Chips: 0 – Sleep-deprived Zombie parents: 1

The rarely-spotted sleeping Chips

The rarely-spotted sleeping Chips

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.

Sleeeeeppyyy. Chips' milk obsession.

Sleeeeeppyyy. Chips’ milk obsession.

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.

What usually happens

What usually happens

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.

Ah, a sleeping Chips – bliss!

Ah, a sleeping Chips – bliss!

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.

Gammon can fall asleep anywhere!

Gammon can fall asleep anywhere!

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?

Are your boys better sleepers than your girls?

Are your boys better sleepers than your girls?

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!

35 thoughts on “Chips: 0 – Sleep-deprived Zombie parents: 1

  1. Just another 15 years and you can kick them out! I’d like to say it gets better but mine are still terrible sleepers. What is wrong with children? Why can’t they appreciate that sleep is one of the finer things in life till they hit their teens?

  2. I’m afraid to bugger up your theory but my 13 year old daughter has always been the sleeper. As a baby …hmmm … not so much … but once she hit toddlerdom she slept right through and still does. Most nights it is still 10 solid hours. I have to go wake her. My son on the other hand is the one who has always woken at night. As he gets older though (he is now 9) we now know he has some minor environmental allergies and (as a snorer) has trouble breathing at night which wakes him up. There are some days he wakes up more tired than when he went to bed. And so, therefore, do I. We’re seeing an ears, nose and throat specialist soon to investigate getting his adenoids out. We’ll see.
    Anyway, that was a long way of saying that the boy/girl thing may not be a sound theory. It could just be first child versus second child?
    Found you through FYBF
    Great to meet you!
    Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit

  3. Don’t you think it weird that sleep is such a big deal for a number of us humans? I remember when I went back to work, I said to the guy in the carpark who had kids “At what age do they finally sleep through the night*?”. His reply “Oh, when they’re about 6 – when they go to school they start sleeping through.” I looked at him in horror and said, in all seriousness “I’ll be dead by then.” I remember so clearly, as it was such a defining moment. But fortunately, it all settled down before then – thank goodness.
    *Always talk to men about sleeping issues, you get far more varied responses…and an attitiude that makes you feel so much better about your own situation (speaking in broad generalisations but that’s what I found,)

  4. My two were sleep stealing terrorists who never slept – day or night!. I’m sure were one step off pulling out our fingernails and waterboarding us when they finally decided to surrender and end the war on slumber! They are now the best sleepers! Sleep will come… for all of you… 🙂

  5. Oh I feel for you, we only have 1 and he is a good sleeper thankfully but like Gammon is a bundle of energy in the day so he just zonks out. About your theory, I can’t speak for children, as I only have 1 but I sleep like a log and husb sleeps so lightly he wakes up at the slightest thing. I think child gets the sleeping from me and energy from dad. Hopefully these 3 nights are the dawn of a new era for you 🙂

  6. In 2005, I didn’t sleep for most of 10 months…..I’m still recovering 🙂 I agree that females probably seem to sleep more lightly than males….I wonder why??

  7. Hi Maddie! It’s my first time visiting and I love your blog:) My first was a shocker. He woke up every couple of hours at night but the worst part was that during the day he would only sleep for 20 minutes at a time. So I could never get that “chunk” of time needed to actually DO anything. There is hope though – he is a solid 10 hour a night boy these days and has been since he was about 8 months old 🙂

  8. I have a boy and a girl and they each have their own issues. My son sleeps through fine now, but if he does wake it takes hours to settle him. My daughter is 5 months old and is still waking up at night but I wouldn’t want to say whether she is ‘a bad sleeper’ just yet – hoping it will settle down soon! Don’t feel bad about the controlled crying. It sounds like she is at an age where she does have some conscious control over her responses, even in the night, and sometimes manipulation just needs to be met with a firm ‘no, I’m going to sleep now and I suggest you do the same’!

  9. ps which BIBS/MADS category is your preference for a vote, so many want my votes I have to spread my love haha.
    pps if you think you have a diva now, wait till your daughter hits 2, ask me how I know 🙂

  10. I feel your pain. In the end we chose tough love and denied Tilly milk. It was loud, it was heartbreaking but it worked and now she mostly sleeps through, she is almost 4 though so you’d hope so. I have huge bags under my eyes due to 6am starts every day of my goddamn life and a husband who snores. Joy. Great to find you via #pocolo xx

  11. All I can say is, it does get better. Mostly. Slightly patronising and not all that helpful, I know. Sorry. That’s all I’ve got apart from sympathy. Sleep deprivation is the worst thing ever! And yes, men are better at sleep. That sucks.

  12. I am completely with you on the girls v boys thing. I am a terrible sleeper and the slightest thing wakes me – especially since having Grace. Grace too is a rubbish sleeper! All the boys/men (same difference!) I know sleep brilliantly!! Thanks for linking up with #PoCoLo lovely lady x

    • How funny! I was just tweeting you at the very moment you were posting on here! Spooky! Oh dear Charlotte, I feel your pain! Chips is still pretty haphazard, but improving I think. Her last molars will be through soon I think, so that doesn’t help. Here’s to some more sleeping #magicmoments ! 🙂

  13. My first, a boy, has never been a good sleeper. When he was 18 months I called a sleep consultant. Things did improve, but now he is nearly 4, and I have found recently is coming in every night at 1.30am. Very hard to get him to go back to bed without milk. I’ve given in…take it up with me when I go to bed and have even put a microwave next to my bed! ( it’s a long walk down to my kitchen.) No 2 is 4 months and had me up every 2 hours or so in the night…wanting milk. These are obviously my zombie years. I feel your pain.

    Popping over from #magicmoments

  14. Maybe it’s a second child thing. I have 2 girls the eldest is nearly 3 and is an amazing sleeper, always was, she could sleep from 7.30-9.30 and then have a nap for maybe 2 hours during the day (she’s given up daytime naps now). Baby sister is 17 months and she is nowhere near the sleeper that her big sis is, she refuses to nap and is a bit of a cows milk monster. I give her warmed full fat cows milk with some Ovaltine in it on the nights when I know she’s going to be restless, it does seem to help her settle for longer.

  15. I completely sympathise with you! My little boy falls into both camps really. He’s been an awful sleeper at night since he was born. In saying that he also appears to be a pretty heavy sleeper when he ‘really’ falls asleep. Our problem is bad habits I think. He goes to bed fine but rarely stays there and ends up in our bed:-( He’s also full of it all day, doesn’t stop! I definitely think that’s a boy thing. Girls just seem a lot calmer! I hope chips carries on sleeping for you!! Xxxx
    (I’ve popped over from magic moments)

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  17. About to embark on my own battle with a Milk/bottle addicted toddler! Your post makes me realise that both my boys once asleep have always slept through better than the girls who have always stirred but usually settled again easily enough during the early hours. Gammon sounds like my eldest who I always said only had two speeds go or stop! Xx

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  19. Just popped over from #PoCoLo. I feel your pain although fortunately for me it was a few years ago now. Neither of my boys slept very well although youngest was slightly better than eldest who, I swear, didn’t sleep until he was 4! I hope you’ve sussed it now and are getting more peaceful nights. I’m glad to have discovered a fellow expat mum 😀

  20. As a Mum of two boys I can say your idea re boys vs girls does not apply in our house, both of my guys are not good sleepers. Sleep deprivation is a torture, and I sympathise with you.

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