Wednesday 23 January 2019

Marisa Mackle: My kingdom for a goodnight's sleep

"I'd run away with him," well-meaning friends say about my son Gary.

Well, why don't you? I think. Why don't you run away with him for a few days and then come back when I'm feeling nicely rested?

Of course, all my friends think Gary is super cute. He greets them with a big toothy smile. He's always clean and well-dressed, fed and changed when they call around. They see him at his best. They're not around at bedtime when he becomes an absolute rascal and protests much louder than can possibly be good for a toddler's vocals. They may think they'd like to run away with him but I could safely say they wouldn't run far.

Baby Gary just got a new bed. He's almost two, so I thought it was high time he had a bed of his own. The cot was put away safely into storage.

Gary seemed pleased as punch in his new bed. He was so proud of the Thomas the Tank Engine duvet and pillow and got straight into the bed. The only problem was he wouldn't stay in it. I started to miss the cot. At least with the cot, you could put him in it. Knowing he couldn't get out. Now he has free rein to roam at his leisure.

It has taken time and patience to get Gary to stay in his bed at night. It wasn't as simple as putting him down, reading a little teddy story and switching off the light. No, I had to pretend I was going to sleep too. I'd lie in the bed humming Hush a Bye Baby (it's the only lullaby I know) and then try and sneak out of the room without him noticing. The problem was that he always did notice. Then he'd come barging into my room when I was trying to watch Vincent Browne and try and get me to do a jigsaw with him. At midnight? This couldn't go on, I thought. I mean, who on earth has their children still up at that time of night? You'd go insane.

Gary, like myself, is a bit of a night owl. It's near-on impossible trying to rouse him in the mornings, but at night he comes alive. I heard a sleep expert on the radio the other day. My ears pricked up. The words 'baby' and 'sleep' uttered together are music to my ears. I listened carefully. The expert advised that whenever your toddler wakes up and gets out of bed you calmly pick him up and put him down again until he eventually settles. It doesn't matter if you have to do it 300 times, she said.

What? I hoped she was joking. Who has that type of patience? But I tried it anyway. It took eight goes to put him down. At first he seemed to think it was a game. Baby Gary was laughing. I certainly wasn't. The second night was a bit better. It only took three attempts. Then last night he went straight down. Result.

I hope this sleeping pattern lasts. Babies are cute but not after the witching hour. I try to tell my non-mother friends how tiring it can be raising a tot. But they can't see beyond the cute, cheeky smile. My best friend, Roxanne, babysat for little Gary last week when I was at a funeral down the country. When I arrived back that evening, she was shattered. She now has renewed respect for mothers.

I doubt she'll be threatening to run away with Gary again any time soon.

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