The Sleep Deprivation Ping Pong


January 6, 2014 by Katia

A new parenting low.  I take momentary solace in my ability to detach myself from this insanity by conjuring up some words for my next post, the Mourning Sleep one I’ve been trying to grow from the infertile soil that is my sleep deprived brain. Rock bottom, I tell myself. From an aerial view it would probably look almost caricature-esque. Half of my body is inside One Year Old’s crib. My torso is stretched blocking the opening left by two missing bars we’ve decided to remove as he was getting dangerously close to one of his latest resolutions, namely “climbing over this is SO happening”. We’ve removed the bars to show him a different way of getting out, which he quickly mastered and took to the next level in a typical One Year Old move by banging on his door at all hours of the night. It’s like the taste of nocturnal freedom knocked out his ability to fall back asleep. Intoxicated with the lack of physical boundaries he keeps running to the door and banging on it with his mighty little fists.

Next door is Four Year Old. He, too, actively communicates with us at night. He, too, does so by knocking, but he is driven by a polarly opposite sentiment. From his hiding place under the blanket he reaches out only his arm, exposing as little of it as possible to the menacing night and knocks considerately, one-two-three times per round. One-two-three, increasing only the speed if it doesn’t work right away. One-two-three until we hear him. Anything to prevent him from making his way on his own through that zombie ridden corridor and into our bedroom and bed ever again. Thankfully they don’t usually knock at the same time, so I do the ping pong* from One Year Old to Four Year Old’s room or vice versa almost every single night.

Back to that aerial view. I’m sure you’ve noticed a determined baby trying to climb over me. His growing zeal and glee in doing so are in direct correlation to my growing frustration. It’s 3am and I’ve been here for two hours, trying to stop him from getting off the bed and running in circles around the room. That’s just slightly longer than I’ve spent here yesterday. You can’t see this from aerial view, but tears of desperation just started running down my cheeks. If you’ve happened to notice and view them your aerial reasoning would be “Well duh, this is a bad scene and she finally snapped”. You would have to really zoom in on me and keep going until there’s a clear close up of my ear and then keep going some more until everything’s kind of blurry and you might pick up on my thoughts and realize that I was crying and the actual reason why.

It’s that freaking second time new parents mantra. I’ve used it myself. “Good thing we know that this is all temporary, right?” we often tell each other. And while I’ve been playing along, nodding to that, not wanting to be a downer, I’ve recently caught myself thinking “Really? Will I really EVER sleep again?”After all it seems like there’s been so much more no-sleeping in the last four and a half years than sleeping and it’s just the reason why that keeps changing. I think of these brutally honest photographs of me that Four Year Old took in the car and under the skylight. Here, zoom in on my eyes, you’ll know what I’m talking about right away.

Dec-2013 348

My sleep is a joke. Go to an archaeological dig site and dig up a shattered Greek amphora. My sleep is more fragmented than that.

Give me that aerial view again.

Can you see the kitchen?

We’ve already been to the fridge downstairs a few times to get more milk and the house looks like a Dexter crime scene meets white picket fence. The signs of my struggle for sanity are everywhere and they manifest themselves in something that is the very opposite of sane. Scattered on the floor are a few tomatoes and one peeled onion which fell out of the fridge in one of my somnabulistic attempts to reach for the milk carton. On the counter lies a pacifier that I’ve been desperately trying to impose upon my son who has hardly ever used one in sixteen months. Everything reeks of desperation.

I know it’s the exhaustion of having spent three weeks locked up at home with them during snow storms, holidays and viruses that’s making me react that way. I know that One Year Old won’t always be making such bad decisions, which all have just one potential end result – head injury. I know that when that happens, I won’t be as exhausted. I know that what keeps them up and wakes them up so bright and early is their specialness, their unique spark, their incredibly active and bright little brains. The guilty, scared, superstitious mommy conscience part of me immediately spits three times and thinks, If this is the price I have to pay for these particular two then hell yeah, let’s rock this sleep deprivation ping pong thing, but why do we so readily accept these either/or mental constructions? How great would it be if I could only zoom out, really really far and wide into six months from now and everyone was in their own beds sleeping. Peacefully.


Are you obsessed with sleep? Are you tortured by sleep deprivation or have you learned to not let it get the best out of you?

** Ping pong – TGFF. Thank God for friends, their presence and support during periods of stress. My friend and neighbour, Rebecca, came up with the term “ping pong” to describe her children’s wake-up patterns.

Thank you my friend, Deb, at Urban Moo Cow (check her out, I consider her a kindred spirit) for encouraging me to write this post.

39 thoughts on “The Sleep Deprivation Ping Pong

  1. Jean says:

    Your baby is at 16 months now? My daughter killed me at 18 months. She did not sleep at all. The lack of sleep was painful. Whenever I’m badly in need of sleep that the children refuse to let me have, I think of this song

    • Katia says:

      16 almost 17, actually. I am finally going to check out that song, because what I could not get out of my head all week is “Go the F$&$ to Sleep”. As in the book, as in narrated by Morgan Freeman, as in have no idea who wrote.

