The New Meaning of Up All Night



I remember when the expression up all night involved parties, studying, and amour. Then my kids were born, and it took on a whole new meaning.

Last week, our oldest son flew home from college for a short visit. His flight was expected to land at midnight. When it was delayed, my husband and I tag-teamed on sleep and it was like old times: he napped for a few hours, I made brownies (why not?) then woke him when it was time to leave; he drove to the airport, I napped. At 3:30 a.m. they walked in the front door. I stayed up to catch up on our son’s life (and to watch him eat) and my husband napped until it was time to leave for work.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Maybe it was the lack of sleep, but as our son, who will be 21 in a few months, spoke, I was acutely aware of how he had come full cycle with keeping us up all night. Now, instead of me reading him stories to lull him back to sleep, he was telling me some of his own — mostly about staying up all night in college — minus a few choice details he politely left out.

The next day, I found myself looking at photos of the boys when they were little. Like most infants, neither of them slept through the night — our youngest didn’t start until he was two years old. It certainly made work challenging, but life was full and rich and anything but dull.

Some days I couldn’t form sentences, or identify the stains on my blouses, or remember if I ate breakfast, or put on antiperspirant. On several occasions I wore mismatched shoes, and once I threw a bag of dirty diapers into the back of my van with my briefcase only to discover it an hour later when I arrived and the smell nearly knocked me out. But that stage of life passed, as it tends to do, and the next one – the adolescent stage, when they start to talk about their dreams and worries in the wee hours — began.

In the darkness I’d hear, “Mom, I don’t feel good,” or “Mom, I can’t sleep, will you read to me?” and up all night continued. From illness and heartache, to excitement about birthdays, new schools, and the chance of snow — the reasons for staying up were many and varied and the days that followed were long, but it was always worth it.

By the teenage years there didn’t need to be any one reason in particular — they were just wired to be up. When I couldn’t sleep through the noise, I joined them. Once I even made biscuits at 2 a.m. after watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with my youngest son and salivating over some breakfast foods we saw at a diner the host visited. There was also some sort of green bean puree that we attempted, but that’s a memory better forgotten.

It became clear that in spite of my getting older and wanting more sleep, I had to choose: Did I want to sleep or did I want to be part of their lives? It seemed a no-brainer. I tried to be up when they were, around when they did their thinking — even if I was brain dead, I left the light on. Some of our best conversations happened when the moon came up.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

This fall, our youngest heads off to college. I can only hope that when he comes home for a visit, he too will honor the age-old tradition of keeping his mother up all night, regaling me with stories — stories I can replay in my head as I nod off to slumber when they’re both gone.

After all, I’ve got some serious catching up on sleep to do. And parties, studying, and amour beckon to my boys.


The Scary Mommy Community is built on support. If your comment doesn't add to the conversation in a positive or constructive way, please rethink submitting it. Basically? Don't be a dick, please.

  1. Courtney says

    I have three under 5, which is intense, but I feel like this will be my favorite life stage. I have no way of knowing that for sure, except that I guess I’m having fun.

    I’m somewhat amazed that I just wrote that, considering that about 6 hours ago I cleaned up poop footprints. That was a first.

    Show Replies
  2. Jenn says

    In comparison to you I’m a NEW mother of 2 girls, almost 3 years and just turned 3 months. I can’t really imagine what sending them off to college will be like just yet, but I have to admit I too feel like this may end up being my favorite stage. As mother’s, I’m sure we’d all agree, we love it when they’re small and need us most but the thought of them coming home for a visit from college to tell us all about their adventures and late nights has got to be the most rewarding and exciting time for us all.
    Of course as Courtney says we have no real way of knowing that for sure, all we know is the now, and the now for me is fun and rewarding on a level I can’t begin to describe at the moment (though that could have something to do with my complete lack of sleep.)

    Show Replies
  3. grownandflown says

    “Up all night” is a great phrase all moms can relate to. With babies, we are always up all night (can I remember that far back, with a 22 and 17 year old???) After they begin to drive, we definitely stay up all night waiting for their safe return (how did parents do this before cell phones kept us connected?) And now, with kids starting college, like you Melissa, and mine graduating, “up all night” means their nights, having nothing to do with us. Agree with you that I love it when they fill me in….during daylight hours, preferably. Lovely!

    Show Replies
  4. Janine Huldie says

    I have 2 under the age of 4 right now and still have those nights. I actually had my younger two nights ago in and out of my bed during the night and then last night my older was calling me in the middle of the night into her bedroom to tell me she loved me. Yeah, how could I be annoyed after that one. But you are so right that after having kids up all night definitely takes a new meaning!!

    Show Replies
  5. jasbeeray says

    I love how you are able to bake at any time of the day. I am usually more worried of the mess I will have to deal with! ;)
    I totally agree with you, as I too have had days on which I forgot to brush my teeth, wore my t-shirt backwards ( I have perfected the art of
    turning it around without removing it!)

    Show Replies
  6. Brenda Dion says

    Reading your post made me think of my kids and staying up with them but it also made me nostalgic for my own “up all night” days (and they were a long time ago!). The sleep over parties with my friends in high school, pulling all nighters in college, etc. I recently took a trip to Vegas and stayed up later than I have in a long time. It felt good. Adult fun good. Thanks for your post!

    Show Replies
  7. Ariana says

    I also enjoy staying up late with my boys, and sometimes the feeling is reciprocated. Then when I would (frequently) nod off and begin to snore, I got the jab in the ribs and “mom, go to bed”. Now that I am a guest in their home, and sleeping on the couch when I visit, they put up with the snoring. The conversation between snoozes is always good though.

    Show Replies
  8. Debbie says

    Sometimes it is more important to give up that sleep. I remember when I would go visit my mother after I had my on family. Her and i would stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning talking. Those are some very special memories.

    It is worth it giving up that sleep. When they go away to college you can always catch up when they go back to school.

    As for those teen years when they are out late at night and you worry, just learn to pray. God takes care of them. Yes, it is a lot of work for him, but hey he can handle it and you can get some sleep.

    Show Replies

Load More Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>