The house was quiet and dark. The kids had been in bed for an hour when I looked at my husband with the smile I save just for him. We didn’t need to talk about what it meant; we both knew. Our evening trek from the couch to our room had fewer stops along the way and we got into bed like teens who discover they have the house to themselves.
Except we didn’t.
Just as we started kissing and the pajamas were tossed to the nightstand, we heard it. It wasn’t the sound of a baby’s cry or a toddler calling out from a bad dream. It was the sound of heavy footsteps down the hall, coming right toward our door.
We thought we were on the road to a regular sex life.
We had made it through the years of babies and toddlers. We had paid our dues to breastfeeding interruptions and middle of the night sheet changing. We had sung lullabies and given just-one-more-kiss more times than we could count. We had paid the toll and thought we were on the highway to, well, a regular sex life.
It’s what sustained us during all of those middle of the night interruptions. This hope that one day our nights would be ours again and we could choose whether to sleep all night or have sex and fall into a heavy sleep or even sleep naked after sex. We knew that last one was still iffy (you never know when someone will need something and show up at your bedside). But we were past waking up to the ‘creepy stare of a toddler watching you sleep’ stage. We were past it all. I mean, our kids were all in middle school. Surely, we had our late nights back.
No one tells you that your kids won’t always go to bed at eight o’clock. No, they’ll stay up later and later making you wonder once again, if they’ll ever go to sleep.
All we wanted was to have sex and go to sleep. It wasn’t a ridiculous request. In fact, one may argue it is healthy and part of a strong marriage. But teens have their own way of leaving their mark and these late nights were at the top of the list.
As we scrambled for our clothes in the dark, rushing to beat the footsteps fast approaching, we battle the same feelings we had when the baby would cry.
Oh no! What does she need? My poor baby!
Oh no! What could she possibly need right now?
Oh no! Will we ever have sex again?
The knock comes just as I get my shirt pulled on. I tell her to come in as normally as possible so she doesn’t suspect her parents might be having sex (ewwww!)
“I can’t sleep.”
It’s the declaration we hear all too often. Teen internal clocks are all over the place, the same way their emotions can be. Less sleep, more sleep, can’t sleep, stress. All the things, all at once, make for a tough time falling asleep. And my baby did what she’s always done: she came to us for help.
I’m glad she did, really. We talk for a few minutes. I rub her back and try to calm her, offering just the right amount of advice so she’ll listen but not so much that she’ll tune me out. My mind has pulled a hard u-turn and I’m trying to adjust to this new direction. Comforting, soothing, reassuring. Interesting that I’m mentally sending the same thoughts to my husband.
She looks sleepy and I encourage her to head back to her bed, telling her I’m here if she needs me. Because I am. No matter what.
My husband and I both stare at the ceiling, sighing and smiling because it’s become a bit of a joke around here. We listen to her footsteps get farther away, head to her room, and flop onto her bed. We lay still, breathing, unsure of how to turn back around. Both of us wanting to course correct, yet also wanting sleep.
No one told us having a teen isn’t much different from having a baby. Here are 3 tips:
We have learned a few tricks about this stage, the same way you do when you have a baby in the house.
- Take advantage of the time when they’re not home, even if it’s right after they leave for school or while they’re at a friend’s house.
- A few nights in a hotel are worth it.
- The kids are not too old for a sleepover at Grandma and Grandpa’s.
- Use the small windows of time you have because they can be exciting in their own way.
Just keep looking for what works; giving up and waiting until they move out isn’t an option.
This night we wait in the dark, gauging time and weighing our options. Sleep is sounding better and better, but we long for what we had started. Tonight, we whisper quietly about our girl, about our life, our parenting never quite separate from our marriage. We feel the house settle in around us, hoping our girl is really asleep. Hoping it stays that way.
This night we find our way back to each other. Other nights we roll toward one another and say goodnight, truly grateful to have such disruptions while still looking forward to the nights that won’t be interrupted.
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