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This is my entry this week for therealljidol. I invite you to read and vote for the many fine entries. This week's topic is "the weak force."

Which is stronger: a mountain or a raindrop? The mountain seems stronger, but over 1,000 years, with enough rain, the mountain may be smoothed down. Rubbed away. Gullied.

We attended a breast-feeding class before I gave birth to my little Kung Fu Panda nearly 2 years ago. The instructor asked everyone to name a time when they were sleep-deprived. We shared with her our experiences staffing one of the largest North American conventions celebrating Japanese anime and culture, Otakon. It's a well-known fact that by Saturday, much of the Otakon staff has a 1,000-mile stare. Either because of dedication to work or from staying up after hours, everyone is functioning on an average of four hours a night.

After the class shared their worst sleep-deprivation experiences, our instructor asked us what we did afterwards. We all did the same thing: sleep. At this point, she informed us that the experience we were heading inexorably towards would be similar to the most sleep-deprived, stressful time in our lives, except there would be no sleeping in.

We pooh-poohed her. We called her alarmist. She was right.

In my case, it's slightly worse. I am a stay-at-home mom but also a freelance writer and a telecommuter. This means I must stay up, sometimes until 3 or 4 a.m., to finish my work, and yet I'm awoken each day before 9 a.m. (10, if I'm lucky). In KFP's early days, we took luxurious two-hour naps. Nothing is so heavenly as snoring next to your baby, summer breezes floating in the window, a purring cat near your pillow, as alt-folk music serenades you.

Nowadays, such naps are but a dream. I snooze uneasily on the couch while my son watches "Sesame Street." Usually, he climbs on me periodically to give me full-body hugs. Almost always, when the "Elmo's World" segment comes on near the end, he nudges me to wake up. Elmo is a delight that must be shared.

It's like Saturday at Otakon, all the time. I walk around with my thousand-mile stare, dropping keys, forgetting my husband's birthday. I feel like the kid in that famous viral video, David after Dentist, asking, "Is this real life?" The way things waver. The fuzziness of it all. Drip, drip, drip.

I thought I was fine until recently, when I realized that sometimes I write down the wrong words for things. My brain has its own "self-correcting" software, like my Droid phone. Most of the time, the mistakes are homonyms, but sometimes they're not, like when I wrote down "lies" instead of "life."

I'm reminded of the way I used to sleep-grade in grad school. I was a teaching assistant for an English composition class. As I was grading papers one night, I started to fall asleep but somehow continued to write. When I woke up, I was disoriented. Most of my scrawl was indistinct except for one word: "pizza."

When you wear enough away, the body only knows how to keep going. It demands subsistence things: food, sleep, shelter. When it doesn't get those things, it gets desperate. It starts to cry out, and it can happen without warning. Drip, drip, drip.

This afternoon, my son and I joined my husband for lunch, because I had forgotten to get my husband's signature on the tax forms I'd spent all weekend preparing. While waiting for our son's food, as my husband and I ate soup, I opened a pack of crackers and gave one to KFP. He was delighted at this new toy. It made wonderful clicking noises when tapped on the table. We told him that he could eat it, too, if he wanted. "No," he said, and tried to put it back in the packet (Generally speaking, he is very polite when declining food, putting it back in the container, if available).

Of course, the cracker wouldn't go back. Cracker packets are designed for one purpose: to be opened. My son did not know this, and he cried his frustration to the ceiling. Why wouldn't his fingers do what he wanted them to do?

I wanted to tell him, "It's a little thing. Let it go." But I know it wasn't the crackers that bothered him. And it wasn't the wooden train that came apart when he picked it up. It wasn't the stubborn Velcro on his shoe. It wasn't his inability to articulate what he wants. It's not any one of these things. It's all of these small, weak problems, wearing away at his patience. When he's had enough, he gives way to wailing and teeth gnashing. I know how he feels.

Somehow, I've got to show him that we mountains are the strong ones. As I double and triple check the tax forms that years ago I could have filled out in my sleep (ironic, right?); as I accidentally knock the silverware clattering to the floor and mutter "Gosh," I need to demonstrate that we can stand up to storms, and the water will run off our faces. And yes, the small things can wear you down, but that doesn't mean you stop trying. Each drip, each drop, it changes us, but in time it smooths out our rough spots, gives us character, makes us majestic and wise.

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( 41 comments — Leave a comment )
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Apr. 17th, 2012 12:37 am (UTC)
Beautifully written and expressed, and oh - I just want to give you a hug and a mug of the beverage of your choice.

I hope you get sleep and rest soon.

And yeah - I get the thing with the lots of little things piling up. It happened to me this week.

Apr. 17th, 2012 12:53 am (UTC)
When you get to a point where the phone rings, and your first response is "What NOW?" then it's time for a break!

I hope things get easier for you, too. I'll have some cold-brewed tea with a little sugar, please.
Apr. 17th, 2012 02:24 am (UTC)
::hugs:: I always think one of the hardest parts of parenting is the lack of sleep.

I don't get enough myself but it's finally better than it used to be, now that my youngest child is 5 and almost always sleeping through the night.

Perhaps, in time, Panda might go to a Mom's morning out or something like that? Of course, these decisions are yours. But even just a couple hours in the morning once or twice a week might help you..work sometimes is done faster without little ones trying to get attention (believe me, I know! The interuptions are constant!) and/or you could even use that time for a nap.

