Goodnight sweetheart

Since we went on holiday the week before last, E’s bedtime routine has been shot to pieces. This was partly caused by the holiday itself. The first and last nights of it were spent in a caravan that belongs to friends of ours who conveniently live halfway between home and the holiday. E had been sitting in the car for a long time so we kept her awake for a while to let her blow off steam. She then refused to go to sleep in the caravan bunk bed so slept beside me. She likes this. I don’t.

The cottage was fine and she had her own twin room but she did find it strange – the smells, sounds and feel of it were all different and she did wake not knowing where she was which is pretty disconcerting. (I know, I did it myself.) So she was reluctant to go to bed unless one of us was with her each night.

For those of you with children with good bedtime routines who may not know what this is like, let me describe:

You lie next to your child on the outside of their bed, they are curled up next to you and their arm is perhaps around your neck. Their breath blows into your face. They chatter for a little bit but you try and encourage them to sleep.

You get a bit chilly and tuck yourself under the duvet too. They hold you a bit tighter.

You lie there and inhale their yeasty smell, enjoying the peace and quiet and how nice it feels to lie down after exploring woodland/ beaches etc all day.

You feel them start to sleep – their breathing slows and they start to snore a little. You begin the process of extraction.

Sliding one foot from the bed, you find the floor and then slide the second leg out. You are still lying on the pillow but are kneeling on the floor. Their hand slips away but yours is still resting on their body. You begin to lift your head from the pillow, then lift your hand very gently up. They don’t stir. You lift yourself off and start to make your way in pitch black to the door. Just as you open it (it squeaks) they wake, see you’ve gone, cry like their world depends on it and you close the door and resume your position.

They go back to sleep. You slide yourself out of bed but they’re still slightly awake enough to hold on tighter this time so now you have the corner of the bedside table lodged in your back while you’re twisted onto the floor, and you’ve been there so long your right foot is now really cold. You wiggle the toes, alone, on the carpet, in the dark.

The grip loosens just as you can’t bear the back pain any more and you can move but you still leave your arm across their body. Finally you lift it s-l-o-o-w-w-l-y until you realise they are definitely asleep and you can emerge blinking into the front room.

Now we’re home, E is less insecure but still not the happy to go to sleep child we took away with us so I have to sit with her a little while and hold her hand until she will let me go. Most of the time I don’t mind. It gives her comfort, I think it’s just a phase and once you’ve explained that she has to go to sleep to be strong for tomorrow and list all the fun things she will be doing, she’s normally fine about saying good night.

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