I spoke too soon – we are deep into jet lag / travel trauma right now. Last night (fourth night home) I found myself marching up and down through my kitchen and living room, in the dark grey of 4am, trying to put a baby to sleep like it was one year ago, except it is not one year ago and my baby is now 12 kg, with the ability to stay up for hours and hours and hours if he so likes, and the willpower to fight me minute by screaming minute. I had to rock him to sleep six times last night, and each time I put him down in his crib apparently fast asleep, he popped right up yelling. The final time it happened, I leaned over his crib and hissed at him, knowing full well that nobody in the history of the world has ever been successfully scolded to sleep, that he would just get more upset, and that I was yelling solely for my cathartic benefit. Sure enough, he clutched his little pillow and sobbed and sobbed, which didn’t make me less angry. You should know better. What are you crying about anyway?
I grabbed him roughly from his crib without a word, and plonked him down on my living room floor. There we both sat, me staring at the carpet in stony silence, him giggling at absolutely nothing. Relieved to be out of his room, his crib, and whatever terrors they held for him. Relieved to see my face in the soft light, and the outline of all his toys, which he didn’t want to play with. Instead, he played with my foot, pushing it back and forth and round and round. I checked the clock and told myself, this too shall pass. It always does. We yawned together, and at the seventh yawn, I scooped him up, did the sleepy march around the house, and then rocked him to sleep by the side of his crib while fantasizing about a tall chair that I could rest myself against. It’s amazing how much longer you can hold on even when you can’t hold on any longer, when there’s a sleeping baby in your arms.
I know it’s not just jet lag that we are up against – it is him frenetic with excitement that he’s back home. In the day, he is happier than I remember him ever being (Wonder Week just over too), giggling at silly nothings and cooing happily while he snuggles and hugs and touches our faces. He’s remembering his favourite spots and things and there’s not enough time in the day to do it all.
Tonight, it will be better. So we mothers and fathers all around the world tell ourselves. Tonight will be the night that it will all turn around. Tonight, we will push through and make it out the other side, emotions in place and bodies rested. Settled.
By the way, I owe you this: