By: Elizabeth Redhead Kriston
On National Dance Like a Chicken Day I had an epiphany. I was never the whimsical fun-loving mom I always dreamt I’d be. Despite that truth, I thought about asking my sulky teens to dance like a chicken with me, but I realized that ship has sailed.
When my girls were babies, I planned to be that mom that did all the fun things. I would be that attentive, nurturing, silly, and adventurous mom. I’d be that mom who’d be there for them through thick and thin. I’d be that mom causing envy in all the other kids in the neighborhood and at school. I’d receive glares of disapproval from other mom’s who just couldn’t let go and give as much as I could.
Insomnia robbed me of all of that.
Now that I sleep, thanks to Sondra Kornblatt and her Restful Insomnia program which literally saved my life, I actually have more energy to be that mom I so desperately wanted to be for my little girls. The problem is, my little girls are no longer little.
When they were young and impressionable, and still thought I was awesome, I wanted to spend tons of time with them. We would get messy baking gooey chocolate chip cookies, finger painting, and gardening. We would explore new places on foot, in the car, and on bikes. We would go to every fair and festival within a 70-mile radius. We would stay up late to watch the stars and talk around camp fires. We would read the Little House on the Prairie series together snuggled up in bed until it was so late we couldn’t keep our eyes open. We would play games of spud and tag in the yard. We would visit family and friends. We would build lemonade stands and sell watered down over priced Kool-Aid to our neighbors. We would have parties and invite tons of kids over. I would suffer through their homework making science projects and dioramas of wigwams for history class. I would be the cool classroom mom and go on every field trip. I would cheer them on at sporting events or dance recitals. I would do it all.
Insomnia robbed me of all of that.
Because I never slept while they were little, I never got to do all those things. Instead, of playing in the yard and watching the stars with them, I listened to their laughter and conversations through the window as I suffered with exhaustion praying for sleep. Rather than laugh and be silly while we did chores and made dinner, I yelled and shouted, and criticized because my exhaustion made me mean and cranky. Rather than being patient and kind and a good listener, I snapped and yelled and walked away. Rather than explore the world and visit with people, I stayed in bed while their dad took them places.
I spent their formidable years in a trance induced by lack of sleep and medications that never really helped. Everyday I was overcome with anxiety, depression, and guilt. I was sad and so very, very tired.
I did everything I could to make myself well. I reached out to numerous doctors and specialists who never really took my condition seriously. Truth be told, they never really tried to help. They wrote prescriptions then wrote me off. Meanwhile, I was spiraling out of control.
I had two beautiful healthy girls whom I adore. Two girls, who I moved heaven and earth to make mine. I was not able to mother them the way I planned and dreamed. I had a husband who wanted to have a family with me, but I was absent. He did his best to hold it together. He did his best to understand and be supportive. He did his best to take on the extra responsibility of being that dad who does it all. Even he had a breaking point.
I tell you all of this because we cannot push aside true chronic and acute insomnia. It is a deeply debilitating illness. Without sleep our brains cannot function. Our emotions become out of whack. We get anxious and depressed. It stresses all of our relationships. It takes a financial toll. It makes our bodies and our minds sick. It takes away our dreams and plans.
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I know it is not too late to enjoy my girls. I love them and nurture them. I try to make them embrace their silly side, my silly side. I try to make up for the mom I couldn’t be for so many years. I try to show them that I can be kind, attentive, loving, patient, and fun. I try.
Sleep gave me back my dreams. Maybe I will ask my girls to dance like a chicken with me tonight. Maybe they will roll their eyes as teens tend to do. But maybe, just maybe, they will flap their pretend wings, and peck their pretend beaks while they cluck and strut around the house. Maybe we can let our chicken dance freak flag fly. It is never too late.