MANHOOD: The Secret Battles of the Night
I don't always get the parenthood thing right. I do believe that talking about it helps in centimeters to make me a better man, which pours into being a positive role model for my daughter and reliable rock for my wife Allie, but no...I don't always get it right.
One of the things I ask Allie most mornings is how our 19-month-old daughter Diana Rose Williams slept, because I usually never really know. I'm an extremely heavy sleeper, and Allie is an extremely light sleeper. So when I ask the queen how the Princess Didi slept, she'll often respond with something that surprises me, like how she woke up at 3am, started bouncing around in her crib, fell out and violently cried uncontrollably before going back down at 4:30am.
Where was I during all of this? Oh, that's right. I was dead freakin' asleep.
We've hashed it in the earliest months of parenthood, because neither of us can control our sleep-gravity (I just made that phrase up), and in the moment that frustration abounds, it feels like we're justified in calling each other out for not being able to sleep lighter or heavier...which, when typing this now, feels even sillier than it did in my head...because it's our daughter who either gets clingy or feels neglected. Allie usually bites the bullet so daddy can sleep, wake up bright in early for daycare drop-off and clock in to the day-job on time. But man...it's totally insane to think of all the wild things Allie and Diana put each other through just to get through the night and get some decent rest. I'm so deeply asleep that I barely wake up an inch for any noise, so it sometimes feels like the events being told to me the morning after were made up. These invisible struggles Allie and Diana go through...these the secret battles of the night...I tend to feel awful for my lack of participation.
You wouldn't believe some of the stories I've heard about Didi during the late night/early morning, and considering that the three of us all share one room for the time being, it's unthinkable that all of that noise and toddler death-screams of hellfire would be happening all around me, and I was still ice-cold out, sleeping like a baby...literally, better than my own daughter. Does this lack of attentiveness make me less of a father than it makes my wife an exceptional mother?
I try not to believe that I'm lesser for being a heavy sleeper. It's a silly thing to feel guilt over, and the simple fact of the matter is that we are all different as grown-ups, as parents, and we often work different in our marital partnerships. For example, I've recently come to realize why these secret battles happen at all: it is because Allie LETS me sleep. Maybe it's because she loves me enough to let me keep sleeping. Maybe she doesn't want to cope with the disappointment of zombie-Justin falling back asleep on accident! Either way, she allows it. And it keeps me in check like, wait, I'm not the most important person in this family, every day. I'm not number one. She's worried about our daughter, not me, at the moment.
Going off of that, I do believe, for a marriage to work, to really work, husband and wife come first (in most cases), even before the children. It's nuts how we have the capacity to be the best parents to our daughter and the most savage, unforgiving, sour, nagging spouses to one another. Yet I realize, two people who really love each other (possibly because they know how to love themselves) often can't help but love the child(ren) they have with that person with the same vulnerability and vitality. This whole concept of these secret battles of the night....I don't HAVE to feel the guilt of my mental absence. I don't have to punish myself for the decisions that my wife makes and the discipline she employs to put our gorgeous kid back to bed. I can rest easy.
Guilt and selfishness are pretty good friends. Guilt can be good in the same ways conviction can be beneficial to betterment, but it is quite an easy thing to manipulate to oneself or unto others. Getting over the guilt of these secret battles brings me one step to loving my wife more for who she is, and for what she does. I don't know....I just found this interesting.
I'm chewing on it a little bit.