The other day, I was regaling a friend with a story of the previous night, a rather atypical evening riddled with Aura’s 10 and 11 p.m. wake-ups and then her sudden bout of midnight-timed chatter. “Oh, you poor thing,” the other mother said when I finished. “You must be so tired, not having gone to bed until after midnight!”

Since I have never been one to turn down free pity, I simply nodded, trying my best for the expression all those subjects in medieval martyr paintings have, that half-smile/half-grimace that makes you really wish you named your kid Joan of Arc instead of Aura, the goddess of breezes in completely unsaintly and nudity-laden Greek mythology.

Umm…oh yes. My point: I kind of hedged the truth. I was still wide awake when Aura woke up for the umpteenth time at midnight, probably tooling around on my laptop or contemplating the wisdom of buying black matte flatware.

Nice? Pretentious? Capable of showing every scratch? I'm all for advice.

That’s because I’m almost always still awake at midnight. I love the night, and always have. This wasn’t an easy thing to manage growing up, especially with a chirpy morning-person mother who was a firm believer in a Good Night’s Sleep, Especially If You Want to Do Well Enough in High School to Get into a Good College.  But once I arrived at the promised Good College (okay, so thanks, Mom), I indulged. Strolls around campus at eleven at night, forays to the university library at two in the morning, impromptu rides for pancakes hours after midnight…the darker, the better.

And it’s still that way. While I was pregnant, I harbored a gnawing fear that I’d have to change, that becoming a mother would mean that I would finally have to give up late nights, in favor of earlier mornings. Yet that hasn’t quite happened. Sure, Aura goes through phases when she’s rising near dawn, but they’re rare. I realize this is in large part because we have trained her to go to bed a bit later than her peers and therefore also wake up a bit later. And I know it won’t last forever, especially once kindergarten begins. But for now I’m thankful to still have my favorite part of the 24 hours, when the sun finally sinks out of sight and the night stretches before me, complete and thick and somehow full of more possibility than the day ever was.

I just hope Aura is better at surviving fewer than eight hours of sleep than I am. If not, I have a feeling we’ll be having the Good College talk sooner than later. But you better believe we’ll have it at night.


I admit: I haven’t been the brightest ray of sunshine around the old homestead as of late. There are probably all kinds of small and inconsequential reasons for this, although I think much of my mood stems from the fact that Aura has been battling one small illness after another these past two months. She always gets better, thankfully, but I can’t help but feel that the two of us have spent more time in doctors’ offices than playgrounds recently.

I know that the getting-better is the important thing. And of course I know that a healthy-happy-Aura is the essential part. Yet sometimes I get so…tired. At the risk of repeating about 500,000 other momblog posts out there, this staying-at-home thing is often (for me, at least) bone-numbingly tired. I have edited entire teacher-edition textbooks, stayed up until all hours of the night planning conferences and writing sixth-grader-friendly recaps of the American Revolution. But nothing compares. Nothing.

And sometimes the exhaustion translates into times when I allow myself to wallow in self-pity, in these absolutely disgusting woe-is-me moments where I dwell on the time, the energy, the dedication required to raise a child all day, every day—and to do it the Correct Way. I listen to other mothers talk about how they can leave their children with nearby relatives, and I envy. I hear about husbands who never travel for work, and I sigh. I read magazine articles about children who can play by themselves for a full hour (happily! while dressed in designer corduroys!), and I rub my eyes out of sheer frustration.

Yesterday, that familiar overwhelming feeling of OhGodItNeverStops started to slither through me again. I was on the phone with Adam, who was regaling me with tales of the highbrow cocktail bars and restaurants he’s been sampling while down in New Orleans for a conference. As he was describing what he had ordered for dinner the night before, I was trying to get the vomit out of Aura’s sheets, since a coughing fit had triggered her delicate (read: pain-in-the-ass) gag reflex the night before.

While I balanced the phone between my ear and loaded the detergent into the washer, I found myself tearing up. I interrupted Adam. “This is not the life I pictured for myself,” I said. Adam paused, then said he understood. He said we’d work on making it easier. I sighed, said to ignore me, and wished him good luck in the talk he was about to deliver.

I left shortly after that to retrieve Aura from her two-and-a-half hours at preschool, making a quick detour to the Chamber of Commerce to pick up an end-of-year gift card for her teacher. I had to park a couple of blocks away, and as I was making my way to the office building, my shoulders hunched and head drooped, an enormous gust of wind came out of nowhere. I looked up in surprise, and at that moment a very large, mercifully empty Dunkin’ Donuts cup came flying at me, clunking into the side of my head with admirable velocity and commendable force.

Then the wind died down. The cup rolled to a stop at my feet. As I bent to pick it up and toss it into a nearby trash can, I heard myself laughing. I chuckled a little more when I got back into the car, snickered as I drove to Aura’s school, and mustered up a fully genuine chortle as I parked. And when I walked into her classroom, on the last day of school in what was her first-ever year of preschool, I smiled again.

Because as Aura, completely healthy and completely happy, reached out her still-small arms for a hug, it struck me: Maybe all anyone needs is to be hit in the head once in a while. I tell you, it snaps you right out of it.