If sleep was a commodity on the stock exchange of my life then it’s value has plummeted through the floor since I became a Dad. I used to fixate upon getting eight hours of sleep a night. This allocation has now been reduced to around five or six, which these days is completely adequate.
The current status quo as per sleeping arrangements is that my older son leaves his bed at around midnight and traipses across the landing to our room. Sometimes when I’ve been up late I’ve caught him on his journey. He’s in a kind of trance – basically sleep-walking, so he never notices me. Added to the fact that he’s very pale means he comes across like the ghost of an Elizabethan waif.
Once he’s finished with this haunting, he troops around to his mother’s side of the bed where she’ll haul him up and plonk him down between us. When he was smaller he would shuffle down and rotate himself around to lie at right angles to us so that together we created a human rugby post. Presumably his plan was to put himself in a position where he could most effectively use his head and feet to simultaneously pummel both of us throughout the night.
Now that he is bigger his physique lends itself more for a more standard spooning technique, which feels to me like going to bed wearing a really hot rucksack. He’s been visiting us every single night for a year. On the odd occasion we’ve tried to repatriate him but the ensuing skirmish becomes so violent it’s woken up his little brother. So we caved in.
Which isn’t really a problem. We like having him snuggled in with us and if it makes him feel happy and safe then so be it. He is considerate enough to delay his arrival to allow us a window in which to get into bed and do whatever it is that parents of young children do at that time: mostly check their phones and go immediately to sleep. When we’ve attempted any conjugal intimacy there is an unpleasant frisson that we might be interrupted by the waif-ghost. He’s probably too young to be mentally scarred but I still haven’t thought of an excuse for what he might see and why his mum looks so disappointed.
His younger brother is eighteen months old and sleeps very well. He generally wakes up once during the night invariably with hunger pangs. To which the obvious solution is a bottle of milk. Unfortunately putting him back in the cot presents a problem as it seems the mattress in there is rigged with some kind of siren only audible to dogs and babies. It’s triggered the second we put him down and causes him to start wailing, which of course might wake his brother up.
Like his older brother, the little one feels comforted by a cuddle so we usually saunter back along the landing and get into the bed recently vacated by the waif-ghost where he settles agreeably in the groove between my arm and body. He might wake again a few times but once he’s got his groove back he’ll settle back down. We tried the dream-feed, the technique whereby you rouse the baby and to give them a bottle just before you go to bed in order to give him enough fuel to see him through the night. It worked a treat with Major, but Minor is not so keen, perhaps still stuffed from his late-afternoon mush. I once tried to feed him for a full counterproductive hour which ended up more like a Guantanamo waterboarding, but with powdered milk.
I know that this is inevitably headed for some kind of ‘Armabeddon’; once the younger one is able to traipse for himself all four of us will be attempting to colonize the same smallish double bed. As with most of our parental stratagem the underlying philosophy is ‘we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it’. The most sensible solution we’ve come up with so far is knock through all our bedroom walls and sleep in one massive bed.
To be honest here’s no point in approaching this with logic. They’re children. There is no logic.
And little hot rucksacks feel quite nice.