When you can't get quality sleep, I guess you go for the next best thing: a greater quantity of sleep. Anyway, that was my approach last night, when we spent 10+ hours in or around the bed.
The evening's progress had made it clear that good sleep would not be in the cards. Lauren is away for most of the weekend, so it was just me and our two girls (and the dog and guinea pig). Our almost-5-year-old, T, is in the middle of a cold, and our 2 1/2 year-old, A, is in the midst of non-napping and destructo-tot phases. And whereas Thursday night seemed to prove that children's sudafed does, in fact, need to be taken precisely every four hours, Friday evening was apparently demonstrating just how quickly drug tolerance can develop, because just an hour or two in, T seemed miserable. So T was fussing and crying, while A was trying to destroy one or more Christmas trees, or maybe my computer, or the TV, or... whatever was close at hand. Meanwhile, I seem to be picking up T's headache, which despite adult sudafed seemed intent on giving me a sinus headache.
Yeah, it was that kind of night.
So we went to bed as early as I could bring myself to give T another dose of sudafed before the 4 hours was up. For some reason, A wanted us all to lay in her sister's bed--a twin bed--and got really upset when I said no, we would sleep in mommy and daddy's bed. There I lay, T snuggled in the crook of my right arm, A in the crook of my left arm. T crying and fussing and coughing in my right ear, A crying and fussing in my left ear. I tried singing our tried and true lullabyes, and I may have "tried" losing my temper. All the while, my headache was building.
And then, I just took a deep, meditative breath, and decided to reframe it all in my head. I have a headache, but it's just a sinus headache, just a symptom of a cold; it's not a brain tumor or a cerebral aneurysm. My daughter was upset and difficult to comfort because of a sore throat, stuffy nose, and the aches and pains of a cold; how much harder would it be to comfort her if she suffered from leukemia or cystic fibrosis or any number of fatal diseases? It can be hard on nights like this to be alone with the girls, but besides the fact that my wife has also had to do when I've been gone somewhere, I considered the people who have to be single parents all the time, or the people who are separated or divorced and don't have the opportunity to be with their children as often as they would like.
And I felt gratitude. I was able to give myself a little perspective, to remind myself of how lucky I really am, even in the midst of circumstances that moments before made me feel lousy and frustrated and unhappy. That's not to say that my headache disappeared--it didn't, lingering through the next several times I woke up during the night. That's not to say that my children instantly quieted down, but they did quiet down before too long. Giving myself a new perspective wasn't magic, it didn't make a single problem go away, it just made them easier to deal with them. It gave me a core of serenity that served me well.
“It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, this is the highest of arts.”-- Henry David Thoreau