At the moment my little boy is experiencing sleeping difficulties, otherwise known as 'It's more exciting being awake than in bed'. He is two, so this is normal and makes complete sense, but it is still excruciating when we embark on The Long Bedtime every night. Frustratingly, when my husband is in charge of bedtime, it goes a lot smoother than when I do it. With me, even when I mirror the way my husband handles bedtime, my son still pulls out every trick in the book to make it last longer. And I'm absolutely, utterly devoid of solutions.
We have a four-year-old daughter, and I remember a brief spell where she discovered that having her own 'big bed' meant she had a new found freedom and she spent a few nights wandering the landing. We consulted the books, found the solution, and boom, she loves bedtime.
So this time we consulted the same books, or rather I did, but so far I haven't found one single piece of useful advice. This isn't because the books are not useful, they are, but they are only useful to a point. A bit like an unfinished bridge, I read and read and find myself reaching a point where I can go no further. I can go through all of the 'How To' advice and sit there checking it all off my mental list. Have a routine, check, start with a bath, check, read stories, check, sing songs, check, wind down before bed, check. And according to the books, if you do all these things you will be fine. But what if you do all of these things and they don't work, but there is no next step?
I realise that book-consulting is very much like asking Doctor Google for help and you shouldn't put too much store by what you read, but it is part of my world to use books to guide me through, well, pretty much everything. Ever since I was small I have loved to have books to help me. I went from books about how to play the flute, to books about how to cook as a student, right through to house-buying books, employment rights books, life-healing books, plan-your-wedding books, and then baby books. I suppose I take comfort from knowing that if I'm ever stumped about something or don't know what to do, I can just open up my Bible of Whatever and find my answer. And I don't think I'm alone in being like this. I think as a society we have become quite dependent on self-help books. There seems to be a book for everything and with the Internet the opportunities seem endless.
I also realise that book-consulting isn't a replacement for actual real people who can help, such as GPs and Health Visitors, but there are some things that sometimes feel a little small for me to visit the clinic for help, but big enough for a good old book.
So, back to my conundrum of the Terrible Tale of the Two-Year-Old Who Will Not Sleep. Should I expand my search wider, for the book to end all books? For the book that has the answers, in one easy volume, that the other books can't quite reach?
Or, perhaps now would be the ideal time for me to embrace my inner authority and put the books down. Perhaps Mother Earth is throwing me this curveball because she wants me to wake up and start trusting myself instead of relying on the book experts. And perhaps in the story of my life I might just be the expert. Perhaps.
Ultimately, books have always served as a comforting constant for me. Not just the helpful guide books, but the glorious escapist fiction too. So maybe I just need to strike a balance now. Read the books, but listen to my instincts too.
But if there is anybody out there who has written the book to end all books, feel free drop me a line.