Spiritualizing the Night

Spiritualizing the Night August 31, 2011

I’ve talked before about how night time parenting is a particularly hard challenge for me. It seems no matter how long I do it, I will never quite get used to snapping out of deep sleep and being able to be a nice person right away. But recently I’ve noticed a change in my patience levels during these night time escapades.

I have 2 high needs babies in a row. Ms Drama and Ms Pooky are the sort of babies who have always been restless sleepers, and often need to be comforted by mom. If they had a rough day, if they didn’t eat well, if they aren’t feeling too good, etc. Chances are they will wake up at least once during the night.

Back when I was a full-blown Christian, I used to believe that I needed to rely on God for everything. God had the answers for every situation, no matter how trivial. The whole point of life was to try and honour and glorify God in every situation. So waking in the middle of the night? Another opportunity to bring glory to God.

When one of the babies would wake up, first I would pray for them, rebuking Satan and any nightmares he might have sent to my child. I would pace the floor with the baby, rock them, give snacks or nurse, and when they could not settle down, my frustration level would rise. I’ve gotten better at keeping it under control since I quit spanking and forced myself to approach parenting more gently, but inside I would still be seething.

So I would pray to God, “God please give this child peace, so they can go back to sleep. Please give me patience so that I don’t lose it.” And I would get even more frustrated. Where the heck was God? This kid wasn’t relaxing at all, in fact they were getting even worse! Why wasn’t God at least granting me some level of peace so I could survive through this night. Maybe I wasn’t praying the right way, or maybe I didn’t have enough faith. Maybe God was displeased with me and refused to listen to someone he wasn’t happy with. Wait a minute, why did I have the gall to think that my sleep patterns mattered to God? People are starving and dying all over the world, how dare I ask for sleep! I was a sick spoiled woman and I deserved to be ignored! All my uncertainty about God would start to boil to the surface, and I would end up angrier than ever. Even after the baby went back to bed, I would be unable to relax enough to find sleep again. And if I did, it would be just in time to be woken up again with a different (or perhaps the same) baby. Sometimes I would fall into a fitful sleep, but all the God questions swirling in my head would turn into nightmares.

I still hate waking up at night, and I still have babies who wake me up regularly (I was up 3 times with a toddler last night, in addition to nursing my angelic 3 month old) but something has changed. I am no longer looking to a God to do my job. I had this baby, and my baby needs me. If there is no Satan attacking me, and no God ignoring me, then all I’ve got is me. My baby isn’t a spiritual test. My sleepless night is not an opportunity to glorify God. If there is no God who is going to magically calm my restless baby, then I am all this baby has. My baby has needs that are just as real as my own. Right now they look to me to fill those needs, and teach them how to fill their own needs. And eventually this baby will sleep through the night, and they won’t need me to wake up with them anymore. When they finally settle down, I can go back to my own bed and fall asleep, instead of being consumed with worries about my belief or lack of belief in God. Even my nightmares about God have diminished.

Since I’ve given myself a break from trying to believe in God, I am a better night time parent.


I’m linking up with Amber at Making the Moments Count. Today she is talking about nightime parenting.

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