First Rule Of Sleep Club...

16/01/2017 17:18
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Please don't gloat about sleeping and try not to mention sleep unless you have a coffee ready!

For the first three years of my son's life his sleep patterns were sporadic. It took a lot of rationalising, emotional turmoil and sleep deprivation to get to where I am now.

My wife felt the brunt of the ordeal. Many nights she would sleep with her head half off the bed, half on the side cabinet; with a pillow masking the harsh right angles.

If I were to try to be coherent about it now, I'd be debasing the experience. I only know of the blur of waking and attempting to get through my job (as a high school English teacher) and hoping each night that he would go to sleep at a reasonable hour and would sleep until the morning.

Usually my boy would wake a number of times in the evening. That was fine. It was the waking in the night that hurt. I'm a light sleeper, bred from growing up on a council estate in Manchester, half listening for windows being smashed. I always heard him wake up. There was an inability of will after days turned into weeks into months to get him back to his bed, so he slept in ours.

The rules of sleep club were, of course, in my head. I'd occasionally, through gritted teeth and Cheshire cat grin comment on a passing moment of phatic talk, "don't talk about sleep club", the intonation and stress in my voice made me sound like a Stepford wife talking about baking cakes.

I'd philosophise about our ancestral patterns of sleeping, about parenting of an ancient time when babies stayed close to their parents through the night for fear of predatory creatures. I, in my sleep deprived fog, decided that's what we were doing.

Then he got bigger.

It was impossible to accommodate this younger version of me without waking at 4am with a big toe in my left nostril. I decided to dive into the deep end of sleep depravity one Easter break.

For four or five days, every time Sam came to get into our bed, I'd get up and cradle him back to his own. I'd have a brief cuddle then gently roll away, like Indiana Jones replacing that bag of sand for a precious item.

By his third birthday he was going to bed perfectly.

I never mentioned this to anyone because of the resentment I'd built up of other parents telling me how their five month old sleeps from 7pm to 7am - it's really not helpful to know that.

And now? Well, now my boy is six years old. He's a wonderful, talkative, imaginative, playful little boy with oodles of compassion and love. He wants to play most of the time, pushes some food around his plate if he's too tired to eat and will still twiddle my ears like he did when he was two. These days his life is filled with school and after school activities; with challenges both mental and physical.

He's usually ready for bed by 7pm and we'll read some stories for 30 minutes before he's, usually, fast asleep. He still wakes me up at 6:30am on occasion; 5:45am if it's a special day.

Yet now, after all those sleepless nights, after the wounds of vigilance; I find myself sat at the side of his bed as he dreams, staring at the most amazing thing I've ever made.

I wonder if I just nudge him a little will he want to come to my bed for a hug.

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