Sometimes, keeping your cool is the hardest thing in the world. There are times when the children become mini dictators, their weapons of mass destruction being relentless and irrational screaming. Even bringing out your own big guns (namely, shrieking like a fishwife that Father Christmas is WATCHING and he doesn’t like naughty little girls!) has no effect.
Last night, Big – usually a very compliant and easy child – had the devil in her. I’ve had a few rough nights with Little being snuffly, teething and hungrier as she begins weaning and Medium suffering a bout of tonsillitis. I’ve averaged maybe two to three hours a night and I am a wreck. I have that weird tinnitus thing you get when you’re super tired and my eyes keep going into a stare that’s really hard to break. I really, really needed the girls to go down easily last night. Lovely Husband was out with his cronies and planned to do the Christmas shop on his way home (I told you he’s lovely) and I had a date with a bath, Made in Chelsea (my guilty pleasure) on catch up and a very, very, VERY early night.
At first, it looked good. Medium was out before I’d finished reading their story. Little was out as soon as she finished her feed. Big was looking at her books silently in bed. I retreated downstairs with a sigh and started folding washing. And then it started.
I don’t know what got into Big, but the following two hours were two of the hardest I’ve endured as a parent. Suffering pretty severe sleep deprivation and with no back up, the two hours of endless screaming for absolutely no apparent reason were exhausting. I tried everything; I got cross, I was kind, I read stories, I threatened to phone Father Christmas, I promised a surprise present, I cuddled, I scolded, I pulled everything out of my arsenal but nothing worked. Big didn’t even know what was wrong, so how I was supposed to fix it I have no idea.
Eventually, exhausted, I burst into tears. I sat and listened to her howling through the baby monitor on the sofa and let the bitter tears of frustration fall. I indulged myself for a few minutes then patted myself on the back. Despite the provocation (if you can call it that – I’m in want of another word, but I can’t find one. I told you I’m sleep deprived), I didn’t lose it. I kept my cool and I didn’t lose it when – especially with my eyes stinging and my legs feeling like they are made of lead – she pushed every button. If it had been anyone other than one of my children, I can’t imagine I’d have stayed calm.
My last attempt to settle her was to bring out The Rabbit That Wants To Go To Sleep. You know the one – the book that the Daily Fail reported as THE tool for getting children to sleep several months ago. She was asleep by the time I got to the fourth page. Was it the book? No, she was exhausted and she finally gave into it. It’s been a busy term and she’s so excited about Christmas that she’s ready to explode. I finished reading the story anyway and then I took ten minutes to sit and just watch her sleep: Her lovely eyes closed, her little mouth relaxed and her gorgeous hair tumbled around her shoulders. She really is the most beautiful child. I watched her and I felt the stress of the last two hours disappear. There’s nothing so calming as watching your child sleep peacefully.
Thankfully tonight all three have gone to bed easily. Largely thanks to lovely playdate that wore them out and regular reminders that Big needed to go to bed nicely if she wanted Father Christmas to visit. I know other nights like last night will happen again, but hopefully next time I won’t be quite so sleep deprived, but what I will always remember to do when they finally fall asleep is to watch them. To watch their dreams flit across their faces and remember that I love them and I am blessed to have them, sleep deprivation and all.