It seems to be one of the mysteries of parenthood. Some people have it cracked from the day dot. I’m convinced that they’re paying their children to sleep for them. And I’m tempted to try it. Others, not unlike myself, take a bit longer to get the knack of getting the little darlings to close their eyes, stop whining/shouting/making gurgling noises with their finger and lips, and settle into a slumber so Mammy can have some much needed downtime on the couch catching up on all things Shonda Rhimes (or whatever other show you’re currently engrossed in).
So what is this secret? Here are my steps to getting the child to concede to the land of sleepy time.
1. Tell yourself there is no point in planning dinner before putting the child to bed. If you put that oven on, not only will the food be burned by the time the child concedes to even try to put their head down and count sheep or whatever other technique you’ve settled on (see more later), but theres a chance your kitchen may well be burnt to the ground too, causing the damn fire alarm to wake the eventually asleep baby. Not advisable. Instead, grab a takeaway menu, or resign yourself to cereal or microwave meals. One day you too shall have nutrition, today is not that day.
2. Bath time. Start this well in advance of the optimum time you’d like to have the child asleep by. Use up an entire Lush baby bath bomb that has enough lavender in it to knock out a classroom of toddlers. Watch out for the thrashing toddler who has recently discovered how cool bubbles are, and how funny Mammy’s face gets when you splash water all down her top. Try to ignore the screeches when you remove them from the bath and try to dry them. Try not to screech yourself as the lavender clearly hasn’t worked on the baby yet has you yawning.
3. Pyjamas. If your child, like mine, is still in one-piece pyjamas, it may be worthwhile to get help with this one. Try to hold any limbs that are already within the fabric in place as the child kicks, wriggles and does the Hokey Cokey to get back to the land of nudity and leaning back towards bath time. Contemplate making bath time longer and using another lavender bomb in the hopes that this one may work, and think that potentially there may have been caffeine in the last one. Vow to write a strongly worded letter to Lush about False Advertising. Wrestle tiny fingers out of sleeves and get them to let go of fabric with the temptation of a juice bottle or a rusk. And breathe.
4. Bed time bottle. If you’re still at this stage, watch the childs eyes light up as you hand over the bottle of milk, as if he hadn’t just had his tea an hour beforehand. Try to sneak child into gro-bag while he is glugging away on bottle, to distract from same “must-be-naked” instincts as before. Fail spectacularly as you need to get around the arms which are held tight holding the bottle, thus beginning the need for shushing.
5. Teeth. Attempt to wrestle a toothbrush into the mouth of your squirming child, who has likely never pursed their lips so tightly in their lives (except for when you did this last night and this morning).Try to get the brush around the few teeth they’ve managed to grow before being fought off. Pray that this will be enough to not end up in the dentists with a million cavities by the time they start school.
6. Story time. Dependant on how old your child is, and how long the rest of this process to date has taken, this could be between one and ten books. You can go from classics like “Goodnight Moon” and “Guess How Much I Love you”, to the wonderful “Dear Zoo” (and wonder why the author didn’t just specify what kind of animal he wanted from the start). If you’re still getting nowhere and have exhausted these options, try reading the Gina Forde books to the baby. You may as well get some use out of them, before they wind up in a charity shop “Fiction” pile (this is where I found them yesterday).
7. Singing. By now your child may well be in the cot, or may be in your arms chilling out but giving no indication that their eye rubbing and yawning will result in sleep any time soon. This is time to break out your future X Factor audition (as long as its not a high octane cover of Relight My Fire, or Smells Like Teen Spirit, you should be fine). Gentle tapping on the back, rubbing of the face, stroking of hair – all in time with the music – can be of assistance in this section. Prepare, as with the books, for more than one rendition of more than one song. Some times your child will be appreciative and listen, other times they will bring their Simon Cowell impersonation and boo you off your hypothetical stage. Do not be alarmed, they know not what they are saying. They just know that they do not want to sleep.
8. Praying. Whether you are religious or not, a certain part of bedtime may result in praying. If the singing hasn’t helped, you may find yourself praying to a plethora of gods in the hopes that one of them is listening and realises that the cup of tea or glass of wine in the kitchen has been calling you for quite a while, and can only be attained if they bring the sleepy powers down. Quite a lot of loss of faith can occur during this step.
9. Desperation. In our house, this is bringing the baby into the bed. Surely they will realise that lying in the dark, cuddling Mammy or Daddy means its sleep time? Not necessarily. For some, including ours most nights, this is a call to practice all of those Kung Fu moves he’s never been taught but somehow has attained in his day to day life. Preferably at Mammys head. And she definitely doesn’t need the use of her pillow. Normally, eventually, this will be the part where they give in. Eventually.
10. Moving to own bed. If you’ve gone through step nine, or been lucky enough for them to fall asleep at step seven while you regaled them with your cover of every Michael Buble song you know, this may not have been the resting place you had in mind for the rest of the night. Only the very brave should attempt the transfer on a whim; this is something that takes precision and if not done correctly can set you back a couple of steps. That tea is gone cold. You must beware of the silent alarm that goes off in every cot or every childs bed as they are lowered a certain distance from the mattress – if the child is not soundly dead-t0-the-world asleep, they will wake upon hearing this silent alarm and be not amused at your escape attempt. It must be done smoothly, slowly, and retreat must be careful. Avoid all noisy toys, and if you stub your toe on the way out, try to wait until you reach the hallway to shout out expletives.
Hopefully, it will still be before midnight by the time you’ve completed this obstacle course – grab your bowl of cereal and get shut eye yourself as quickly as possible – I can’t guarantee that this will keep them asleep, thats a job for another day.