I’m usually awoken by the alarm clock most mornings. That wasn’t always the case. Before I retired, I would awaken before the ringing started, anticipating the start of another work day, my mind already focused on what needed to get done that day. When I woke up Wednesday morning, my husband said, “That was quite a storm last night, wasn’t it!” I told him I hadn’t heard it. ”Really?” he said. ”It was a wild one and it’s still coming down in buckets.” I listened for a moment, and sure enough, I could hear the torrents of rain gushing down the gutters. Plus, it was still quite dark, unusual even for five-thirty in the morning this time of year.
When we were a young couple with our first child, it was hard to get a good night’s sleep. One ear was always listening for a cry or a cough coming from the room across the hall. By the time the next one came along, we had instituted the Family Bed and didn’t even have to get up to tend to the kids, but with the snorts and sneezes and general flopping around of two little ones, sound sleep was not a common thing.
Then the kids grew up, as kids are wont to do, and became those rotten teenagers that keep you up until you hear their car pull in the driveway. No matter how many times they would tell you to stop worrying about them, it’s in your genes as a parent. I’d wake up the next morning, groggy and dragging because I was the adult with things to do while they stayed in bed until noon.
Sleep still evaded me after the kids were grown and gone. I was always thinking about my job and what needed to get done for the meeting in the morning or that report that was due in a few days. And I still worried about the kids. Were they happy? Would they find a good job? Would they find someone wonderful to share their life with?
And then I retired and I’ve found that more and more nights I’ve gotten a good night’s rest, the only thing disturbing my sleep is that occasional trip to the bathroom. No, it’s not that there is nothing to worry about anymore. As long as you’re a parent, your kids will be constantly on your mind. And health concerns and hoping that what you financially planned will last occupy my thoughts now and then.
But over the years, I’ve weathered so many storms, I’ve stayed awake, been vigilant time after time, and you get to the point that you know you just have to let it go. The children have to make their own way in the world, just as I did. We’ve planned our best for the future, and we have to rest on the hope that we’ve done enough. Oh, I have those occasional nights where the old worries resurface or new ones crop up, but I find there are more and more nights I’ve slept through the storm. It’s okay. I’ve earned it. Besides, I think I’m still catching up on the sleep I missed because of those rotten teenagers.
Oh, and for the record, I had trouble falling asleep last night. I couldn’t stop thinking about what I needed to pack for vacation. Even good things can keep me awake occasionally.