Last might, Miss Two was still awake after midnight, singing “The Wheels on the Bus” to herself in her cot and laughing at the private jokes that her stuffed Elmo is always telling her. Master Seven had gone to bed at his usual time of 7pm, but was still awake at 10pm, playing Lego in the dark and trying to read a book by the very dim glow of his night light. Miss 13, whose bedtime is 9pm, was reading a book long after I gave her a goodnight hug. And then there’s my husband, who decided to take a shower at 11.30pm. The ensuite door is directly across from the foot of my bed, and I could hear him singing to himself (that must be where the baby gets it from) while I buried my head in a pillow and tried not to suffocate. Why isn’t anyone sleeping?
Clearly none of these people I live with appreciate the value of sleep. Sleep is the best. We all need it. We all get grumpy when we don’t get enough of it. Yet I can’t seem to persuade anyone else in this house to just go to bed when they’re tired, and close their eyes, and actually try to fall asleep. Years of child-rearing have taught me to fall asleep within moments of my head hitting the pillow — because inevitably when a baby needed feeding in the night, or a kid woke up puking, it was going to be me who had to get up and deal with it — and when it’s my bedtime, I really, really want to sleep.
I love sleep. I can sleep almost anywhere, except on a long-haul flight. But people who can sleep on long-haul flights are either travelling in Business Class or have taken sleeping tablets or are unicorns. (If you are one of those unicorns, please teach me your ways, because long-haul in Economy Class is a special kind of no-sleep hell.)
My kids used to love sleep. When they were very small, they took long, luxurious naps and went to bed at acceptable times. (I mean, obviously, once we got through the eat-all-night baby stage.) But as they’ve grown older, and as their numbers have increased, my children have slept less and less. Or maybe it’s me who sleeps less now? I’m so tired, I don’t even know.
What I do know is that it’s only a matter of time before they’re all teenagers (or living in their own flats) and their sleep, or lack thereof, is no longer my problem. At some point, I will get the chance to go to bed at a decent hour and get up when I want to, not when someone small climbs into the middle of my warm bed and puts their cold feet on me. And I will probably miss these days.
But for now, I just really, really want everyone to get some sleep.
Tots to Teens