by LARA CAIN GRAY
We are gathered here today to say our final goodbyes to sleep. We have had some wonderful times together over the years, but sadly sleep has now departed our little home, seemingly never to return. Rest in peace, old friend. Goodness knows someone may as well be getting some rest.
I have three children – 5, 3 and a newbie – and there are several things that changed on the arrival of that third child: squeezing in an extra car seat, increasing the shopping budget and scheduling parental quality time, for example. Having three children brings a lot of laughter to a home, but is a big challenge if all the little people are simultaneously needy – like when everyone is hungry, or snotty, or doing a merry dance around their strewn shoes as you’re hurrying them out the door. But the biggest hurdle in our house has been to have everyone asleep at the same time, and preferably at night.
Any normal child has the odd occasion when the shadows morph into monsters or their tummy hurts for no good reason. Babies, of course, need to learn how to manage their rest patterns. We, as understanding parents, have done our best to comfort and teach; but parents get tired, veeeery tired, and they don’t always get that teaching right. From the moment our first darling daughter arrived we expected there to be nights of broken sleep, but I’m now beginning to think our kids have surreptitiously worked out a roster. They punch in and out, ensuring night long games of musical beds and day long games of poke-the-zombie. Even the notion of a solid, restful sleep has pretty much left the building.
Take this morning. The baby boy woke up screaming at 3am. My husband had already done a marathon shift consoling Miss 3 as she’d cried her way through a combination of bad dreams and a stuffy nose at bedtime, so it was my turn to get up. I worked with the stealth of a Ninja, slipping from my room into the nursery, dodging scattered toys with gymnastic agility. I swiftly scooped up the baby, replaced his dummy and started rocking and bouncing as if I was having a mild seizure. When this motion inspired nothing but giggles, I took him to bed with me. Not in my own bed, you understand, because Miss 5 was already snuggled into my warm chalk outline, having been woken by the baby’s cries. Unfortunately trying to silence a baby in the wee hours is a bit like coming home late after too many sauv blancs: the harder you work at being quiet, the more likely you are to knock over something loud and clattery at precisely the worst moment.
So into Miss 5’s bed I went to make myself comfortable in the pink princess doona, with a unicorn pillow under my head and a baby nestled into the crook of my arm. I patted the baby’s precious bot until he started to settle down, even as the nerves in my contorted neck emitted a strangely rhythmic twanging sound. Just as the baby relaxed with a welcome heavy sigh, I saw fit to rearrange my pillows (did someone say deckchairs on the Titanic?) and promptly fell out of bed. I lay on the floor, winded, holding my son aloft like a scene from the Lion King, and looking up at the little glow-in-the-dark stars on my daughter’s ceiling like a cartoon character who’s just been taken out by an anvil. I pondered getting a bit of bench press action with my now wide awake 10 kilo weight. At least it would justify the bucket of coffee and upsized-something-or-other I would be buying after the school run in order to get through the rest of my day.
So I say to you all, appreciate sleep while it is still in your life. It is too late to tell it how much you love it once it’s gone.