Insomnia and My Almost Teen

It was 11pm and Gleek was awake. I’d turned out her lights at 9, right on schedule. Then there was quiet, until she called me to ask a question. Thirty minutes after that there was a snack request. Then another question. Each time it was an alert that I was still on parenting duty. It aborted my relaxation in advance of my own bedtime. I couldn’t even rely on Howard’s help because he’d desperately needed to go to bed early. That was another source of tension, the need to not wake him up. All the other kids went to bed, even seventeen year old Kiki, who is six years older than Gleek. It was just Gleek and I awake. I turned out the lights and crawled into bed, hoping that this time there would be no call, that silence finally meant sleep.

In the dark of my room, I thought of the times when I have insomnia. I remembered how my brain would race and worry about the silliest things. Fear looms large in the darkness. The day had not been all I meant for it to be. Less of my attention landed on the kids than I’d intended. Bedtime is one of the best times to find out what is going on inside your kids’ brains. They’re willing to talk because that seems better than sleep, but all I’d done was march into Gleek’s room and vent a frustrated “Just go to sleep” as if sleep was hers to command, when I know that it is not.

I sighed and climbed out of my warm bed. Then I got Gleek–who was sitting up in hers, wide awake–and we went to sit on the front room couch. We talked of insomnia–its causes and treatments. Gleek demonstrated self awareness as she described how it feels when she is tipping over into insomnia instead of sleep. She spoke of her school science fair project. We elected to feed her a snack before tucking her back in bed, hoping that this would convince her body that the correct bedtime rituals were in place to induce sleep.

Gleek is small for her age, but my days of cuddling her in my lap are over. She sat by my side in the dark with her head leaned against me, my arm around her. Next week she’ll be twelve, which marks the switch from our church’s children’s program and into the youth program. In just a couple of months we’ll be selecting her classes for junior high school. Her world is going to shift, she is going to shift. I think it is better that she have a mom willing to talk it all through at midnight than one who shouts “Go to sleep!” from the doorway. I’m not always that better mom, but I managed to do it last night and this makes me glad.

4 thoughts on “Insomnia and My Almost Teen”

  1. I’ve done a lot of the frustrated commanding lately. Between illness, schedule upset, and general household tension, our boys have been disinclined to go quietly and quickly to bed. Since I’m under all those pressures as well, I’ve been prone to jealous lashing out at threats to what little quiet time I might seize at the end of the day. I’m not sure what I can do better specifically to help them, but it’s time to start looking for it instead of barking and snapping. Thank you for the reminder, Sandra. You help me remember the kind of parent I want to be.

  2. Awesome work there Sandra. See my comment on your teens thing for some hints about why this happens… I’ll see if I can track down the research.

  3. My kids have been fighting sleep because they are cooped up inside due to bad air/cold temperatures. We’ve added more exercise to their days and it really seems to be helping. Also, my almost teen started needing less sleep over the summer. We let her stay up 1/2 hour to 1 hour later as long as she’s quietly doing her own thing. It definitely helps her to feel less anxious at bedtime and she sleeps more soundly.

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