Sleep. I just want some sleep, is that too much to ask?! Apparently so.
As my toddler draws ever nearer to his 2nd birthday (in March), rather than me thinking sugar coated nostalgic thoughts, “Goodness me! Where has the time gone?! They grow so fast!”, I’m thinking, “Holy crap! I’ve almost had 2 years of no sleep! (Cries into morning weetabix) Where have I gone wrong?!”
And that got me thinking, where DID I go wrong? I mean, for goodness sake, after having 3 of the little sleep drainers, you’d think I’d have this parenting shizzle down by now.
Pah! No. No I really don’t.
Let me fill you in on my kids ‘sleep history’ a bit…
Sleep drainer number one was (until now) my worst sleeper. From when he was born until 18 months of age, he NEVER, not once, slept through the night or went down to sleep without a fight reminiscent of the battle scene in Braveheart (“you can take my sleep, but you’ll never take my sanity!” – well that’s actually debatable). We tried allsorts and even resorted to the book of evil we call, “Gina Ford”, (yes, that childless oracle of mum belittling).
Nothing worked. Letting him ‘cry it out’ – nope. Controlled crying, where you leave them for no more than 10 minutes at a time before going back in their room, lying them back down and then leaving them again, no. Cuddling, no. Pleading, no. Bribery, no. He just hated sleep. Daytime naps, pah! Don’t be ridiculous! (the poor Childminder we had at the time must’ve been tearing her hair out with him by 4pm! What a diamond she was to put up with that).
When he reached 18 months old, and I was 1 month away from having baby number 2 (and fretting about having 2 non sleepers at the same time and couldn’t even have a G&T to calm myself) we decided the last thing we could try was turning the cot into a bed in the hope that this would help. We dismantled the cot and made the Toddler bed, we put a stairgate on his bedroom door to keep him safe at night and waited for night to fall…by some MIRACLE, that very night, he slept. That was it, he just hated his cot! 18 months of no sleep all because of that. I’ll never forget that first night of no screaming, the demonic raging banshee toddler was no more and we had a golden haired, angelic sleeper. Miracles do happen…
Sleep drainer number 2 came along when number 1 was 19 months old and, to our utter shock and amazement, by 8 weeks of age, he was sleeping through the night. We thought there was something wrong at first, that he was poorly or we had done something wrong…but no. We’d had another miracle and we seemed to have created a child that LOVED sleep.
He was in a routine with naps and bedtimes, all by himself, and we found ourselves wondering what on earth we had done wrong the first time round. All the advice from people when we had number 1 was overwhelming, they were all trying to help, but when you’re in that sleep deprived stupor and you have someone telling you it’s maybe something YOU have or haven’t done, that has potentially caused this baby to have a severe allergy to sleep, you start to beat yourself up. You blame yourself. You blame your husband. You blame the ‘powers that be’, I’m sure I even blamed the Queen at one point. Well, why not. It’s really tough trying to stay sane, and not become resentful, when it’s you that’s getting up, Every. Single. Night. Over and over again for almost 2 years. (That’s where the Drinks Cabinet comes in handy…) 😉
There is a fair gap between number 2 and number 3, almost 5 years in fact. This meant I’d basically had sleep back for this amount of time, bar the odd night here and there which you always get wth kids when they are poorly, they just decide they ‘aren’t tired’ or they have a bad dream about Wolves under their bed that want to take over the world, along with some fish that could walk on ground and use guns (yes, that was a genuine nightmare scenario which was being dealt with by me at 2:30am Tuesday morning, honestly, I genuinely believe they could get Oscar’s for some of the plots they come up with in their dreams! I mean, if Sharknado got the go ahead, then why not Wolf-fish, hungry for world domination??). I’ve been quite used to having my sleep back.
Then number 3 arrived. To start with, he was angelic like his middle brother. He was in a routine, he napped in the day and he slept at night. We assumed we had this parenting thing down.
Rule one with children: NEVER assume you know what you’re doing. EVER. Assumption leads to smugness. And smugness often leads to a demise of epic proportions. We’ve had one of those.
Once the 3rd one reached 5 months old, he decided that this sleep thing wasn’t for him. Going to sleep. Nope. Napping. Nope. Staying asleep during the night. Nope. He wasn’t up for it one little bit.
We are currently, at 22 months of age, dealing with screaming ab-dabs from 7-9:30 most nights meaning any hope of an evening and dinner together with my husband is nigh on impossible unless we out up with the constant screaming and shouts of, “Mumma! Mum, Mum! Mumma! Mum, Mum!” over and over and over again. We’ve tried our entire back catalogue of sleep training approaches, no joy. The only thing that works is sitting next to his bed, or just outside his room but so he can still see you, until he goes off. But this can sometimes take 2 hours. That’s 2 hours of gin drinking time wasted every evening…and this can make me very resentful.
Yesterday, in a last ditch attempt of having an evening to watch a film together, we kept the monster toddler awake all day. That was painful enough in itself, but we managed it and by 6:30pm, it was bath and bed. To my amazement, after he put his head down on his pillow, he was asleep in 5 minutes. Wahoo!!! Cue movie time and gin!!! Get in!
The film was about to finish at 10:30pm and then I hear it….”Mum, mum!! Mumma! Mum, mum!!”
You’ve got to be kidding me. Please lord, no. But sadly it’s true. It’s awake.
Playtime!!!!! (And playtime lasts from 10:30-2am)
I could cry. I’m exhausted and he most definitely isn’t. Mission, “keep him awake and tire him out” has backfired pretty epically. I feel useless, I feel defeated and then I feel angry. I being to curse myself, and my husband, and the universe, and the Queen again (well like I said, why not) Why?! Just why?!
Maybe this is that thing they call, “over tired?” – I’ve never understood this saying. Why get overtired? Just go to bloody sleep!!! It’s fun if you try it, I promise!
I sleep on the sofa downstairs with the demon toddler and he eventually joins me in the land of nod about 2am and is up with the sparrows at 6am demanding Iggle Piggle on. Whatever. Watch the giant blue creature find some tiddles whilst trying to get into Upsy Daisy’s bed, I’m past caring.
So, in conclusion, I have no useful sleep advice for you all out there I’m afraid, but you can take some comfort if you’re reading this at 2am in the morning with a maniac toddler on the loose, you’re not on your own. And it will get better, I don’t know when, but it will because I’ve been there before. It’s crap, it’s unfair, it should be classed as a form of inhumane torture, but there will come a night when they’ll sleep. And you’ll wake up refreshed…then panic because you’ve not heard from the toddler all night and immediately have to check on them.
They drive us utterly mad, but we still love them. And that my friends, is parenting.