“To sleep: perchance to dream” Hamlet Act 3 Scene 1
“To sleep: chance would be a fine bloody thing.” Emma Robinson 2003
Most nights in the Robinson household are a game of musical beds. We all start off in the right beds but, by the morning, there is no telling who will be where.
Take last night. Husband and I went to bed about 10:30. At around 2:30am W appeared beside the bed, I lifted the quilt and he climbed in. Roughly an hour later, S cried out and I went and got in bed with her. 6:00am, husband got out of bed and went to work. I got back into my bed with W for an hour until our alarm buzzed at 7.00am and we all got up.
Sometimes, we move around on nocturnal autopilot, to the extent that you can’t actually remember what went on under cover of darkness. A couple of weeks ago I went to bed with my husband and woke up with my son. When I asked husband in the morning where he had spent the night, he looked at me blankly trying to remember. Five years ago, that may have been grounds for divorce.
Sleep is a very contentious issue and a subject, like religion and politics, which is best left undiscussed amongst friends. Many of my friends have very strong opinions on how, where and when children should sleep and would take a very dim view of my haphazard attitude. What can I say? I freely admit that I am too weak for controlled crying, too selfish for full on co-sleeping and too damn disorganised for a regimental bedtime routine. Actually, that’s a lie. I rarely admit to anything.
For these sins, I will be consigned to a broken night’s sleep for many years to come. I have read a wealth of books on the subject of children and sleep: searching for the magic formula which will mean my children will sleep all night, in their own beds, but I will not have to listen to them cry. Reluctantly, I am realising that such a formula does not exist. Well-meaning friends have told me that they will sleep better once they are walking, have all their teeth, have started school. For my little insomniacs, however, none of these lifestyle changes seem to make any difference whatsoever.
I am very fortunate to have a wonderful mother who often has my children for a sleepover so that I can catch up on a few sleep cycles. This reduces my zombie-like demeanour to something approaching normality. I start to be able to function normally, even managing to answer difficult questions such as ‘Do you take sugar in your tea?’ within 20-30 seconds.
Perhaps there is a subconscious reason that I have never managed to fully resolve their nocturnal shenanigans. As, despite the fact that I would dearly love a few night’s uninterrupted sleep, when I wake up in the morning with my son’s arms linked around my neck, or my daughter’s fingers twisted into my hair, I know that they won’t be climbing into bed with me forever and I cherish the moment. As they grow, the time they will want to spend cuddling with their mummy will decline. One day I will wish for these days to return, sleepless nights and all. Sometimes I hold the moment, breathe in their still baby-like smell and squeeze them tight in an effort to commit this feeling to my emotional memory bank.
Then I pack them an overnight bag for Nana’s house.