At best, the past few weeks have been disastrous. Though Ethan's greatest weakness has always been sleep, something that apparently is just optional for him most days, we've yet to see a blatant sleep strike like this before. Before you know it, it's four in the morning and you're asking your husband ludicrous questions such as "is he finally asleep now?" that make little to no sense at an hour where the sun is preparing to soon rise. Things have felt off as they tend to do when you and your toddler are thrown off of your schedule you both opt to diligently follow and into a world of chaos and spontaneity (oh, the horror!) and having to answer "I don't know" as a direct response to anything you're being asked: what's for dinner tonight? Will your husband be home from work before midnight? How many cups of coffee have you had today? What planet are you on?
We've missed playdates and classes and morning routines. We've missed opening the door to our tot school classroom and being greeted by the crisp, morning sun. We've missed so much trying to juggle a little boy who is frighteningly proud of his ability to only require four to five hours of sleep per night and the anxiety of trying to figure out why. Today saw us at the pediatrician. I can only do so much on my own before frantically begging them to solve my problems for me with the diagnosis of something easy, like another ear infection or an allergic reaction to something commonplace and harmless in typical Ethan fashion. It was neither of those things nor was it really anything at all. It was Ethan being Ethan and keeping us on our toes, blue-black bags under his eyes, his eyelids heavy but his refusal to sleep fighting harder against the pressure of exhaustion. He chose a sticker featuring Elmo on a skateboard before we exited the office and, by the time we reached the car, he didn't want to see the sticker and decided instead that it's very existence displeased him greatly.
But there are things I want to remember about these days, as much as they blur together from lack of sleep. I want to remember the way Ethan sniffs his bathbombs (why, yes, I have created a Lushie out of my toddler) before selecting which one he wants to use, though he always opts for the ones with vivid colors that he can recite the names of: Boo! Geen! Pa-pul! Ohish! I want to remember the way he pauses when his hand touches the yellow-gold one speckled with glitter and the promise of bubbles, not yet knowing the color yellow but wanting it so very badly.
I want to remember the smell of beets and strawberries rich upon his skin, crimson red stained on his cheeks, his shirt, the small of his back somehow. I want to remember the way he stands at the refrigerator, his tiny hands pounding on the door and yelling "more milk!" with such carefulness and caution, enunciating each letter with all that is in him before remembering he doesn't even like milk, not even a little bit.
I want to remember this afternoon, returning my overdue Redbox selection and waiting our turn in line for the red machine that Ethan refers to as "neat" because I am raising my child to be just as far from popular as I ever was. He wasn't happy. He was tired. I grabbed him a coupon booklet with a dinosaur on the cover. "Ni-no. Neat." "Yes, Ethan. The dino is very neat." A woman stood in line behind us now. "Hi there, little man," she said softly. Ethan stared at her for what felt like an eternity. I bit my lip and anticipated an overtired meltdown. "Book," he showed her, finally, holding up the booklet of coupons as a peace offering. "Oh, no, sweetheart, that's not a book. That's a pamphlet." I want to remember the way Ethan and I both laughed the entire drive home at the word pamphlet. Pamphlet, pamphlet, pamphlet. I'll tell you what to do with your pamphlet, lady.
I want to remember the way Ethan curls up with me during storytime, even when we read the Llama Llama books forty-seven times in a row. I want to remember the smell of his hair, the faint hint of calendula and orange oils being overpowered by sweat and dirt and fingerpaint. I want to remember these moments of exhaustion, the sleep-deprived stupor we are dancing through the days on, every last daunting task seeming like too much. I want to remember the green of the grass that sticks to the back of Ethan's knees as he runs through the yard during our sweaty, sticky Florida January. I want to remember the way he falls into my lap, his arms around my neck, his cheek against my cheek, whining in my ear about everything and yet nothing all the same. I want to remember the chants of no, no, no night-night! as I carry a wriggling thirty-pound little boy down the hall because one day he will be a teenager and our problem will be reversed, one of wanting too much sleep and there being too little time for relaxation.
I want to remember Ethan's smile, his funny chew that he invented and loves performing while eating, the uproarious laughter that occurs just before an overtired meltdown begins. I want to remember it all because this too shall pass is only slightly reassuring, very much bittersweet in theory.