I must admit bedtime has always been pretty simple in our house. Both of my kids seemed happy to be fed some milk, read a story and be chucked in to their cot to get themselves off to sleep.
Pah ha ha. How things change.
I knew it wouldn’t be this simple forever and the last few months have seen a slippery slope to the land of #BedtimeNegotiations and what I am assuming is a huge pile of payback that has been stored up for me somewhere.
So our pathetic little three-step, non-routine has now gone a bit tits up. Well I say a bit – somehow and I don’t really know how, our three-year-old has hustled her way into our kingsize bed. And she isn’t sandwiched in between us with a foot in our face like I have often read about. Most of the time she has the palatial-sized bed all to herself. Sometimes I cower on the edge trying to breathe quietly and not wake Her Majesty.
It started before Christmas with a lot of waking in the night and wanting to come into our bed. A lot of people had told us how lucky we were to not have had this situation up until this point and so we thought we would resist. Something about rods and backs.
However, she really wanted to be with us and so in desperation of wanting some sleep after too many nights of 2 – 6am negotiations, we relented and one of us would end up sleeping on the floor of her room. Seemed to do the trick. For two nights. She then wanted to get in to the crap, makeshift bed on the floor too and return everyone to the state of co-awaking and 3am standoffs.
One night, knackered and furious, we threw our hands in the air and moved her mattress into our room and put it at the bottom of the bed. ‘Right, sleep there!’ You have never seen such a rapid change in mood. The screaming and whining dissipated immediately. She had clearly exceeded her own expectations of what she set out to achieve. Husband caught her doing a victory dance in the mirror. Despite the fury he had to go and hide in the bathroom to let out all the giggles he was stifling and then return as Disappointed Dad again.
By morning, our little pig in shit was beyond happy and had renamed her room, My Old Room and had affectionately labelled Mummy and Daddy’s room, Our Room.
Now fully embedded, she decides to kick of the Bedtime Games.
To go with her new Lady Muck status, we must go through an ever-growing list of demands to coax her to sleep. I’m sure all kids have their own list of requirements.
Ours tends to start with the basics – milk, water, fluff, blanket. Then we get a bit more specific and need to determine the temperature of the milk. (Warning – do not waste time second guessing if she wants it warm or cold. It will definitely be the opposite.)
When we are all comfortable we move on to story time. We’re currently averaging three books. Long ones. She has wised up to me trying to get away with the short ones or skipping every other page. Sometimes she wants Mummy to read them, sometimes Daddy, most often both of us. Everyone tries to remain calm and not kick off at this point to ensure that we don’t awaken the beast that lies within the three-year-old. Because once the beast is awake, everything turns to shit and you’re soon staring 9.30pm in the face.
After stories, we return to making sure that Madam has everything she requires.
Yesterday, at this point she requested a second teethbrushing session. I said yes. I am weak.
Then we play out the additional curveballs. Here are a couple of examples but they vary every evening to prevent predictability.
‘My finger hurts. I need a plaster.’
‘Where’s my favourite teddy?’ Too generic and so I instantly identify this as a rouse.
But let’s go through the motions.
‘Which one? The Dog one?’
‘No, the other one. You know.’
‘No, I don’t. You have 122 fluffy teddy friends and they each get a go at being favourite about three times a year. Give me a clue?’
‘The pink and green one.’
‘Oh, so you mean the one you’ve been strangling for the last 35 minutes?’
‘Yes, Mama – this one.’
After a few futile attempts of leaving her to go to sleep alone, I decided to start lying down next to her to ‘help’ her go to sleep. I try heavy-breathing as for reasons unknown to myself I think this may help to soothe her off to the land of nod. Sometimes I think it does. Timing is key here. Despite the glass of wine calling my name from downstairs, I have learned that it is wise to stay for a few more minutes after the snoring starts. Do not be fooled that snoring means she is fully asleep. Many a time I think I have won bedtime but as my foot hits the bottom step of the stairs, I hear my name and need to start the entire set of shenanigans again. However, stay too long and I fall asleep next to her and the husband sends up a search party.
She was ecstatic with the mattress-at-bottom-of-bed situation for a couple more days but her hustle wasn’t quite complete. Soon the midnight creeping into our bed began, turfing one of us out and on to the sodden futon in her ‘old room’ once more.
The mattress was soon redundant and she found herself promoted to the big bed. I’ve skipped the bit about the week of three-hour tantrums and negotiations that got us to this point as I simply don’t have the energy to write about it.
Now Lady Muck goes to bed quite happily, we get our evenings back, everyone gets more sleep and I secretly love having her in bed with me. I’m not sure where we go from here but at the moment I am not worried. We may have made that rod for our own back but the smell of her hair on the pillows and the sound of her snuffles help me go to sleep.
And it’s poor Daddy who is left on the not-quite-a-double futon on the floor of HER room. Poor Dad. At least I’m in with Lady Muck.
The Tale of Mummyhood