shot I’d had at 6 (I like to overdo things, as in “If one is good, then two is extra-good”) had both worked their way through my system, and now it was 10, and I was falling in and out of sleep. Usually two shots at those late hours would find me—at 10 p.m.–doing something impossibly optimistic like sanding and painting the inside of the kitchen cabinets.
But, it’s allergy season, and my Claritin and Flonase have kicked in just enough to prevent me from wanting to rip my own head off to save myself from another nose-blowing but not quite enough to keep me awake for the Saturday night sleepover that my youngest daughter was hosting.
It seemed unwise to take another shot of espresso at that late hour, lest I topple the delicate system I’ve got worked out that goes something like this: Drink just enough caffeine to feel peppy, but not enough to bring about tension, insomnia, or caffeine-induced shrieking.
So, at that point, I tentatively went downstairs to interrupt the girls’ Mario Kart-ing to suggest that, you know, maybe we should get ready for bed. And, also, that there was no need to move at all, or even brush their teeth: they could just turn off the TV and sleep right where they sat. What a timesaver. But my older daughter–the 14-year old–wasn’t having any of it, and took me upstairs to let me down gently.
“Mom. It’s only 10. People stay up late at sleepovers.”
“I know,” I said, “but I’m so tired. My espresso plan is backfiring, and I’m dozing off in my bedroom.”
To which she replied, with the compassion that only the child of a single parent can have: “Well, why don’t you take a little nap, and I’ll watch them for a while.”
Darting quickly in my brain—amidst the gratitude–was a recent news story about an 8 year old boy who took his 3 year old sister to the store in the middle of the night. In the car. Their mom wasn’t inattentive; she was just like me–exhausted, and sleeping, and unaware that her kids driving themselves to the store was even on the menu. I mean, we know we should hide the gun, the matches and the porn; but when did “car keys” get added to the list?
And it wasn’t that far-fetched: my daughter, Livy, and the friend that she had over, Lauren—separately and under normal circumstances—are two kids who try their best not to break the rules, but, together, at their first sleepover, these two KidPub authors who pen stories about ninja bunny rabbits could easily spawn themselves into a deep group-think which might result in kite-flying on the roof, jello shots, or artistic endeavors using crayons they melted over the space heater.
But….then again. Maybe they wouldn’t. Most likely they would not. And, who are we kidding, anyways? I’m 43 and was tired as shit: sleep was definitely worth the risk. I’m not a freaking martyr here, self-flagellating for the benefit of my kids. I just wanted some rest. End of story.
Forty-five minutes later, I call them up to bed. It’s 11 now. Comfortably within the bedtime zone of a Just-Good-Enough sleepover. Which, lately, has been my parenting benchmark: Just Good Enough.
They’re so compliant that it’s just a dream. A dream in which they are jammied, teeth-brushed, and quiet in their beds within 15 minutes—no giggling, no talking—and, as I crawl into bed, the vision of uninterrupted sleep makes me delirious with optimism. ‘Sleepovers!’ I thought, ‘Now why exactly did I hate them so much? I’m going to pamper those darling girls tomorrow morning, with Nintendo DS playing and hot chocolate in bed while I make their favorite breakfast.’
The first sign that something was amiss came nine hours later, when I woke them up. Now they are in the same twin bed, with the covers slipping off the side, and I deliver their hot chocolate and ask if I can get their Nintendo DSs for them. Just-Good-Enough now morphing into Super-Parent.
They say, ‘No. We have our DS’s right here’ and reach under their pillows to retrieve them. When I said good night to them the night before, their DS’s had been charging on the dresser.
But I’m not that bright I guess because it slips by me at first.
I say, ‘You guys slept so good last night.” Livy pulls her iPhone out from under her pillow too. Where’d that come from?, I thought. Neurons start to fire. Then—after a minute of whispering–their pride-filled confessions come out, bucket lists are revealed, and they proceed to give me the electronic recipe that made it possible for them to stay awake all night. That’s right. All night. First, they said, they played Animal Crossing, then Super Mario Land, then Minecraft before allowing themselves some sleep at 5 a.m. and getting back up at 7 for more electronic play time. Being “plugged in” all night to their devices apparently leading to an untiredness akin to both of them being plugged in to the wall by some invisible power cord.
I doubt them at first, ‘cause, at age 43, I just can’t muster a memory wherein I wasn’t some degree of real-freaking-tired at 2 in the morning, but when I voice my doubts, Lauren starts crying (her parents have arrived by this time) and begins to sob that falling asleep at 5 a.m. means they didn’t stay up ALL night, and now—sob—to complete her bucket list “I have to stay up all night AGAIN!” The parents all conspire to assure her that anything past 4 a.m. qualifies for “ALL night.” It’s the least we could do since we have bucket lists of our own, and understand the necessity of such shortcuts.
Livy and Lauren—exhausted–returned to normal human functioning. More or less. Going/staying home in a sleep-deprived haze.
But I was still thinking about it. The thing is, I wasn’t disappointed that they tricked me about their plan, or angry that they rotted their brains all night with the electronics: I was impressed. ‘Cause being tired is my nemesis. Tiredness is the enemy of the Funnest Sleepover Ever! and of cabinet painting and guinea pig cage cleaning and dog walking and setting up photo albums and reading whole books out loud with my kids.
What I wouldn’t give to be juiced up now and then. Powered up with a bit more energy or time, so that Just-Good-Enough could be permanently retired, and I could head into No-Regrets parenting. Or Taking-the-Kids-Hiking-on-the-Weekend-so-We-Have-Time-To-Shoot-the-Shit parenting. Or I-Didn’t-Let-That-Fucking-Divorce-Change-Me parenting.
But, it’s all moot, and theoretical. I’m plugless.
This weekend, though—at Livy’s long postponed sleepover with another friend—I decided to make a simple adjustment to the sleepover procedures. Thinking about hidden car keys and night drives to the store by 8 year olds, I gathered the DSs and the iPhone at bedtime and put them in my nightstand.
So, here I am, managing sleepovers with pat downs and confiscations. The whole thing is pretty funny. Which I guess means that there are some still-developing upsides to Just-Good-Enough.