Michelle Martin

In the wee small hours

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

I like to sleep.

When my kids ask what my favorite thing to do is, I often tell them that my favorite thing is to sleep.

I even try to go to bed at a reasonable hour, and I encourage them to do the same. Everything, I tell them, is easier when you get enough sleep. You will be able to find solutions to problems that seemed unsolvable, and even the problems that can’t be solved will seem less important.

None of that has ever stopped my children from coming into my room late at night, or even in the small hours of the morning, when they have something that they need to talk about. They’ll come in and say, “Mom? Are you awake?” and, well, by the time they’re done asking I am.

So I listen as best as I can, trying (and sometimes failing) not to say, “Can we talk about this when it’s light outside?”

Most of the time, what they want to talk about isn’t something that needs to be solved, and if it is, it’s generally not something I can solve anyway. Sometimes they want advice, but mostly they want someone to listen. Usually I let them talk, and tell them everything will work out alright in the end, and they leave to go back to bed.

And I lie awake and stare at the ceiling and pet the dog. And then I pray. For whatever the problem is, of course, but also for the patience and strength to not wake up cranky, and in gratitude that my teenage and young adult children still want to talk things over with me, at whatever time of the day or night.

I don’t mean to imply that I’m the only parent doing after-hours duty, either. They’ll also stay up late talking to my husband, or ask him for rides home when they feel like it’s too late to be safe on public transit.

And if our kids have confidence that we will be there for them even when it’s inconvenient, even when they are waking us out of a sound sleep, then of course we can have confidence that God is open for prayers no matter the hour — never mind that being God, and outside of time, that couldn’t matter. I get a little loopy when I’m sleepy.

Now prayer has become my go-to whenever I wake in the night. I started praying the rosary when I found myself waking up and doomscrolling during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sometimes I even made it through all five decades.

Most nights, though, when I say a few Hail Marys, a couple of Our Fathers, while I think about what, if anything, is bothering me it is enough to calm my spirit and remind me that I’m not in charge of everything, that I am loved and seen, that I can let go until morning and get some rest.


  • family life