I’m tired at the moment. Very tired. I obviously look terrible, because the first thing my parents comment on when I Skype them in Australia first thing on a Wednesday morning is how tired I look. And I’ve run out of Touche Éclat, so that doesn’t help either.
The reason I’m tired is because I’ve been doing a lot of late night proofreading while Gammon and Chips are asleep. But that in itself would be perfectly manageable if our 16 month old daughter, Chips, hadn’t decided that she quite likes waking up at 4am every morning and wailing like a frenzied banshee spreading news of impending doom across our residence (thank god it’s detached and double-glazed, as I expect I would be suffering from neighbourly-induced pitchfork puncture marks by now if we lived in a terrace house).
She is crying for milk. She is obsessed with milk. Food? Hmmm, no, not that fussed. She’ll eat a bit of finger food if she’s bothered. But milk is pure nectar from the Cow & Gate gods. And one thing’s for sure, she most certainly doesn’t need it at 4am.
So, I sleepily roll out of bed, put my new M&S Mother’s Day slippers on the wrong feet, trudge downstairs and pick up the bottle full of water I’d laid outside her room when I went to bed just 4 hours before. I quietly open the door, creep over to her cot and pop the bottle in her mouth.
“Mmmmm, thanks Mummy, just what I wanted. I was very thirsty”, I imagine her saying as the crying stops and she starts to suck. After a full 4 seconds of silence, she starts up again.
“Waaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh”, continues the screaming harpy as she flings her bottle against the cot bars in disgust.
Right, I think. That didn’t fool her. How about Plan B: milky flavoured water?
So I go back outside the room and tip about a teaspoon of formula power into the bottle of water.
“Right – here we go. Off to sleep. Night night”, I say confidently.
This time the seconds of happy silence tick by triumphantly as the sucking starts, and when we get to about 10, I turn my back to leave.
“Waaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh”, she goes again, but this time with much more anger, like she is literally trying to spit vitriol at me through the cot bars for thinking that she would fall for such an unsophisticated trick.
She is such a diva. I realise there and then that if I don’t do something about this now, then next week she’ll be demanding blue M&M flavoured milk, like Mariah Carey.
So I don’t do what I usually do, which is to tip the rest of the formula into the bottle, shake it up, give it to her and leave the room feeling guilty knowing that I’m going to be back asleep in 45 seconds flat.
What I do instead is to take the milky-flavoured water, place it in her protesting arms, turn around, walk out of the room and go upstairs to bed.
I mumble to my now awake husband, Doug, that I’m just going to let her cry for a bit, and he mumbles back, “Good idea”. But then I feel instantly guilty knowing that his alarm for work will be going off in an hour and 50 minutes.
He puts his headphones on in preparation for the storm ahead, and I can hear the fuzzy sounds of a Radio 5 Live commentator vibrating into the air.
I try to sleep, but Chips is still blaring like an on-heat fox trying its luck with a car alarm. For the first time in my life, I am genuinely thrilled when I start to hear my husband’s snores, knowing that Radio 5 Live has worked its magic.
After 15 minutes the guilt has got to me, so I go down, find the discarded bottle of milky-water, offer it to her again, and totally make things worse. She gets even louder. I go back up to bed.
After what is probably another 15 minutes, the cries start to subside. My hopes are raised, but I don’t want to look at the clock in case I jinx it. And finally, silence. Still on tenterhooks, I count to five – yes, yes, yes, yes… no. She’s started off again.
I can now hear birds outside tweeting.
My mind is now awake and wandering. I lay there wondering just whose side she gets this excessive stubbornness from. I decide it’s probably mine.
At 4.40am the screeches finally calm down to a whimper and by 4.48am we have silence.
At 4.50am I hear one of the doors downstairs opening and the sound of toddler footsteps lolloping up the stairs. I roll my eyes, even though they are already closed.
Gammon sadly tells me that he has been woken up by Chips’ crying and can’t get back to sleep. He is obviously telling a massive porky pie, because I start to hear his nose whistling contentedly approximately 2 minutes after I tell him to hop into bed next to me.
“Damn it”, I think. Doug will be up soon and I realise I’m never going to get back to sleep now with Gammon’s arm sprawled across my face, so I get up, go downstairs, make myself a cup of peppermint tea and check Facebook to see what exciting things are happening in Australia at 5am GMT.
When people ask me about the kids, I always tell them that Chips is brilliant during the day, and Gammon is fantastic at night. But I’ve always been a ‘glass half full’ kinda girl. The flipside to that statement makes for quite a difficult life at times – Gammon is extremely high-energy and demanding during his waking hours, and when you’re not sleeping much at night due to Little Miss Madame and her Moloko fetish, then it doesn’t leave much in the reserve tank to get you through the next day.
I have a theory that girls are lighter sleepers than boys, even from birth – possibly programmed instinctively by nature in neanderthal times to be ultra-alert, maybe because one day they will need to wake up to the cries of their own babies. I believe that this is definitely the case when we compare women with men. On a personal level, I will wake up at the sound of Chips downstairs merely brushing against her musical bee toy, while Doug will sleep through both the entirety of the screaming match that a Baby-Chammed-up couple are having in the alleyway next to our house, and the subsequent phone call that I make to the police, afraid for the safety of the girl.
I think that, as a grown-up woman, light sleeping definitely sets in (if it hasn’t already) as soon as you have children, and, if my mum is anything to go by, I think it probably never leaves your side.
I know there are obviously going to be exceptions to this rule (or I could just be plain wrong!), but I’d love to hear from families who have children of each gender and your thoughts on the sleeping habits of girls vs boys from birth. In our family, Gammon has always been a great sleeper, and Chips, not so good; Doug can sleep practically anywhere, and me, not really. Is this the same in your house?
So, after this eventful night, the next day I plodded on, cursing myself for going to bed at midnight when I should have realised that I’d be woken up after only 4 hours of sleep. I also hoped that this would be the only time in my life when I had anything in common with Margaret Thatcher.
I still felt guilty for the 48 minutes of controlled crying that we’d done. But do you know what? It seems to have worked. After months of providing her parents with torturous sleep deprivation, after that 48-minute-long episode, Chips has now slept through 3 nights on the trot!
I’ve probably just jinxed it now that I’ve placed this news formally on the interweb, but hey ho, it’s a start. And I feel like I’ve been given a new start myself. It’s amazing what a bit of uninterrupted sleep can do for your well-being. I feel like an entirely different woman – and I love it! I don’t think I’m going to bother with the Touche Éclat anymore. It’s too bloody expensive anyway.
Voting is now open in the 2013 MAD Blog Awards. Please check out all the Finalists, including Gammon and Chips here. Voting closes at midnight on Tuesday 26th March.
I’d also love you to consider nominating Gammon and Chips for the 2013 Brilliance in Blogging Awards (BiBs). Click here to visit their site and nominate. Categories I’d love to be considered for include Best Writer, Fresh Voice, Family, Travel, Laugh, Lifestyle and Outstanding. Thank you so much for reading!