My children are not the best sleepers. It’s not their fault — they inherited a restless mind from me and a wild imagination of what lurks in the dark from their dad.
Over the years we have tried myriad strategies to help them fall asleep with varying degrees of success. This year with all the chaos in the world, we abandoned the gimmicks and opted for the one thing that always works — quietly sitting with them in their room.
I’m not sure if our presence calms their anxiety or if it merely prevents them from goofing off long enough to fall asleep. Regardless, it’s the one thing that reliably transports them to Snoozeville, freeing us to trudge back upstairs to start on the glamourous parental tasks of unloading the dishwasher and turning off the 7,000 lights that somehow were turned on throughout the day.
My husband and I have opposite approaches when it comes to sitting with the boys. For me, sitting still is just not in my nature. In order to keep myself stationary while my children (and my bottom) fall asleep, I have to distract myself. With headphones tucked in my ears and my laptop’s screen dimmed so as not to attract the attention of the not-yet slumbering kiddos in my care, I binge-watch movies and TV shows to pass the time.
Ben, on the other hand, really leans into the experience. He reads books to the kids, softly stroking their sleepy heads between chapters. He practices meditation exercises that help him unwind from the day while lulling them into their own state of rest. Or he simply lays down with them and falls asleep himself, arguably the most productive thing he can do in that moment and unarguably effective as the children peacefully drift off beside him.
He really is a show-off.
The year 2020 was a doozy. It was filled with things I hated, but also plenty of things I loved. I hated having school at home but I loved having church there. I hated how much time the kids spent on screens, but I loved how much time they spent together.
My home flooded twice, my medical bills were quadruple what they were in the previous year, and I had a change of employment that felt more like a bad divorce than a career adjustment.
But also my home was repaired twice, mine and my family’s health was sustained, and I was granted an incredible new professional opportunity I never could have imagined a year ago. There were times when I was incredibly proud of my community and times when I was frustrated and ashamed. I felt more isolated than ever before while somehow simultaneously feeling more connected.
Looking back, I fear I spent too much of this difficult year seeking distraction and not enough engaged in introspection, reflection and rejuvenation. In other words, I mastered the Netflix but neglected the chill.
I have to cut myself some slack — it was enough to endure the bad without feeling obligated to learn or grow from it all. But I also merely endured the good when I could have enjoyed it, cherished it and resolved to create more of it in my life.
The depressing/good news is that I’ll have plenty of chances to work on that in 2021. Strangely enough, the troubles that started in 2020 didn’t end with the calendar year. The election is over (and, you guys, it really is over) but now the transition officially occurs. Last year, we reckoned with the fact that there are prevalent racial injustices; this year we might actually attempt to fix them. COVID-19 controlled our country last year; God willing, through the current vaccination efforts, we just might control it this year.
2021 will no doubt have its highlights and lowlights, its blessings and cursings. I can’t pretend I won’t have headphones in some of the time. But maybe, just maybe, in another 12 months time we will all find ourselves well rested, well adjusted and well on our way to a happy new year.
Jade Stellmon set sail for a three-hour tour on the Palouse in 2001. She is now happily marooned in Moscow with her spouse and five children.