My neighbors just had a new baby. His name is Jacob and he is absolutely adorable. Sometimes, when the windows are open, I can hear his cries pierce the stillness of the summer night. In the morning, I watch his weary parents push the stroller to the coffee shop at the end of the street.
“Getting any sleep?” folks inquire as they walk by.
“Not really,” the new parents report. “He was up at 2 and 4.”
Big deal. I was also up at 2 and 4 – and at 12:30 and at 3 and at 1. I’ve got two kids who are home from college and I’m getting less sleep now than I did when they were newborns – way less. In fact, I’m ready to Ferberize them.
College students sleep until lunchtime, nap in the afternoon, eat dinner at 5, nap again and then wake up and go out for the evening at 11:30 p.m. Turns out, their schedule is a lot like a newborn’s – eat, nap and party all night. The difference is, babies are little and cute; college students – not so much.
It’s not like my kids are committing crimes in the middle of the night – they are just up,
slamming doors, talking on their cell phones and carrying on all night like it is the middle of the afternoon.
I wouldn’t care about their nocturnal tendencies, except that I am someone who needs to sleep. I’m not asking for 10 hours or even the eight hours recommended by the American Medical Association. I just want the hours from midnight to 6 a.m. – hours that I would like to devote to R.E.M. so that I will be able to rise and do something called – let me explain this kids – work.
Actually, in all fairness, my kids do work. But they have summer jobs that start at 4 in the afternoon and end at 10 at night. This leaves plenty of time to come home, shower until the hot water runs out and get ready for the night. They seem to thrive on this inverted schedule. It must be youth … or maybe it’s the naps.
Having them home for the summer has been a readjustment for everyone. They’ve had to
adjust to the fact that our kitchen doesn’t have a taco station or a salad bar, and I’ve had to ramp up my grocery shopping to compensate for the massive amounts of expensive, not-from-concentrate orange juice and low-fat frozen yogurt that they consume. I’ve cut back on buying red meat because they told me that it takes six acres to produce a pound of hamburger, and they’ve learned to comply with my rule about keeping gas in the car. So far, it’s working out – except for the part where I am up all night.
“Mom, is it OK if a few people come over tonight?” my son Nathan asked as we were finishing dinner. “Of course, Honey,” I said. “When are they coming?”
“Oh, not until later,” he said. Later is after I have gone to bed. A few people are six friends from high school who attend various universities and apparently major in voice projection. Their voices carry up the stairs.
“ERIN TRIED TO FRIEND ME ON FACEBOOK!!”
My eyes snap open.
“YOU KNOW HER? IS SHE THE ONE THAT USED TO BE EMO?”
They might as well be sitting on the end of my bed. They are laughing in the kitchen. They are bouncing a basketball. BANG, B-Bang, B-Bang.
I shuffle to the kitchen. There is a game of Risk set up on the kitchen table. There is a carton of low-fat frozen yogurt and a half gallon of orange juice. There is the basketball. It is a relatively wholesome scene – at least it would be, if it wasn’t 2 a.m. I poke my head into the room and everyone stops talking. Ahhh … silence.
“Guys,” I say in my “your mom is really cool” voice. “Can you keep it down a little? Some of us have to get up early.” I try to keep myself from shrieking the last sentence. I refrain from screaming “BE QUIET! SHUT UP! GET OUT!”
I return to bed. The voices in the kitchen have been reduced to intimidated murmurs. The ball bounces against the kitchen floor in a rhythmic BANG, B-BANG, B-BANG. As I drift off to sleep, I can hear baby Jacob waking up for his 2 a.m. feeding and I smile. At least mine are out of diapers.
A Household Word: Summer Louder than Others