Parenting. It’s something you can’t really prepare for. And then one day it just happens, you’re standing in the delivery room holding a little bundle of life. Yes, you’re suddenly a newborn parent. From that moment onwards, we learnt the hard way how precious a good night sleep is. Unbroken, undisturbed – alas not. Those Sunday morning lie-ins were still possible but sadly alone as we took it in turns to do the early shift. Hopefully, we’d get the chance to snuggle back in when the milk, nappy change, playing and Teletubbies antics had taken it out of Josh, our first of three. All boys.
Sometimes a nappy change and feed would do the trick. Rather than getting up, we’d snuggle up, the sound of his gentle breathing, lulling us back to sleep.
And then, just when you think you have the whole parent thing covered, your smug overconfidence gets another rude awaking. Along comes another addition to the family changing the parent child ratio from a manageable 2:1 to a rather more challenging 2 a side match. Not to mention a whole new personality somewhat more demanding than his big brother.
In the blink of an eye, our little family grew. As the father of three feral boys, I soon learnt to appreciate how important sleep is to ensure I get anywhere near being the loving, kind and patient parent we all aspire to be.
The days not preceded by a restful night became pit propped by my new-found friend, coffee. And finally, as their evening bedtime arrived, we joined the ranks of frazzled parents unwinding with the universal popping of wine corks at the aforementioned hour.
As the boys grew, their days become longer and our few child-free hours grew shorter. The bigger they became, the more energy I need to find to have any chance of keeping up with the insatiable appetite for everything and anything that involves fun, lunacy and the inability to sit still.
Their bedtime routine, now closer to 9.00pm than 7pm, now involves 30 mins of infuriating cat herding. What was once the sweetest, most loving time of day has now become the craziest, with the boys constantly jack-a-boxing out of bed for the most miniscule of reasons. Examples including: ‘I’m too tired to go to sleep’, ‘what are you watching on TV?’ and ‘Did you know that he new Panini Premiership sticker book is coming out in 4 weeks time?’.
As an impact of the boys’ changing routine, we have tried to adapt our own accordingly to maintain any semblance of grown up time and some quality sleep.
We have both downgraded our once strong coffee to decaf. This is a massive improvement on so many levels. Caffeine is a diuretic and by taking it out of the equation means I don’t wake up at some stupid O’clock needing to go to the loo. As I work in a creative business, constantly needing to find a creative solution, it also means that should I wake up at said silly hour, I’m not suddenly wide awake with my mind busy on solving what I’m working on.
On school/work nights, Lisa, my wife, tries to eat at the same time as the boys while I grab a light snack when I get in. And as lovely as a bottle of wine or a few beers sounds, we are doing our best (not always) to avoid it for the same nighttime reason as caffeine and its ability to replace real sleep with a false, alcohol induced one.
Obviously this goes out of the window on Fridays, when we pimp our favourite Pizza Express supermarket pizzas and wash it down with a Peroni starter or two and a lovely ice cold bottle of Pinot Grigio.
Before we know it we’ve dozed of thanks to their combined soporific effect and slept through the movie we’ve downloaded and paid for only to wake up on the sofa just as end credits are rolling.
It goes without saying that we’re quite partial to a spot of weekday TV. We were late coming to Breaking Bad but when we did for 2 month it was back to back episodes of Walter and Jessie.
Since then we’ve dabbled with other shows but nothing has really come close.
These days, for me, my newly rekindled pleasure is actually grabbing an early-ish night with a couple of chapters of my book. I know I sound like an old bore but I find it far more relaxing and this kind of bedtime story soon has the eyelids closing.
It seems funny that the most effective ways we used to get our boys settled, has the same effect on us grown ups.
I still look back fondly on those great reads like Guess how much I love you, My cat’s weird and The Gruffalo. A character I find staring back at myself from the mirror when I haven’t been lucky enough to enjoy a good night sleep.