September 1, 2009

Tiredness is very straightforward in an adults world. If you are tired and have the opportunity, then you rest. This very straightforward rule does not apply to children.

I am the last person anyone ever expected to hear banging on about routine, but seriously, in this house- we have to have routine. The same routine, every day. Every day the same- 7pm bath-teeth brushed. Same song in the bath(5 little ducks). Hair dry. Nappy, Pyjamas, choose books. Tucked in. Books read. I kiss her eyes, nose, mouth, and cheeks. I go downstairs. She shouts that she needs a drink. I get a drink for her. She doesnt drink it. I go downstairs. She shouts that she has kicked her covers off. I go back up.  Cover her up.  I go downstairs. She shouts she needs a cuddle. I go back upstairs. We go through this about 8 times, until she settles, at about 8pm. There are few variations. There may be periods of my voice getting sterner, or me shouting ‘Go to sleep’ loudly(usually accompanied by her saying ‘Oh mummy, dont you have just a little smile for me- which I duly plaster on, as I ponder over the fact that I am a complete bitch and bad parent). She may throw in little gems, and tell me that there is a crocodile in her room, her dolls are being naughty, or that the Tiger wants to come to tea in her bedroom, all of which require very creative solutions.

I am sure that some amongst you will have watched that twat Supernanny, and will be full of wonderful tips to shorten this routine- but if am honest, I quite like, and as I live in an old victorian house, where there are two steep flights of stairs between her bedroom and teh living room, and it usually means at least 4 flights of stairs for each round trip, am fairly sure that this is my main form of excercis.

The reason we have this same routine every day, is that without it- my life is not worth living.

Yesterday, we made the mistake of having an afternoon nap.  A late afternoon nap. The people who are reading this, who dont have children- will not think anything of this. For those of you who do, I hear the echos of recognition, and shades of ‘well you are a bit of a stupid twat”, as you exhale from your sigh.

Rachel and I, both fell asleep, while watching Cbeebies on my bed. We woke at 5pm. This threw our routine out of the window. This meant that instead of being ready for her bath at 7pm, we had to wait till 8pm for any sign of tiredness. The lack of tiredness meant that the routine I detailed above- went right through till 9.45pm. Ah, I hear you say- she went to bed later- that is surely a good thing- surely if she didnt sleep till late, you got an extra hour in bed this morning?

No. Funnily enough it didnt. The slight alteration in this night time routine, means that she woke three times during the night. Which means I woke three times during the night. Then she got back up at 6.30- but without 11 hours of unbroken sleep behind her. She was tired.

But, I hear the childless among you saying- surely if she is tired, she will just sleep. No. Yet another of the design faults in children, is the bewildering relationship between tiredness, sleep, and behaviour.

With my daughter, any upset in her sleep pattern, mean two things. Firstly, she will sleep less.  Secondly, she will be posessed by the demon of overtiredness. Her overtiredness will be expressed in the following way. Firstly- the amount of energy she will have, increases to manic levels. THis removes all sense of reason and proportion- so that tiny minor affronts to her sense of what she wants- ie fastening her coat, there being no strawberrys, only apples- the giving of a spoon with a red handle instead of an orange handle…result in eruptions of emotion that can vary from outright screaming in anger, to collapsing on the floor in bewildered sobs, devastated by the sheer injustice of it all. This overtiredness also means that she will develop a clinical inability to recognise that she is tired, and the mere suggestion of quiet time, or a nap-are, in her eyes, akin to being told that her kidneys will be removed while she is still awake.

The first mode of tackling this, is getting her a nap, early enough, that it shouldnt affect tonights routine. Putting Bee Movie on, and convincing her to lie and watch it under my blankets, in my bed- is usually fairly effective. Today- this has not worked. We are now at 3.18pm- and this means that it is no longer early enough to have a nap, without settling into this vicious(and I mean truly vicious) cycle of overtiredness for the next few days.

The next step is keeping her awake till bedtime. THis will be a monumental task, which will use every single ounce of patience and understanding I posess(and seriously-stocks are already diminished). She is currently screaming, because there is no glue left in her glue stick. She is screaming so loud, that I think someone will probably call social services.  Sleep deprivation for me, means that this feels like someone is taking my brain and sticking it on vibrate setting, and sticking pins in it at the same time. This will be one of hundred similar incidents which are sure to follow, and by 4.30, her eyes will be so heavy, that keeping her awake will require literally picking her up, putting happy music on to keep her dancing, and an inventive streak- which will require me to provide at least one new interesting activity every 3 minutes. Which is precisely how long anything will keep her happy. All advice about clear boundaries, is pointless at this stage- because she is too tired to understand what a b0undary is- and we enter into an afternoon of just trying to prevent eruptions before they occur, and trying to end them as quickly as possible.

If I am unsuccesful in this, she will fall asleep late afternoon, and the cycle of overtiredness will continue, with interrupted sleep tonight, with worse to come tomorrow.

Today is going to be a fun day. It never struck me, pre-children- how serious dozing off in front of the television could be…


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