  2. Lisa @ The Golden Spoons says:

    Mine are now 11, 9, & 6 so let me assure you – you will sleep again someday. You will never sleep like you did before parenthood, but it will get better than it is right now. I need my sleep or I cannot function properly. I can’t even remember how I did years ago when mine were babies/toddlers. Hang in there mama!!

  3. I like the way this stylistically echoes the sleep-deprivation cycle. You may be sleep deprived, but your writing doesn’t reflect it at all…
    My fingers are crossed for you to get a full night’s sleep soon!

  4. So glad you wrote it; hope it gave you some (aerial) perspective. I think no matter how much you are “used” to it or “know” it will be over soon, sleep deprivation is an insidious little beast. There’s a reason it has been used in torture chambers the world over.

    Anyway, your exquisite writing has not suffered a whit; that’s one good thing, right?

    Annoying question: Can you hire a babysitter for two hours to play with them while you nap during the day? I know it’s money, but could be the difference between sanity and ping pong… xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

    • Katia says:

      Thanks so much, Deb, for everything. Giant heart you. And I’ve done the sitter thing with Ben, so I’m not opposed to that. They’re not supposed to be at home during the day, but the awful weather, holiday and sicknesses have kept them home (tomorrow too). If this continues I will definitely reinstate the sitter once a week policy 🙂

  5. I’m reading this at 4 a.m. So I know how you feel!! But hey, good for blogging at times!

  6. Ohhh sweetie that sounds so horrible. I know I’m a sleep-deprivation pro, but that’s voluntarily. I think I’d get very grumpy if I was persistently kept from sleep I really wanted.

    I think Deb’s idea of hiring a sitter so you can nap in the day is a really good one, and you should give it some serious consideration. Yes this will end, and one day you’ll all be snuggled all asleep in your own beds, but this is NOW, and you still have to survive. Preferably without your ability to write going out of the window.

    And in the meantime, as little as they help at times, consider your silver linings 🙂

    • Katia says:

      Well, I can’t tell you how much this means. Thank you for the kind and supportive words. I used to hire a sitter with 4 Year Old for the same reason, but now that there I two there’s double the work, blogging etc. They’re supposed to be in school during the day but there hasn’t been much of that lately and it looks like they’re staying home again tomorrow due to the temperatures dropping. I will consider inviting the sitter if this continues happening. Thank you, friend!

  7. Lordy, does it all sound familiar and is bringing up my PTSD! Big, giant hugs to you. If I could head north and spell you for a bit, I would (that would mean I would be away from my ridiculously early riser, Claire. Sigh!)

    • Katia says:

      I know, kind of scarring for life, isn’t it? My mom was telling me today as I read the post to her that she still remembers crying when I’d put her through the same 🙂 Missed you, my friend, so glad you’re back.

  8. findingninee says:

    OMFG. To the sleep when he pushes me away, to that when he holds me close with his bony knees in my back… from vacation to home to sick to well too early in the am. ugh. hugs huge huge.

    • Katia says:

      OMFG is right. Laughed reading the rest, because I could just imagine Tucker and it was so cute. Sorry, I know this is not what you were going for… ❤

  9. Brian says:

    My oldest daughter was born in October, 1997, and three more children followed her. This means that for the past 16+ years, my wife and (to a lesser extent) I have experienced lots of no sleeping. I dig what you’re saying!

    I’d also like to note that the way you wrote this outstanding post strikes me as very cinematic: reading it and visualizing what you describe is much like watching scenes from a movie. It’s as if you’re giving directions for the camera angles and movements. It’s very visual and spatial, which helps us readers get a feel for what you go through at night, a nice balance to the inward, psychological descriptions you’ve also included.

    And don’t worry, in a mere 12 to 15 years you’ll be able to enjoy an uninterrupted night. (Sounds like a sentence, doesn’t it? Maybe you should sleep in an orange jumpsuit.)

    • Katia says:

      Thank you so much, Brian, I’m glad you enjoyed the post.I didn’t plan it this way, I was simply looking at this from an aerial perspective myself (even as it was happening, I think)and thinking “how ridiculous” but I totally get your comment. I thought it sounded that way too, as soon as I put it into writing. 🙂

  10. T. Dawn says:

    As I type this, I’m praying my son doesn’t hear my footsteps on the stairs when I head to bed in a few. I’m kidding myself though. He ALWAYS HEARS ME or instead waits to jump around all insane in the membrane in his crib until I reach the perfect dream level of sleep. My 4yo will belt out a lyric or two in her sleep but my baby boy (16 months) is in our bed every single night. Flopping around like a fish out of water. I’m exhausted. I’m sure the tapping and banging has GOT to drive you nuts! Make them wear heavy socks on their hands to bed! Lol…hang in there Momma.