Your time is coming, if you can hang on.

I don't know also if this is an option..perhaps now and then your husband could take Panda out for an hour while you catch a nap on a weekend or something?

Just a couple ideas you probably already thought of.

I hate those tired times. You WILL make it to the other side.

When I am real tired, I can't think of the words I need to use. I call it "losing my nouns." When that happens, I know my brain is shutting down.

I hope you can work out something in time. I wish I could help you in some way, sincerely.
Apr. 17th, 2012 03:04 am (UTC)
Thank you for the great ideas. I do some of them already, and we'll be actively looking into nursery school for him. I'm also playing around with the idea of asking a good friend if she'd like to come hang out with him every once in a while for a couple hours while I either get some work done or take a nap.

I like that phrase, "losing my nouns."
(no subject) - similiesslip - Apr. 17th, 2012 03:11 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 17th, 2012 02:36 am (UTC)
I love how you create hope not only for your child but for yourself in the last line. A beautiful circle.

One minor piece of concrit, if it's helpful - at first I thought Otakon was a mountain and you were some kind of ranger, which, looking back, is not hinted at at all by you, so I clearly pulled that out of my own thin air :) But maybe just a one or two word explanation as well as the link?

The details about your son are, as always, so engaging - thank you for sharing part of motherhood with someone (me!) who's never going to have that experience :)
Apr. 17th, 2012 03:03 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for that suggestion. I'm obviously too inside the geek world, so that I thought everyone should know what Otakon is. :) I added a few words that explains it, so that people don't need to visit the link to understand.

I really do think there's hope. My son is so much like me, personality wise, that it's not even funny. When I see how he reacts to things, if I think it's inappropriate or troublesome, I often discover that he's patterning his response to things on me. However, he is very malleable and learns easily, and it's been easy to pattern more positive behaviors for him to follow.

Glad that you appreciated the details about my son. I try not to talk about him every week, but this time, it was a natural fit.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 5th, 2012 07:14 pm (UTC)
If you do get to that stage, just remember that everything is a phase. I do still love our joint naps, when they happen. Sorry about the delayed response!
Apr. 17th, 2012 03:13 am (UTC)
An insightful entry. Loved.
Jul. 5th, 2012 07:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Sorry about the delayed response!
Apr. 17th, 2012 04:14 am (UTC)
I have yet to fall asleep while grading. I'm pretty sure it's just a matter of time.
Jul. 5th, 2012 07:15 pm (UTC)
The sleep writing is what makes it interesting.

Sorry about the delayed response!
Apr. 17th, 2012 08:42 pm (UTC)
You sound so hopeful, and it makes me smile. :)
Jul. 5th, 2012 07:16 pm (UTC)
Glad to hear it! I always try to keep hope alive, no matter how stressed I get.

Sorry about the delayed response!
Apr. 17th, 2012 10:58 pm (UTC)
Very evocative. I love the little story of trying to get the cracker back in the packet.

I am unmarried and childless. I miss the love and the feeling of such a miraculous accomplishment, I guess sleep is the consolation.

My mom assures me it is temporary..and that you will eventually get something resembling normal sleep.
Jul. 5th, 2012 07:17 pm (UTC)
That's a relief. Sleep is not the only thing that falls prey to toddlers. Sorry about the delayed response!
Apr. 18th, 2012 03:12 am (UTC)
I've never been married, never had a child.... but *OH* do I know sleep deprivation. And how.

You have my sympathies... as well as my praise. This was a fascinating true-to-life take on the prompt. Nicely done.
Jul. 5th, 2012 07:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you! In a way, it pushes me to test my limits, which is a good thing.

Sorry about the delayed response!
Apr. 18th, 2012 08:01 am (UTC)
I know far too well this feeling! You describe it perfectly. It's when we're sleep deprived that the little things just add up and tip us over the edge :)
Jul. 5th, 2012 07:19 pm (UTC)
Completely! Glad you enjoyed it.

Sorry about the delayed response!
Apr. 18th, 2012 05:34 pm (UTC)
*hugs* This is lovely. :)
Jul. 5th, 2012 07:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much. Sorry about the delayed response!
(no subject) - jem0000000 - Jul. 7th, 2012 04:58 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 18th, 2012 08:27 pm (UTC)
Very sweet. I loved hearing that' Elmo is a delight that must be shared.' I remember that so well when the grandkids were younger!
Jul. 5th, 2012 07:20 pm (UTC)
Of course, I love Elmo, too, so that's OK with me. Sorry about the delayed response!
Apr. 19th, 2012 12:32 am (UTC)
This is absolutely beautifully written. Though parenting is something I can't relate to, I think you paint a very vivid picture for us and do a great job of showing us the highs and lows of it all... and of showing us the beauty of it!
Jul. 5th, 2012 07:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you could appreciate it.

Sorry about the delayed response!
Apr. 19th, 2012 01:39 am (UTC)
*hands you a warm blanket, a soft pillow, and the number for a good babysitter*

Well done!
Jul. 5th, 2012 07:21 pm (UTC)
Thanks very much! I could use all of that.

Sorry about the delayed response!
Apr. 19th, 2012 01:45 am (UTC)
I could see the analogy, uh huh... and then at the end when you gave the examples about your son it went CLICK! YES!!
Jul. 5th, 2012 07:22 pm (UTC)
Good! It was sort of an accumulative effect I was going for.

Sorry about the delayed response!
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