One night recently I was deep asleep when my Mommy Sense when off. I swam up out of blessed oblivion to the sound of little feet on the stairs. One might marvel that such a tiny patter could be heard from sleep, until one realizes that preschoolers do not tread lightly. No, despite their relatively small feet, they stomp with gusto everywhere they go. So I awoke to a sort of crescendo drumroll outside my bedroom door, courtesy of a scared three year old boy.
He was frightened - maybe a nightmare, maybe the dark; he couldn't articulate it in his half-awake frame of mind. But it didn't really matter; I told him to climb on in. He clambered into our bed and snuggled down between my husband and me. It was sweet, really - until he turned sideways, with his head on his daddy's shoulder, and started kicking me in the kidneys. I told him to quit and pushed his feet away, but I'm pretty sure that (unlike me) he wasn't totally awake. This went on for some time. By 6:30 I was well over any joy I felt at letting the little tyke join us in bed to soothe his nightmares. Of course, it was also time to go get the baby, who had started crying. I got up, left the preschooler in my bed and retrieved my infant. All that day I was a zombie, complete with the urge to grab strangers and bite them.
Sleep deprivation is a special part of parenting. Also known as a form of torture in some places, being perpetually sleep deprived causes muscle aches, depression, irritability, an inability to concentrate, headaches, memory loss, weight loss or gain, weakened immune system and dangerously contagious yawning. It's maddening to anyone, especially a parent who has to be on call 24/7. Maddening also to a pagan, whose religious expression centers upon being able to CONCENTRATE. Being perpetually sleep-deprived wreaks havoc upon my capacity for magical work. After I'm up half the night with a child, I inevitably drink several cups of coffee or soda in an attempt to jump-start myself with the glory of caffeine. After this I might be awake, but I'm sure not concentrating. At least not any one thing for very long. My sentences get short. Choppy. My temper too. I know I've had a snappy day when I hear my preschooler explaining to a stuffed animal, "Sometimes mamas get cranky." Boy, talk about putting me in my place.
Those are the moments I step back. I take a deep breath and remind myself of a few things. One, that I am an adult and I have control over my words and actions; I can't blame them, or my night, or my mood for what I do, because I am in control. My circumstances are not in control of me. Two, I must be deliberate in my actions because the intention I send out into the world is powerful. Three, everything that I do will come back on me three times over.
The law of threefold return is especially well illustrated with children. Say a curse word once, you will hear it from them three times at the very minimum, usually in the company of a grandparent, teacher or other authority. Take an action against a child, and you will get back three times the reaction you expected (hence the grocery store tantrums over gumdrops.) Love a child, and they will give love back three times over, paid in hugs, kisses and unsolicited proclamations of everlasting adoration.
All I have to do is pay attention to them to know how I'm doing. So far they seem happy, healthy and relatively normal. Through them, I will influence the world in ways far greater than I myself will ever achieve alone. It's important Work; it deserves my time and my deliberate actions, even when I don't feel like it. Even when I'm sleep deprived. Good thing, since I'm likely to stay that way for awhile. Or, as my sister-in-law likes to put it, you can get mad, but you can't act ugly. And that goes double for parents. Me especially. Our kids, they deserve it.
Besides, I may as well be nice; it's what's going to come back on me in the long run.
About the Author: Julie Cox is a new pagan writer and artist who lives with her two young children and husband in Texas. She carries degrees in both Art and Religion. To see more of Julie's artwork go to Shopping and Art gallery on our main menu.