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Back in the dim and distant past, when I spent endless hours reading about the milestones and development of my offspring, my head kinda created a graph that looked a little like this:

Which is to say, I fully expected that by the time we had children who didn't require full wardrobe, bathroom and transportation accoutrements for a simple trip to the shops, we would also have broken the back of other basics like, oh I dunno, walking, talking, eating and sleeping.

Not trying to be the over achievers over here.

Having spent a lot of time trying to empathise with other sleep deprived parents from the comfort of a family life that involved, well, minimal night time interruptions I'll admit that until recently I had no idea what it was like to be a sleep deprived parent.

Until recently, I had the luxury of skipping past the articles on how to function on three broken hours a night without resorting to repeatedly slamming your head in a door, and I even had the temerity to think that a twice nightly feeding routine qualified me to call myself “tired”.


Me from five years ago, fuck off. No seriously, fuck RIGHT off. You may be well intentioned but you have not the first solitary nugget of an idea about sleepless nights.

Unlike today.

So by way of backstory, we long ago gave up the traditional “it’s 7pm, time for bed” approach to sleep. Instead, we have invested time and effort in helping the children to learn about how their body feels when they are tired, how they act (while trying not to use the word “asshole”), and what they should do about it (without turning into Samuel L Jackson)

All of which has been a raging success.

While we were busy working on the non-bedtimes, however, we were also very deliberately giving the side eye to the genesis of our Early Riser.

I'm not talking about 5am, yawn, stretch, morning world it’s a brand new day - oh no! - I'm talking 3am, ninja moves to escape from bedroom, raiding the cupboards for sugar and turning into Gollum by breakfast time. 

Like everything else, we stuck a big fat “phase” label on it and just figured it would work itself out, right up until the point where things got so bad, Keith was ropeable and Alfie was basically destroying any semblance of family time by acting like a really obnoxious drunk for the first few hours of the day before passing out in a corner.

I probably didn't take the whole situation as seriously as I should have done, but then I have the privilege of walking out of the door every morning. For Keith, the end of many tethers were reached, and it was right about the time he threatened to install a bolt on the outside of the bedroom door that I finally realised he wasn’t being melodramatic. 

You’ll forgive me for that, it is something of a default setting with my husband.

After I had successfully argued that it wasn't an acceptable bathroom alternative to stick a bucket in the children's bedroom overnight, I offered another solution in the form of myself as ballast.

That probably makes more sense if I tell you that I'm a very heavy sleeper and while Alfie is fully able to sneak past me without waking me, he was going to have a hard time picking me up and physically dragging me away from the door without my realising it. 

Or at all; let’s be honest here.

In order to make sure there was no underlying reason for his ongoing desire to drive his father to insanity, we also took Alfie to the doctor who, predictably, told us his waking was behavioural and grudgingly gave us a prescription for Melatonin

That was about a month ago, and so far, the benefits we have seen from this new approach have ranged from “bugger all” to “marginal”. 

On the plus side, Alfie is staying in bed until at least 6am these days. He’s also not raiding the sugar supplies, or waking his sister up by turning the light on, nor is he managing to stash his tablet away and play games at 3am. He even manages to act like a mostly rational six year old for large chunks of the day.

On the down side, it is taking – oooh let’s call it “active management” – to achieve any of the above. 

Two nights ago, for instance, Alfie woke up at around 4am needing the toilet and asking me to move. I slid off the toddler bed, dragged it quietly away from the door and let him out to stumble across the hallway. 

Thirty seconds later he and I were temporarily blinded when he had an early morning brain fart and turned on the light on his stumbling return from the toilet. Ah well, I thought, I might as well go to the loo while I'm up.

Safely back in the bedroom, I once again shut the door, pulled the bed back into place, settled down with my feet dangling in mid air, went through the 30 seconds of “sleeping bag overshoot” until I had it properly centred before I looked over and saw ….. Alfie’s empty bed.

Turns out Alfie had ducked into the spare room on his way past me in the corridor. 

When I poked my head, Jack Nicholson style, through the door and hissed into the empty hallway for him to get BACK.IN.TO.BED, he glided out of the darkness like some kind of child of the damned, before realising there was no choice but to either a) make a run for it or b) give up on his escape plan.

By the time my alarm went off two hours later, he had slept enough to make it through the day. I, on the other hand, was praying for the sweet release that only an espresso can bring.

I'm still determined to believe that this is just a phase. And as I pointed out to Keith recently, if this is the worst that we have to deal with as parents, then life is pretty sweet.

He didn't look convinced, which is why I had to walk away during a recent visit from his mum, during which she pointed out that he wasn't the world’s best sleeper as a child and maybe the apple had simply fallen close to the tree. 

I'm pretty sure he didn't find that quite as funny as I did.

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