Parenting a Teenager Shows Void in House
What's missing: two nighttime breathing monitors.
Friends of ours welcomed home a baby boy last week.
Every day, they post his photos on their Facebook page. His sweet face pokes out of swaddling wrapped tight as a Tootsie Roll. His eyes are closed in most of the pictures taken the day he was born.
It's nearly 17 years since we brought home our baby daughter. How well I remember the intensity of her sleep. When she was very new her Rip Van Winkle slumber was a little scary.
Through the haze of my boomeranging hormones and sleeplessness, I paid attention to every sniffle, whimper, and yawn. Sometimes, I would place a finger under our daughter's tiny nostrils to feel her baby soft exhalations. Once I put a hand mirror to her nose and inspected the circles of condensation confirming the breath of her life. She had become the breath of mine.
Thanks to the comments from the parents of babies on our friends' Facebook page, I learned about a new gizmo developed since our daughter was born. You put the device underneath the infant's mattress and it sounds an alarm if the baby stops breathing. I don't know how the device works, but ever since I discovered it, I've thought about investing in a nighttime breathing monitor system for our house.
There are nights when an alarm system would work wonders for my middle-aged sleep patterns. Take the other night, when our daughter told us she wanted to go out for the evening. By evening she meant 9:30. Her evening activities began as ours were drawing to a close. We were barely propping open our eyes over the books propped open on our blanketed bellies, when she went off to see her friends.
I never thought I would be able to fall asleep while our teenager was riding around in a car driven by another teenager, or even worse, by her. Lately, I've found myself dropping off and waking with a jolt. How could I let myself fall asleep at the wheel of the mommy bus?
When I was a senior in high school, I would come home in the early hours of the morning to the sight of my mother feverishly pressing my dad's shirts. "Why are you ironing at 1:00 in the morning?" I'd ask. Now with a teenager of my own, I fully understand why she was ironing. It gave her something to do with her hands other than wringing them.
On this particular night, I jumped up at 1:30 a.m. groggy with sleep. I grabbed my cell phone from my nightstand. I had not heard our daughter come in. There was no text from her. She had assured us she would be home by midnight before leaving in her friend's sporty black Jeep. "Bad things happen in Jeeps," my husband had muttered after she left. Horror seized my heart. His admonition seared my half sleeping mind.
In the dim light of my cell phone, my fingers tapped out a message as I imagined our daughter lying in a ditch under the Jeep. "Where R U?" I texted. No answer. Frantic, I opened the door to her room searching without my glasses for a clue I would likely not see. Her phone was buzzing and lighting up next to her bed. I was confused.
My nearsighted eyes spied the heap of covers on her bed, but not the body beneath them. "Mom, why are you calling me?" she said sleepily. "Go back to bed, I didn’t know you were home," I said. I closed her door and promptly passed out in our bedroom, exhausted from all the mental hand-wringing. To think, I could have been ironing like my mother.
I have reached the stage of parenthood where my unconscious mind is letting go of our child, while my conscious mind is holding on to her. Our house should be equipped with two nighttime breathing monitors. One to beep when our daughter begins breathing in her bed, and another to sound when I am hyperventilating in mine.
This is my last column before I take a summer sabbatical to work on other writing projects and dust off the novel I never finished. I will return in September with more adventures in parenting and stories about the mishaps and memories families make.