My youngest child is almost 3 and it still happens. I'll feel a tap on my face in the wee hours of the morning and find my darling girl standing next to my bed. "Mommy, I want to be with you. Can we go downstairs? Can we play?" My child will then frolic at an hour that, legally, shouldn't be allowed to exist. This doesn't happen too much these days, but when my kids were infants it was a nightly routine. One that led me to wonder what my baby is thinking when they're up all night. Over the years, I've developed some theories.
Nowadays, I can base these theories in part on things my very verbal children tell me, but I feel like the reality is more complex than that. Indeed, infants are complex little creatures with, I am convinced, a rich inner life the depths of which we cannot even begin to understand. Part cartoon villain, part Grumpy Cat, part ingenue, part sorority girl at Greek Week, infants are vast and contain multitudes. As such, their motivations for being up (and staying up, apparently for as long as humanly possible) are equally varied and difficult to figure out. Still, I'm going to go ahead and give it a try...
"How Long Until You Cry?"
"Because you've seemed kind of on the verge for an hour or so. I just want to see if I can push you over the edge. This isn't malicious, or anything. It's pure, scientific curiosity and I have to see this experiment through. No offense, but prepare to weep, because I'm about to pull out all the stops."
"Life Is Too Short For Sleep!"
"When I was living in Casa del Útero, I figured I would spend forever in there, and you know what? It went like that. One minute I'm floating around in my nice warm amniotic sac, and the next thing you know I'm here. Don't get me wrong, it's a good thing, but you think you have forever somewhere, man, and you just don't. So I'm determined to make the most of all my time for the rest of forever, and there's no better time to start than tonight.
I'm going to go ahead and assume you're crying inspired tears right now."
"I Am Doing This To Spite You"
I'm guessing babies don't know why they're being spiteful, as I can't imagine babies have developed a sense of revenge or even cause and effect. Still, I feel like there must be some sort of crudely fashioned gland in their reptile brain that makes them want to f*ck you over for a perceived slight against them. Honestly, sometimes there is just no other explanation for the nocturnal hell they put their parents through.
Oh you can give me all kinds of "logical" explanations (colic, hunger, gas, etc.) but I've stared into their eyes in those moments. I will not be convinced that, sometimes, this is somehow not personal to them.
"I'm Starving & It's Your Fault"
"It's been 45 goddamn minutes since you fed me last. Do you even understand what that can do to me, you withholding shrew? My brain is developing at rates you cannot even fathom. I need sustenance to maintain peak growing performance. Believe me, if I could tend to this myself I would. I will in the future, by the bye, especially when I'm a teenager, so start saving now, because I am going to basically eat your retirement fund.
You need to feed me and you need to do it now. Then once again in another 45 minutes, like, just as you start to drift back to sleep."
"I Feel Like You Need Me Right Now"
"Like, is this really about me needing you? Because you're complaining but I'm sensing that you're into this. Face it: you like to feel needed. If you think about it, I'm doing you a favor by enabling this sick fixation you have. You're welcome."
"I'm Kind Of A Big Deal & You're Actually Really Lucky"
"People pay thousands for access to yours truly. Hanging out with me at some horrific hour in the morning isn't some kind of sacrifice. Oh no, it's a lifestyle choice. I'm not saying it's always going to be easy — we go hard and shut the club down — I'm just saying if you're not up for it, there's the door. There's a line of people on the other side waiting to take your place."
"These Years Fly By!"
At this point, your baby looks you in the eyes and Cats in the Cradle starts playing in the back of your mind. Then you feel sh*tty and guilty and you just hang in there.
"Let's Play Light As A Feather, Stiff As A Board"
"And get the Ouija board while you're at it. My friend Cadence talked to a real ghost who lives in her house the last time we did that. It was totally real. No one was moving the thing. Then the ghost told us he looked like Justin Bieber and was in love with me in a past life. Hey, I'm hungry. Want to get some chips and cookies and ice cream?
Hey, I have an idea! Let's talk about people we have crushes on while we give each other manicures!"
"Shots! Shots! Shots!"
(Of milk or formula. Obviously. Babies don't do whiskey.)
"OMG Is It Morning? I Hadn't Noticed!"
"It's just so nice talking to you. You know, I feel like I can really be myself around you. Like, totally honest and open. Boy. Time really does fly when you're having fun.
OK, this might sound crazy, but, like, do you feel this connection? Because our energy is just... wow. It's incredible. It's unlike anything I've ever felt before. I feel like I've known you forever. I can talk about anything and I feel like you'd just get it. You're amazing. You're not like other girls, you know that? "
"I Love You So Much"
This simultaneously makes it better and worse, right? Yeah, sometimes the baby is up because they're hungry or fussy or just because they hate your stupid face for some reason you can't figure out. However, sometimes they're up and they're so cute and you can tell they really just love being with you. If you weren't so tired you were hallucinating, you would appreciate it a little more than you do. Still, it's nice to know that someone loves you so much they don't want to be awake if you're not there to smile at them.
"When Do We Have To Be Up? Two Hours? OK, I'll Fall Asleep In An Hour & 45 Minutes."
It never f*cking fails, you guys.