    • Katia says:

      Oh my gosh, so familiar – the praying, the holding of the breath, the jumping all insane in the membrane in the crib (awesome, BTW, thanks for making me laugh). Like your sock start up idea. You’re on to something there, Dawn.

  11. Sarah Almond says:

    What is this thing called sleep? I do believe I once knew it well. At one time my insomnia was child induced, now it’s just something I deal with on a regular basis. However, I find that often when I’m in that overtired but not manically sleep deprived state I tend to be at my most creative.

    HUGS to you-I hope that sleep finds you. Or you buy earplugs.

  12. Can Cunha says:

    Oh do I hear you, feel your every emotion here. We have a 18-month old and a 3-month old. Presently sitting here working at my office and I can feel the burn in my eyes a they beg to close. My neck and back tense and stiff from holding a child for all hours of the night, rocking them, soothing them, feeding. Enjoy these nights.. they won’t last forever my mother keeps telling me one day I’ll miss them.

    • Katia says:

      You guys are brave, that’s amazing. I remember the sore back and neck (still sore but it’s a different kind of sore now) from carrying the baby with me in a carrier all day. Wishing you peaceful nights 🙂 And thank you. So much.

  13. Dana says:

    I certainly do not mean this to sound patronizing or gloating…but you will sleep again. It will get better, and it sounds like you know that these past few weeks have been particularly difficult because you’ve all been home. When you’re in the middle of it, though, it seems like it will never, ever end. Wishing you some zzz’s tonight, Katia!

  14. So good. So good. So good. “I know that what keeps them up and wakes them up so bright and early is their specialness, their unique spark, their incredibly active and bright little brains.” Yes. And you will sleep again. But fuck. It’s so hard in the moment.

  15. AwesomelyOZ says:

    Beautifully written Katia! I know how you feel – I have hypersomnia which is excessive daytime sleepiness and it never ends for me. No matter how many hours I sleep, I will require a nap the next day and that may not save me. Even now, Im so exhausted I will require a nap after work; it is what it is! My son is 6 years old and still sneaks into my bed, lol, I hope someday soon he’ll stop but I’ll miss him when it does. Have a great one and hope you can sneak a nap in the day 😉 Happy Hump Day! -Iva

    • Katia says:

      Thank you so much, Iva! My problem is I never used to be a napper, so I could never do the whole “sleep while the baby sleeps” thing. Sure sounds like a challenge parenting with that condition. Thank you so much for your lovely, as always, comment! 🙂

  16. So well written- your desperation is palpable. As a well rested mother of two grown children I would like to share a memory. Our son would NOT sleep more then about an hour at a time during the night for 12 years! He saw a movie with a satanic clown (idiot neighbor)and heard about football size spaces filled with garbage that were being sent to sea (late 80’s histrionics)and he STOPPED SLEEPING. For a DECADE. We put a sleeping bag under our bed but started him every night in his bed. If he was having a melt-down, we encouraged him to pull it out and climb in. One day he slept through the night. It happened again the next night. This went on for a week. FINALLY I got up the nerve to ask him what had changed. He said, ‘ I just felt like it’. Jesus. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Hang in there.

    • Katia says:

      WOW, Cheryl, you officially deserve a medal! Poor you, poor son, idiot neighbour!!!

      I almost feel I’d be happy with a sleeping bag solution, heck- even if he slept in our bed, but can’t get him to walk through the stupid corridor at night…

      You are sweet for stopping by and commenting and sharing your story. Thank you so much!

  17. Jen says:

    Am I allowed to be completely obnoxious and say, that’s why we co-sleep? My life was very much like yours. Although I only had the one. And then I said, what the heck. Why don’t we all just fall asleep in one bed, instead of this some nights he’s here, some nights I’m there, every night I am awake either way….
    I am not at all insensitive to what you’re going through, completely empathetic. But there is something to be said for sleep however you can get it 😉

  18. farmhousejournals says:

    Feel your pain girl. We have a 21 month old that has to come close to sleeping thru the night. I get up with her 2-5 times a night. She will usually go back down fairly easy but after 21 months straight of fractured sleep, I would be willing to give away a body part to get an entire nights sleep. Hang in there. It has to get better! Otherwise I am going to crack u!

  19. Sleep? What’s that? I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in 8 years. I don’t miss it because it’s such a distant memory that I can’t actually remember what it’s about.

    And my other question is: how come, if my boys wake me up at 5.30am, we are still late for school 3 hours later? Is 3 hours not enough time to eat toast, brush teeth, put on a uniform and walk 50 metres (I kid you not) to the school door?

    If you are not too sleep-deprived, please check out

    • Katia says:

      I just love the question you raise here. I’ve often wondered how that’s possible myself. As for sleep being but a faint memory? Ouch. I kind of feel like this is where my life is headed.

      I’m happy to check out the link. Thanks so much!

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