My older daughter was born in January, seven years ago. Even for a newborn, she was a terrible sleeper. It’s generous to call her a sleeper, since she catnapped minutes here and there. I dreaded the advice “sleep when the baby sleeps,” because in the time that it took me to fall asleep, she would have finished her beauty rest and woken up refreshed, ready for another round of diaper/nurse/cuddle. When she did sleep, the child was a noisy sleeper, and her inexperienced mother jumped out of bed every time she grunted. Sleep was simply not worth the trouble for me. I sat up in bed, preemptively awake, while my husband snoozed – he has a talent to fall asleep on command – and the baby made noises in her crib.
I watched middle-of-the-night television, volume muted to a soothing buzz, its bluish glow keeping me company at 2am, 3am, and beyond. Every as-seen-on-tv infomercial offered a product that would solve all my problems, short of making the baby sleep. Cooking gadgets, exercise equipment, ponytail holders, stain removers. But wait! There were also music compilations. Love songs, Country, Disco. One night, one of them caught my attention. Each song jolted me with a pleasant spark of nostalgia for a time when I called the shots on sleep, not a 7-lb creature who couldn’t even turn over.
The next morning, I announced to my husband over breakfast: “For Valentine’s Day, I want you to get me the Monster Ballads CD.” And he did, grateful for a straightforward request he could fulfill. The compilation included all the hair spray, tattoos, and guitar solos I could ever wish for as a teenager: Poison, Extreme, Mr. Big, Skid Row, Tesla… I loaded it into my iPod and mostly forgot about it.
Fast forward seven years. That little baby is a first-grader who reads before bed. We have one more child, who was born very sick and turned our lives into an endless roller-coaster. I am in the subway, heading to work after taking the little one to yet another doctor’s appointment. The train is incredibly crowded, too crowded to read, and I absentmindedly summon the music app and press play.
Monster Ballads flood my earphones and all of a sudden I am 17, my whole life ahead of me, ambitious, naive, unafraid. I am a teenager who spends hours watching MTV, looking for the hidden meaning in a certain video playing at a certain time. I am also the young mom of that newborn baby, naive and very much afraid that I would do the wrong thing and break her, that I was not qualified for the job of raising her.
I am the girl and the young woman, and the tired mom in her late 30′s, trying not to sing along to 80′s power ballads in public transportation. Thankful for the little trip back to much simpler times – even if they did not seem simple at the time.