This imperfect life

It’s 2am and the baby is awake. I’m walking up and down the corridor carrying him, trying not to trip on strewn blocks and books and clothes and pencils and trucks. Even in the semi-darkness the house is unmanaged chaos. And I really, really, really want to go back to sleep.

But the baby is awake.

He curls his head into my chest like he’s ready to settle for thirty seconds or so, then he kicks and squirms and wriggles and demands change. I swap arms, the ache in my back a gentle burn. I walk with a rhythm, like a dance, a tiny bounce for every step. The baby is heavy. Almost 12 kg now. That’s a lot of potatoes.

I count each length of the hall we walk. Around 200 I kind of lose track. I think about the chocolate mousse that I had for dessert, one of those tiny ones from the supermarket fridge that comes in a small plastic bowl, more waste than pleasure – but still, some pleasure – and I think, well at least I’m walking it off.

My partner is up, sitting at his desk in the lounge room working. He’s a programmer. Programmers are known for being obsessive, for keeping crazy insomniac schedules and he is no exception. Right now, in my tired haze, I’m pissed off that he is still up, that the click click of the keyboard and the dim light of the unnecessarily enormous screen is distracting the baby at the end of each lap, jerking him back into wakefulness. If I make the lap shorter, so the baby can’t see the screen, I won’t achieve the proper rhythm that I need to get him to sleep.

At work earlier today, in a parallel but completely separate universe, a colleague had expressed surprise that my one year old still often wakes once a night. ‘We don’t permit that,’ he said. His baby is six months old. Now, at 2am, with Jack in my arms, I wonder how that works? How do you forbid a child from waking?

I know the answer. You ignore them when they cry. You don’t hold them in the middle of the night. You don’t offer them milk. You certainly don’t do laps with them like some kind of mobile baby-soothing device.

‘You’re making a rod for your own back,’ he’d said, while I had waited in the break-out area with my teabag and my cup for the kettle to boil. This was something I had heard that people will say to other people, but I’d never actually had someone say it to me before, about my baby.

I wonder about this, too, as I walk the hallway. I’m half asleep and not exactly sure what it means. Is the rod for hitting yourself with? Or is it one that makes you stand up straighter?

The baby is still awake. I think it’s a bit after 2 but it’s actually hard to tell because he reset the clock on the stove earlier in the day. He loves anything that beeps, or has buttons or dials. The clock says 2214 in a faint green glow but I know that’s way off.

For a moment I have a vision of a different house, a different life. One in which, by this time of night, order and silence reign over clear and pristine surfaces. One in which babies are not permitted to wake. One in which clocks tell the exact time, always.

But this is the life I’ve chosen. I drink wine instead of tidying up of an evening. I let my baby play with whichever things he’s interested in so long as I’m fairly sure they won’t hurt him, even though it is always messy and sometimes inconvenient to his parents. And when he wakes in the night and doesn’t go back to sleep by himself, I hold him until he does.

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