Stretching back into my childhood, I have always had trouble sleeping. I’ve always been great at napping, but sleeping always came with anxiety. Those two things, napping well and sleeping unwell, are most likely connected, yet that still doesn’t stop me, present day, from prolonging an unpleasant task with a mid-afternoon or even 10 pm nap. You only live once, amirite? Why not sleep like a domesticated animal? Whenever sleepiness threatens, just lay down whenever you are and succumb. Someone might even come by and rub your belly, you never know.
But sleeping at the appropriate time to wake up at an appropriate time had always caused me stress. Maybe it was learned behavior – my mom is a light sleeper due to being a mother and my grandfather was an insomniac due to being a soldier in WWII. Or maybe it’s just ingrained genetically or a hiccup in my brain. Like my brain rationed melatonin. All the naps during the day left none at night.
But knowing that I could never sleep always did and still does lead to an anal retentiveness about sleeping. First, there’s the math involved. “If I have to be up at 10, and the daily recommended hours of sleep is 7 to 8, then I need to be asleep as early as 2 and no later than 3.” Then you watch Netflix till 5am. You ruined it. It has to be dark, but not too dark. It has to be quiet, but not too quiet. As a kid, what I wore was also a big concern. I could only sleep in long t-shirts and socks. No pants. I dressed like Scrooge McDuck for bedtime. My outfit for the next day at school had to either be planned mentally or laid out physically. My book bag had to be ready to go, packed with my homework. My lunch had to be made and waiting in the fridge.
As an adult, this isn’t really the same anymore. If I have trouble sleeping, I just pop a borrowed Xanie or swig a little Zquil. Problem solved. Or I get blind drunk – but that doesn’t really work because then I wake up 3 hours later with the shakes. No good. Sometimes I plan out my outfit, think about what bag I’ll use and sometimes I think about what I’ll eat. But that’s usually to quell the adult carnival of problems that roll around my brain like,”Highlights or lowlights? Both.” and the ever popular, “Will I end up penniless?”
But let’s not minimize 5 year old Katie’s problems. She had some big ones. For example, I often lost a sock in the middle of the night. I would wake up in a panic, with the realization that I had lost a sock or, even more traumatically, both socks. The sock(s) would always be lost in the tangle of blanket and sheet. After groping around in the dark, unable to recover them, I would inevitably panic. I couldn’t just take new socks from my drawer and put them on. I HAD to find the one(s) that were seemingly forever lost in my bedclothes. It just wouldn’t do. Scrooge McDuck wouldn’t stand for that, either. Besides, my super sensitive melatonin depended on it. I had to be up and ready for kindergarten in 3.56 hours. And so, with small child logic, I would go across the hall and wake up my sleeping mother, the perpetual problem solver. After explaining the harrowing event that had taken place in my bedroom, complete with hand wringing and most likely tears, she would follow me back in my bedroom and help me find my lost sock(s).
I remember the last night I ever did this to her. I stood near the head of my bed, wringing my hands in worry. The room was dark, only lit from the hallway light streaming through the open door. Standing in that dim rectangle illumination, my mother, slumped over from sleepiness, shook out my blanket, trying to shake the captive sock(s) free. Then she stopped, her arms falling in defeat, unable to find the sock(s). She looked at me with ringed bagged eyes, and said, “You have to stop doing this.” My chin trembled.
And this is the reason why I don’t want to have children.