This Weekend Edition of the NDM explores different strategies that can be employed in the pursuit of that most elusive of delicacies: The Good Night’s Sleep. All of these strategies have been used in our household at some point or another, with varying degrees of success – if, that is, you consider pretty much no success at all to be a degree of success, which I do, because it’s the Little Things you cling to when you’ve had as little sleep as I have the past six years. So here goes:
Comforters present any parent with an interesting conundrum – whether they be a stuffed Rottweiler (such as Mr Justice’s – and it’s a soft toy, not a taxidermy project, in case you were wondering) or a manky old scrap of grey cloth (such as The Pixie’s – see “The Duck One” for more information).
When they are clear and present, comforters act as gentle ushers to the land of Nod. However, when they are Missing In Action, possibly left behind in the park or – worse still – lost somewhere in the House That Ate Paris, they are the agents of Satan Himself.
The Pixie, in particular, is prone to unprecedented hysterics when Duck One has gone walkabout at bedtime. And while she might fall asleep while you’re ostensibly “still looking for it” (or rather, having a stiff drink in the loungeroom), she will wake throughout the night – as if she had instantly thawed out after being cryogenically frozen mid-sentence – and carry on exactly where she left off.
And as for those delightful Gastro nights when the comforter is usually the first casualty of war… frankly, I think it way easier to withdraw Australian troops from Afghanistan than it is to wrench that beloved vomit-soaked object from an already-ailing child’s hands. Which is why I would recommend anyone considering the introduction of a comforter to their child to think very carefully about the material it is made of – something fashioned out of easy-to-wipe-down plastic would be practical, or better yet, try looking at some type of hard plastic receptacle that could double up as a Sick Bucket.
My final word on the subject of comforters is this: don’t make the mistake I made in effectively becoming Tiddles McGee’s comforter. I am currently working on a plan to transfer some of his abundant Mummy-Love to a stuffed monkey. Those who have met me in person might think that an easy enough task but so far he seems to be able to tell the difference. I’ll let you know how I go with it.
If your child is prone to waking up at night with the night horrors, my advice is to get a night-light. There are all sorts available on the market – hell, you can even get talking night-lights if you want (you’d hope it would say useful stuff like “Get back into bed Right This Very Minute or So Help Us All” or even just “I’m getting your father”). However you could just do what we do which is to use a regular lamp with one of those energy-saving light globes that starts off shedding less light than a match when you first turn it on and then ends up, a few hours later, radiating more light than the sun. I don’t know if you’ve had a look at your exhaustion-ravaged face in broad daylight recently but let me tell you now, I’ve looked at mine and it’s not a pretty sight. So when my children wake screaming in the night and see my face before them, they have naturally reassessed the monsters their nightmares are made of and chosen sleep as the far-less-scary option.
Rocking/Patting/Smacking Your Child to sleep
Violence is not the answer. It might feel like it at the time, but it’s just not. Just walk away. Walk away and take it out on the cat instead. In any case, even with the gentlest of patting and rocking, we all know that there’s nothing to be gained from this in the long term, especially when – once the job’s been done – you have to slowly crawl out of the child’s bedroom like a whipped cur. Geez, you might be desperate for sleep and all, but try have a little self-respect, will you.
Also known as the win-lose situation. The win? It is a guaranteed way to get your child to sleep through. The lose? Don’t count on getting any sleep yourself, particularly if you’re like me and pre-disposed to waking up upon hearing even your child’s nostrils flare from four rooms away, let alone when it is amplified from within the same bed.
Every night I end up sleeping with Tiddles on the fold-out couch in the kids’ room – and every morning, I optimistically pack the bed away – not so much to tidy the room up (that would be completely out of character) but because I live in hope that the next night will be different and I might get to spend the whole night in the marital bed away from the relentless glare of the “day-light-night-light” and having Tiddles try to thrust his little toe up my nostril every few hours. This is when my mantra of “It’s just a phase and this, too, will pass” really comes into its own – if, that is, you define “coming into its own” as pretty much “not getting you anywhere at all particularly fast or otherwise”.
For heavens’ sake, pull yourself together. If you really must sob through sheer exhaustion and the overwhelming feeling that you just can’t go on, try exercise some self-control and cry into a pillow in a room far away from the children. They’re like dogs in that way – if they even get even the slightest whiff of distress on your part, then they’ll make you their bitch forever.
If all else fails, three quarters of a bottle of gin should do the job – although I hasten to add I’m advocating medicating the parents here, and not the children. Unless, of course, you’re on board a long haul flight – in which case, Phenergan away. But remember you run the risk with Phenergan that it might send your kid the Other Way and so this is definitely a case of Try This At Home First before you find yourself trapped for 14 hours at 39000 feet with a free-basing toddler.
But back to the gin: chug it down – use a funnel if you have to – and you’ll be surprised what you’ll be able to sleep through. Of course you might not even stir when Social Services come to take your children away – and some could argue that this almost certain eventuality – plus the ensuing hangover – might somewhat detract from the overall benefits of a good night’s sleep. But listen, you can’t have it both ways, okay? Sheesh!
There’s a saying – at least in our household there is – that “Sleep is for the weak”. But then, aren’t the weak going to inherit the earth (or at least the meek, a term that not only rhymes with the weak, but also implies an inherent weakness) and that’s hardly fair because they’re all so well-rested and that’s prize enough in my books. But then again, to be quite honest, I’m hardly in a state to inherit the earth right now: capital gains tax aside, I’m just too damn tired. Ask me again in the morning…