herald

Thursday 16 August 2018

Daddy day care: bedtime tales for frazzled parents

A bloke called Adam Mansbach has just written a kids book for adults: Go the F**k to Sleep. Here's one of the rhymes: "The cats nestle close to their kittens. The lambs have laid down with the sheep. You're cosy and warm in your bed, my dear.

Please go the f**k to sleep."

Getting children to go to sleep has once again become the central struggle of our lives. The best piece of advice I ever got about dealing with babies was from my brother-in-law. He said: "It's not your fault and it will end."

With Annie, our first born, we tried all kind of things to get the kid to drop off. At one point we noticed that the sound of the hoover seemed to calm her down so, for about a week, she went into the crib with an electric toothbrush buzzing at her head.

Someone else told us classical music was just the thing, so we found a Mozart CD, which was nice and gentle and it seemed to work for a while. The trick was to get back in to shut the music down before it got to track seven which had this dramatic intro.

With your first kid, because you haven't a clue what you're doing, you're really vulnerable to books. The Contented Little Baby Book. Heard of it? When my wife bought it, I scoffed because it sets out these routines that are timed to the second. There's no minute of the day that isn't accounted for and it's full of all kinds of warnings in bold print: "Do not feed your baby after 8 or it will put her off her next feed!" Or something along those lines.



routine

If your baby fails to slot into one of these tightly prescribed routines, you feel like a failure. But the problem with babies is they have no error message display. Wouldn't it be great if they did? A little LED thing across her forehead. Error #4: Hunger; Error #6: Boredom; Error #7: Wind.

What makes this book so popular is that it's so damn sure of itself. We were so full of uncertainty that we clung to it as a drowning man clings to, well, anything that isn't water. For a few months, it was the most important item in our lives. And, eventually, Annie became the perfect little baby who did exactly what the book said.

So when Mike came along, we weren't troubled. We had the manual. Mike, however, was an entirely different make and model and it turned out the manual was of no use whatsoever.

One of the things that the book goes on about is darkness. It says that if there's any light, any chink of light at all getting into the room, the baby will wake up. We took this to heart. I went out and bought a roll of bin liners and a roll of tape and taped up the windows where the baby was sleeping until the place was pitch black. Anytime we went anywhere, the bin liners and the tape came too. Our families thought we were nuts, and we were, we were. You do go nuts when you have a kid, it's part of the process. But it's not your fault and it does end.

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