In this web exclusive column, freelance writer, blogger and married dad-of-two Gareth Ellis writes about sleep, getting kids into the right rhythm of sleeping, and the pitfalls that can still happen after that.
I love sleep.
I’m a man who needs to get his eight hours a night in or I feel perpetually tired throughout the day, moving like a zombie who’s been kept awake all night.
I know what you’re thinking; becoming a Dad was the worst thing that I could have done because your sleep schedule gets torn up, pooed on, and thrown out of the window by your adorable little angels.
When babies are tiny you almost enjoy it. With both Rupert and Emilia, I wanted them to cry sometimes because I couldn’t quite see them moving on their monitors. That, or I wanted to see them again and give them a snuggle, even if it was 3am.
After they move into their own rooms though, then it becomes more of a ‘chore’, you actually have to get out of bed, walk into a different room and then sort them out. The walk across the landing is freezing, and you want to get there quicker than if you stopped to get your dressing gown on.
Then comes that magical moment that they start sleeping through the night. With Rupert it was around the 10-month mark. We put in the hours sleep training him and then all of a sudden, we didn’t hear him one night – although we weren’t sure at first whether this was him sleeping through or us being too tired to hear him.
With Emilia the process has taken a little bit longer. For starters, she has a dummy when she goes to sleep, Rupert didn’t like them, so she will wake up sometimes if her dummy is out.
Secondly, sleep training with Emi was a bit harder as we were always worried about Rupert’s sleep being disrupted. So, whereas we could do the training to a point, we didn’t want her to cry for too long, so she kept him awake/woke him up.
And finally, she was the grateful recipient of second child syndrome – meaning we were far more lenient with letting her come into our bed if she woke in the night.
However, for all that our children have done well with their sleeping, they seem to be working against us – at least for the last couple of weeks.
They seem to be working in tandem, deciding who will be the one to stay up and cry that night, working in perfect harmony so that it’s never both of them on the same night.
For example, the other night I went out with my friends (not drinking) and got back at 10pm to see Emi beaming at me on Mummy’s lap. Her smile is a joy to come home too, but not when she should have been asleep for three hours by that point. (Note when she did go to bed after that, she slept through.)
Then two nights later, Rupert got himself into a worked-up, overtired, inconsolable state and screamed at Jess and I for three hours. One moment he ‘not like Mummy/Daddy’ then he didn’t want us to leave. He didn’t want a book, he didn’t want to get out, but he didn’t want to stay in bed, he wanted to go to Mummy and Daddy’s bed, then when we took him there, he wanted to go back to his bed. It was exhausting.
Although through the exhaustion he still managed to deliver us a complete gem. In his frustrated, overtired state he looked at me and said: “No Daddy, don’t be a bird!” All Jess and I could do was look at each other and laugh – which, of course, upset him even more.
My advice though to any parent is simple. Sometimes kids sleep brilliantly, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes they will call you a bird. Just battle through, stay patient and remember, sometimes there is nothing you can do for them, so it’s OK to walk away. Or fly in my case.
Gareth writes a regular blog at www.garethellisblog.wordpress.com and you can follow him on Instagram at @dads_the_word_blog