One thing or a mother: Why I’m still in search of the holy grail of sleep
This column comes to you from a baggy-eyed zombie who now survives on snatches of sleep each night and a ready supply of coffee and biscuits.
That’s right, I have a child who has once again decided that sleeping is for losers.
Both my children have been what you might politely describe as challenging sleepers at times. But a few weeks before lockdown my son (the youngest child) helped us to find the parental holy grail by ‘sleeping through the night’.
(Why is it that for all the effort you put into parenting, your perceived success at it seems to come down to just one thing – your ability to get them to do this one, really irritating phrase? If they don’t manage it, you’ll likely be bombarded with a wealth of ‘advice’ from smug parents who definitely assume you’re doing something wrong, and not that they just got lucky that their children don’t like seeing every hour of the night).
Skeptical at first, after almost two years of his night-time wakings, I spent the first week in this uncharted territory going in and out of his room checking he was still breathing. Once I got over that, I eventually started to relax a little, and enjoy not having to leap out of bed mid-dream with a face covered in dribble.
Weeks turned into months, and I actually dared to believe our sleepless dark days (or should I say nights) might be over. And that’s clearly what did it, because one night I was rudely awoken by the loud screaming of the word ‘Muuuuuuuuummmmmmy’, and I haven’t had more than a couple of hours of sleep in a row since.
The know-it-all that is internet suggests this is a common phase for toddlers, and we just have to ride it out. (Thanks, Dr Google, but I don’t see you there helping me out at 3am!)
So, for now, we’re resigned to nights of sitting in his room, waiting for him to drift back off to sleep, safe in the knowledge that this is only possible if he hoodwinks one of us into sitting in his bedroom chair like a sleepy nodding dog while intermittently turning to the virtual world again in case a magical sleep solution has suddenly been invented.
And then, just when you think you’re safe to leave the room, you realise your house is a hundred times louder at night. I’m sure it doesn’t make much noise at all during the day, but as soon as darkness falls, it’s like you live in a house of horrors. All creaking doors and echoing floorboards. I’ve pretty much perfected my ninja-like steps and commando roll out of my son’s room, but you can guarantee that even when I think he’s fast asleep again, if I even so much as touch on a slightly noisy part of the ground, he’ll be up and crying again quicker than you can say Hey! Duggee, and the whole comforting and waiting game starts again.
It reminds me of when we brought my daughter home from the hospital. We put her to bed in her moses basket to sleep for the night, and she just screamed. I was completely confused. It was not what Gina Ford had promised in the book I’d so carefully read cover-to-cover pre-baby.
It turned out that some babies didn’t like to be put down, let alone sleep. and that instead of us having created some 7am to 7pm sleeping robot, we had a very vocal little girl with her own mind who much preferred sleeping on our laps on the sofa each night. I was incredulous that nobody had told me!
But, to use another well-worn baby phrase, that turned out to be just a phase, and I’m sure this will, too. In the meantime, please send matchsticks.