I shook him, but he didn’t wake. “Come on buddy,” I pleaded, “It’s two in the morning. Time to wake up.” I sat him up but it didn’t help. He just slumped over and continued sleeping. After five minutes, I was rewarded with two sleepy but awake brown eyes looking at me. “Mommy, I’m tired” he complained. I nodded in understanding. “Yep. That’s the point of sleep deprivation.” I took my little boy by the hand and we went downstairs. It was going to be a very long night.
Holding a coffee I sat next to my son and couldn’t help but feel guilty. I understood why the doctor had ordered a sleep deprived EEG, but it still went against my maternal instinct. I was taking away something that was vital to his health. “So…what do you want to do?” I asked him. He shrugged and yawned. I pulled out two glow sticks and a black light flashlight left over from Halloween and smiled playfully at him. “Yes!” he said giggling. I opened the package and bent the tubes. To the delight of my five year old, glowing neon lights instantly appeared. I got up and turned the lights out so the effect of the glow would be that much stronger. Then sitting in the dark next to my son, something unexpected happened that would shape our future Interactions.
My younger son was still sleeping, which meant we had to keep the house quiet. So, side by side, we snuck through the dark house with the help of the glow sticks and I introduced my little boy to the effects the little purple light had on different colors. We debated the reason it was called a “black” light when the light was in fact not black. He marveled at how flat boring colors exploded under the new purple light. He delighted at each item we shone it on. But his uncontrollable laughter at the sight of the glowing white spots on our black cat made me thankful for this test. Thankful for this time.
When the night started to fade into morning, my five year old curled up on my lap and whispered in my ear, “Can we do this again tomorrow night? This is fun.” I hugged my boy and felt conflicted as I shook my head no. He looked down and I could tell he was trying not to cry. “But I like spending time with you mommy. Can’t we please do this again?” Now it was my time to cry because I realized that it was not the novelty of being up all night that he found exciting. It was the uninterrupted, lengthy and concentrated time with me. I felt sad that this kind of time with me was something that he believed could only happen in the middle of the night. During the day we were busy at life – Grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, doctor appointments, kids at two different schools. I felt like I was always doing something and at the same time not doing anything. Filled with conflicting emotions, I grabbed my son and held him until he asked me to let go. While I loved getting such a unique and quality experience with him, I did not want to get up at two in the morning and play all night ever again. It was exhausting. I knew in that moment that my days would have to change.
In the days following the test, I felt so blessed to have had this medically mandated experience. It reminded me of the power of uninterrupted and undistracted time with my kids. I was unaware of just how busy I am during the day until everything was halted by the stillness of the night. When laundry and dinner, shopping and cleaning, school and work were all out of the way, we were left with nothing but each other. Nothing but what really matters. Thanks to a sleep deprived EEG, I have changed and reframed how I spend time with my kids. I am now trying to give them each more focused individual time doing something important to them. Even if it means I must leave the sink full of dishes when my boys need me to play with them.
A week ago I would have said “wanted” me to play. But I would have been wrong. Because regardless of the time of day, my little boys “need” their mommy. They do not need perfectly folded clothes or a sink that is free of pots. But they do need me. Since my unexpectedly fun all-nighter with my five year old, I have seen some pretty amazing changes in our interactions. He listens to me more and I yell less. He is calmer and more willing to help me around the house. He talks more and I talk less. We are both happier. While I do not yet know the results of the EEG, I do know that the testing process itself taught me about the power of connection and reminded me that the quality of the time with my kids is more important than the quantity of time itself. It’s a lesson I hope I never need to learn again.