For the love of sleep

When you have kids, you sacrifice. And one of the biggest sacrifices you make is your sleep. I can happily sleep all day, all night, and all the next day, punctuated by breaks for food, the toilet, and occasional book-reading. In fact, that is pretty much how I got through my last year at uni. But when you are a parent, the word “bedtime” takes on a whole new meaning.

For kids, bedtime is almost the worst torture you can inflict upon them (along with vegetables, bathtime, and clean clothing). My five-year-old son can be playing quietly and contentedly by himself, and the moment I say the B-word, he turns into a feral, shrieking banshee who wails like he’s being thrown into the jaws of a kraken. (Side note: Do krakens have jaws?)

My 11-year-old daughter, on the other hand, calmly and politely wishes me good night, brushes her teeth, climbs into bed, and proceeds to read and read and read under her covers with a torch until I catch her and demand that she cease. At least three times. I take the torch away after the first warning, but she always has other light sources hidden under her covers. A glow bracelet, for example. Her brother’s night light. (Cue more shrieking from his room when he woke to use the loo and discovered it missing.)

And the baby, at five months, has started sleeping through the night — well, sort of, if you count waking up at 1am to gurgle and coo and smile at me while I try to silently change her nappy and resettle her without making eye contact. Apparently the middle of the night is prime time to play and gnaw on her stuffed animals. No amount of rocking, quiet singing, face-stroking, bum-patting, or undignified pleading from me will persuade her to go back to sleep until she is good and ready.

All of this means I’m chronically sleep-deprived, and I wish I could have a redo on all those childhood naps I refused. I also sometimes wish I could go back to uni and relive those glorious sleepy days when it was acceptable to go to class in clothes strongly resembling pyjamas (and sometimes actual pyjamas). But mostly, I look forward to a not-so-far-off future where my children are all teenagers who do nothing but sleep, all day long, and all I want them to do is please wake up and talk to me – even if it’s the middle of the night.

What I’m reading this week: Holding Up the Universe, by Jennifer Niven

(Penguin $19.99)

Libby Strout was once known as “America’s Fattest Teen”, but she’s moved on from that label – and now she’s ready to return to high school on her own terms, and with the confidence she never felt before. And high school is where she meets Jack Masselin, who has a secret he’s been trying to hide: He can’t recognise faces, even those of his own family members and friends, so he hides beneath the persona of the class clown. When he and Libby get tangled up in a cruel high school game which lands both of them in group counselling, the two of them have to learn to navigate their lives with an authenticity that’s hard for high-schoolers to acknowledge, let alone practise. This is a YA novel which I think is wonderful not only for teens, but also for parents who may have a few hang-ups left over from their own high school days. It’s raw in places, but very real, and ultimately redemptive.

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