The Sleep Thing

It's the sleep thing again. Asher has been taking a long time to go to sleep, then waking a few times most night recently, and it’s been driving us all pretty crazy. The going to bed routine now consist of teeth brushing, nappy, PJs then Sanjay reading a story, me going in and telling a story (I’ll have to write down my version of the three bears sometime!) then I have to leave and Sanjay has to go back in again. Sometimes that is just a last cuddle, sometimes Sanjay has to stay there until Asher drops off to sleep. After all that palaver Asher’s getting to sleep between 8:30pm and 10pm which means that he’s often tired the next day and Sanjay and I have very little grown-up time together (…and then there is food to be eaten, cleaning up to be done, Sanjay has work to do and we end up tired and grumpy with one another – but that is another post for another time). When there is only one parent present it is often a bit easier, but that doesn’t really solve the problem. When I'm putting him to sleep during the day I'm also noticing that he's practising 'counting' on his fingers - Sanjay has shown him how to hold up one, two, three, four and five fingers but the manual dexterity required means that Asher has had to practise. Maybe part of the sleep disturbance is a developmental change - just like when he was six months old and his sleep was really disturbed just as he was learning to crawl.

When Asher wakes up in the night Sanjay, bless him, usually deals with it. Since nobody sleeps very well when a kicking, fidgeting, toddler is in our bed we tend to escort him back to his own room as soon as he’s calm. Sometimes it’s as simple as going to the kitchen for a glass of water (“with a piece of ice!”). Either way, when it happens occasionally it’s fine, when it’s multiple times a night it’s just not on.

I was too busy trying to ‘fix’ what was obviously broken and didn't stop to wonder what was going on, whether there was a cause. I tried encouraging him to go to sleep by having one of us sleep in his bed next to him (not effective) and I tried being stern and spending less time in the putting to bed routine (even less effective and unpleasant for everyone) and I tried re-framing my thought about how ‘putting Asher to bed’ should be (no one got any more sleep, but I was more relaxed). So the other night when, just before bed, Asher asked me if there were owls at night I absentmindedly told him that there were, and that they flew around outside. Sanjay added that the owls didn’t come inside people’s houses, that they were shy and liked it outside by themselves and then I twigged. We had been reading Beatrix Potter’s ‘The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin’ a lot, particularly at bedtime and it seems that the part where Old Brown the Owl comes very close to skinning and eating naughty little Squirrel Nutkin was just too scary for poor Asher. Unfortunately, instead of Asher choosing a different book or asking me about the story or about owls he just kept requesting the book ("I want my new book again!") and I, not realising that anything was amiss, kept reading it, and making it even scarier with each reading. I had even read, and laughed with sympathetic amusement at, this blog post from Finslippy so you would think I would have twigged to what was going on earlier. I think being 'in the moment' is so necessary in parenting, but conversely you can't be a really thoughtful, 'conscious' parent without removing yourself a bit sometimes.

So, now we are limiting bedtime books to things like Green Eggs and Ham, The Magic Beach and Where's Wally and things are getting a bit better. The night wake-ups are minimised (he has a cold and has woken up snotty a few times, but that's different) and we are going to look at the bedtime routine gradually. I'm going out tomorrow night and might suggest Sanj heads out on Saturday night or early next week so we can try putting him to bed as solo parents in the hope that decreases the amount of neediness at bedtime.

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