My husband worked a 24-hour shift yesterday. This meant that I had to get the children to bed - all by myself. This is not an unusual task for me, but on Christmas Eve it felt like a monumental challenge.
E was anxious, jittery, bouncing like a ping pong ball and insisted on sleeping in my bed with everyone. B loved the idea but was much too excited to actually fall asleep in my bed. She wept quietly (not silently) while she worried about being tired yet not being able to fall asleep. She and E argued about which books to read while squished together on the left side of the bed. Z fell asleep immediately in the middle of the bed, the third child, always obedient and the one that often goes unnoticed because he is so quiet and does exactly as he is told. C, though only three-years old, somehow seemed to understand that he should not fall asleep, despite his busy, exhausting day. We tried everything to calm him down - he was literally bouncing off the walls. I had unwisely left the present wrapping until last night... so I needed - desperately needed - the kids to fall asleep. My patience with E, B and C was running out... fast. So, rather than turn into a ball of fury and frustration, I fell asleep. I awoke two hours later and found everyone asleep. I went downstairs and wrapped presents for the family, watched movies, ate pieces of red licorice and chocolate. I cleaned the house, did laundry and painfully crawled into my bed at around 5:30 am.
My husband arrived home from the hospital at 7:30 am. I was draped across the foot of my bed since all four kids were also sleeping in it, covering the remaining surface of the bed. My husband entered the dark bedroom, turned on the light and cheerfully announced that it was Christmas Day and time to wake up. I couldn't move. I couldn't smile. I could only feel how deeply I wanted to attack my husband so that he would be quiet and let me go back to sleep. It was not the best way to begin one of the best days of the year. I felt immediately my power to ruin Christmas Day for my husband... and possibly for all of our children.
I knew I needed to be cheerful.
It was painful and extremely challenging.
But I did decide to pass a new family rule: no more night calls on Christmas Eve.