MADISON (WKOW) -- Aaaahhhhhh, summer. Slow... steady.... easy. Some of you are saying "yeah, right" as you've been carting the kids to summer swim lessons after work, baseball tournaments on the weekend and piano lessons or camp in between. I feel ya. Rylan's been in ballet, swim, theater and gymnastics this summer. But she's only 4. And school is right around the corner. Some of us will get just a teensy bit busier once school starts next week and I'm..... excited. But also, a little sad.
My baby's going to school! (insert crying emoji) Okay, it's only 4K. I sound stupid. I sound ridiculously stupid. I'm exaggerating a little. I've been known to be dramatic. But she's never been in a daycare center setting and this entire past year, my husband was a stay-at-home dad. Because I start work at 2:30 a.m., I'm home by early afternoon, so we've spent most of every day for the past year and a half together. That all changes next week.
Steve got a new job teaching at a great elementary school in Arena (Iowa County). He took a leave of absence last school year to stay home with Rylan. He spent so much time this summer preparing her for 4K, I think she already knows everything. He also took her on some really great adventures, because he's that kind of dad. It was time well spent and I hope she's not too young to remember the amazing summer she spent with her dad.
Back to pre-school for Rylan, though. Because Steve has a bit of a drive into work now, he'll drop her off at daycare by 6:30 a.m. We decided afternoon 4K was best for her. In my line of business, the hours can be long and unpredictable. Whether it's prep work or breaking news, I can often be there for 10-12 hours. I couldn't guarantee I'd be there to pick Rylan up at a certain time. Plus, the way the daycare center works, she would have to either take a nap or "do something on her own" in the afternoon, neither of which would happen with my daughter. She doesn't nap. She needs a constant companion. PM 4K it is!
Right now, I go to bed around 6:30 p.m. I should say, I go into my room and check e-mails for a long while and do last minute things and then finally get into bed and hopefully fall asleep somewhere after 7:00 p.m. My alarm goes off at 1:00 a.m. So I'm getting less than six hours of sleep. It's not ideal. My doctor hates it, especially with my current health issues continuing to cause me problems. He says people with Celiac Disease need plenty of sleep (eight hours or more) to heal their bodies. Mine is nowhere near healed. But that's another column, I suppose.
Anyway, I'm about to make my sleep situation worse. Because I won't see Rylan as much during the day, I've decided to sleep in shifts. I'm going to try my best to get out of work on time every day (I'm scheduled to 11:30 if I get an hour break) and get home to sleep for a few hours. I'll pick Rylan up from 4K at 3:00 p.m., we'll eat dinner when Dad comes home and have family time. Then, for the first time IN HER LIFE, I will help put her to bed. I do that on the weekends, of course, but since she's been born, I have always worked this shift. It's something I have always felt I've missed out on - putting my baby to bed every night and waking her up every morning. And I regret it. I hate it.
It had become such a "thing" in our household. Rylan would cry almost every night I would go to bed before she would. She didn't understand why Mommy had to leave. I would tell her I was just in the next room if she needed me and would give her a special "Mommy Jewel" that should could keep with her when I was sleeping. But every night, I felt like I was abandoning her. Every night, she would bawl. Every night, Steve would pull her away and sternly tell me, "Go to bed. She'll be fine. You need to sleep."
Many times I would let Rylan put me to bed and we would just sit there cuddled, talking for half an hour, playing silly games and goofing off. I was exhausted but I wanted to spend the time and I didn't want her to think there was something more important than her. I would wake up in a daze.
As the months have passed and we get closer to the start of my new sleep schedule, Rylan is growing up and outgrowing her phase. She doesn't cry anymore when I go to sleep early. I think, maybe I don't need to sleep in shifts? Maybe I can still get a solid six hours instead of three hours here and three hours there.
I've started to think about quality and quantity. It's something I struggle with all the time, especially since I work such an odd schedule. Since Rylan was born, Steve has been the main caregiver, mostly because of logistics, but also because he's good at it. I miss out on things because of work, and now I miss out on things because of my health. I feel like I'm the third wheel on the Rylan-Steve super fun bicycle of life. So, Steve puts in quality time in large quantities. He's super Dad and it's hard to live up to. I keep trying. I try to put in quality time... when I'm not working or sleeping. And Rylan knows it.
So, is Rylan counting the hours we spend together? Will Rylan look back on her life and say, "Daddy was always there for me and Mommy wasn't"? Or will she look back and say, "I remember when Mommy let me cuddle on her bed even though she was supposed to be sleeping. She always did stuff like that." I hope for my sake, it's the latter. At least, if I want to keep my job.