From about fourteen months we were arguably the luckiest parents in the world, particularly during the hours of darkness. Our little guy would have his bath at 7pm then get ready for bed and his bedtime bottle. As he sucked his milk down we’d have a ceremonial run through of Rod Campbell’s Dear Zoo, followed by an off key duet performance of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ (with occasional harmonies), its tempo dictated by how quickly he was nodding off. We’d lay him in his cot, sneak out and leave well alone until he woke up the next morning.
Other parents would creep in to watch darling baby sleep. NOPE.
If either of us went upstairs we were under strict instructions to swallow any noise we made. If there was ANY sign of less than total somnolence, I had to go and have a wee in the garden!
Only the lilting cries of wakeful upset sanctioned us to break the seal of the quarantine and engage with him, and after a time he started sleeping through pretty much every night. IT. WAS. AMAZING!
At the age of two and a half we figured he was essentially a “Man” (Junior Edition) and felt a degree of autonomy was deserved. Thus we began telegraphing the transition from cot to ‘big boy’ bed.
He was enthusiastic, choosing his new duvet and pillow covers. I even utilised him in the deconstruction of the sleep prison he had yet to complain about. Obviously this was an absolute nightmare, his mastery of an electric screwdriver left a lot to be desired, and his flat-pick carpentry skills were “remedial” at best. But after about an hour, a couple of tearful outbursts, not all of them mine, and his transformed bed was ready to go.
Come bath time he seemed suitably excited, with a new air of maturity and into the ‘big boy’ bed and off to sleep he went.
We did it!
But at some point in that first night my heart was abruptly stopped by the near imperceptible thud of chubby feet swinging down onto carpet. I realised my breathing had stopped as his door gently squeaked in resignation. Six quick footstep then BLAM: our door burst from its hinges, like the Feds taking down a drug lord.
“Daddy, are you awake?”
I clamped my eyes shut, flipping his own hide and seek technique in the faint hope it might reverse psychologise me out this dead end, but no. Despite my presumed invisibility, he was onto me.
“Back to bed sweetheart”.
“I don’t like my bed, I want to sleep in your bed”.
“Alright” I sighed. He’s only little, we won’t get many more chances to share a bed, “but just for tonight”.
I scooped him up and folded him into the central space betwixt Mummy and Daddy, and settled down for a lovely night of ‘co-sleeping’.
I’m an idiot.
This might have all been fine had he not been one of the most antisocial bedfellows in existence. There’d be a foot in your stomach, a forehead in your back, and unexpected flailing arm in your face on the rare occasion you might lose consciousness. Somehow on occasion all coming simultaneously! There was also an unexpected sleep-talk soundtrack, including such sporadic soundbites as “Peppa Pig”, “I can’t touch my hand” and our personal favourite “That’s not my aeroplane”.
This enchanting scenario played out night after night for the next four months. We figured the battle to keep him in his own bed would stretch into hours of teary eyed negotiations and fiscally irresponsible offers of reward so we sucked it up, presuming the alternative would be far worse.
Without a full night of sleep we were exhausted.
On occasion one of us might sneak off to sleep somewhere else, but if he sensed you’d escaped he’d come after you so it almost wasn’t even worth planning.
I’m not sure what happened but I think one night I’d been head-butted, and my pregnant wife had gotten a foot in her gut and enough was enough. It was 4 am, I was feeling grouchy and decided it was beyond ridiculous. I scooped him up, he protested, I took him into his room and laid him in his bed with a kiss and an “I love you”.
He came straight back crying, so steadied my resolve and did it again, this time gently closing the door behind me, although the noise would have been drowned out by his pleading screams of indignation. 20 minutes later as the worse Dad in the world and it went unexpectedly quiet… Of course we started panicking that he’d suddenly expired but managed our anxiety enough to drift off.
I would so love to end it there with a cocky flourish that all has been well since, but he’s appeared in our room every night with an escalating ridiculous list of reasons:
“I want to come in your bed”, “It’s too bright”, “It’s too dark”, “There’s a shadow”, “There was a noise”, “I need a cuddle”, “Sing me a song”, “Read to me, “I love you”, “I don’t like my room”, “I don’t like my bed”, “I want to go down stairs”, “I need a wee”, “I need another wee”, “I need a pretend wee”, “I want to wash my hands”, “My duvet fell off”, “My pillow’s wet”, “I can’t keep my eyes closed”, “I miss you” , “I was just checking…”
At this point it’s hard to know whether it’s worth the battle or not, but with a new one imminent, we’re going to need him to sleep in his bed.
Every night he promises to “try” and stay in his room and every night he promises not to wake us up, but every night, THUD, pad-pad-pad-pad-pad-pad, BOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We’ve now only got a few weeks to fix it before Version 2 turns up… if only Calpol made a Junior Chloroform, now THERE’S a business idea.
Jamie Sadler is a retired actor, anxious stand-up comic, cat owning dog psychologist, with a Masters in screenwriting. He’s also a husband and father of 1.8 children (#2 due in September ’17)
Image by Ilya Yakova Posed by model.