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Monday, 10 October 2011

three in the bed ...

Ever since the prison bars came down from Isla's cotbed, she and monkey have sneaked their way into my bed in the middle of the night. When Isla was a baby, I was a militant routine mother, determined to have a contented little baby just like the one in the books. I spent hours leaning over the cot, stroking her back and making 'ssshing' noises, the theory being it sounded like the noise in the womb and in twenty minutes they'd be asleep. But if they woke up before twenty minutes you had to start all over again. Inevitably eighteen minutes in, the crying would begin, I could practically taste the glass of wine waiting downstairs but devoutly begun the whole process again. Later on I would try lying down on the floor next to her, by bum cheeks going numb in the winter air and gradually crawling out commando style in the vain hope she wouldn't stir. Instead of being addicted to the X Factor, my evening 'entertainment' meant eyes glued to the baby monitor looking for any flicker of red lights as she woke up realising I wasn't there. It didn't take long for me to decide I had better things to do with my time and let her cry it out.

But after two years of silent nights, Isla woke up to the fact that she had rights too. And, after one lengthy bout of screaming and a loud thud on the floor she also woke up to the fact that she could climb/fall out of her cot. So down came the bars and a cheeky monkey was unleashed. After doing the equivalent of a marathon going up and down the stairs putting her back to bed and more sleeping on the floor and bottom shuffling out the door, it was time for reinforcements. This time it was Isla's turn to sleep on the floor, as I transformed her bedroom into a cattle pen with the help of a stair gate. Exhausted by her own protestations, I would find her lying squashed up against the gate,  but it only took a couple of nights for her to decide the bed was in fact a more comfortable option.

Soon after, the gate became my bribery weapon of choice. 'If you stay in bed, i'll keep the gate open, but if you get out of bed, I will have to close it.' Inevitably, I would hear the creak of a floorboard and see two small feet padding down the stairs and hear a squeal of delight at her own mischeviouness. Consequently, the gate was always shut when she clambered back in to bed but with only a moments objection before she was fast asleep. But now it seems it is part of our nightly ritual. I kiss her goodnight, she tells me not to close the gate. I leave it open, she sneaks downstairs a few minutes later, I take her back to bed and shut the gate. The other night, on returning her to bed she said 'shut the gate mummy'. So much for bribery.

For a while I figured I should try and get her into the habit of going to bed without any props, after all its only a matter of time before she masters the gate. So, I took the advice of Supernanny, picking Isla up and putting her back with no eye contact and no words. Apparently, this is the best bedtime game a two-year old could possibly imagine. After a dozen times of returning her to bed, not only was she squealing with excitment but putting her arms up in readiness for the lift. Why do they make discipline sound so straightforward in the book, then try it in practice and you've just invented a brilliant new game?

Once she's asleep, leg dangling, mouth wide open, I always open the gate and invariably in the night I feel a pat, pat, pat on my arm. Without even opening my eyes, I haul Isla and monkey in, exchange whispered 'love you's' and then we all roll over and go back to sleep, happily defying every baby book ever written about sharing the family bed. But at 2am I come from the 'path of least resistance' school-of-thought more than that of Gina Ford.

So this morning, when I woke to find that Isla had stayed in her own bed all night, I gave her a congratulatory sticker but couldn't help feeling a twinge of sadness knowing that in a few short years I will be lucky to snatch any cuddles at all let alone wake up to the cheeky smile and cheery cry of 'mummy, its sunny time!' each morning.

1 comment:

  1. oh lordy, I'm glad you posted this - we had 73 get-out-of-beds tonight before we got overtired 'MUMMYYY' screams.. it's hard work, isn't it?