Reasons My Four-Year-Old Woke Last Night (Plus Tips For Coping With Sleep Deprivation).

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The mind of a four-year-old seems to be a miraculous, if slightly terrifying, thing.

Since starting school in September, Freya has amazed me with how much she has learnt. She’s like a little sponge soaking it all up. The trouble is, at night she seems to be squeezing that sponge to get the excess out.

The first time she woke up last night was probably legitimate. She thought there was a spider on her pillow, which she some how saw in the pitch-black (an extensive search by light of my phone revealed that was not the case).

Next she started awake wondering why she didn’t win any money on the amusements when we were on holiday last week. You have to go through the amusements to get to the disco/soft play and I let her go on some of the little rides, which is why she didn’t win any money.

Then she needed a “huggle” (blaming Topsy and Tim’s gran for that one).

A drink (ok).

Woke up crying that she doesn’t have any friends. She does, I listed half a dozen.

Needed the toilet (legitimate).

Was worried that she will never get married. I explained, with as much patience as I had at 1am, that it’s not something to worry about now OR EVER and that she needed to GO TO SLEEP.

Other nights have included fears about being unable to write the letter a, pondering what you get if you mix red and yellow together and letting me know she doesn’t like being called “Banana Head”. I have never called her that, for the record.

Despite all the wake ups she was ready to go at 4.17am today (grrr changing the clocks) which was obviously not happening and so she fidgeted and sighed loudly until 5am when I finally gave up.

Sadly, this sleeplessness isn’t a new thing.

I know we like to make jokes about sleep (or rather lack of it) when our babies are young but I genuinely believe it’s more of a problem than we give it credit for. People told me I had PND in her first year when she would wake every 10 minutes some nights but I knew, while I was really sad (even though I had the baby I wanted more than anything in the world), sheer exhaustion was behind it. If I even got a tiny bit more sleep, I felt better (I still do).

People also told me, with confidence, she would start sleeping at three months, one, 18 months, two, three and now? They have given up asking, I suppose assuming she just sleeps.

The bags under my eyes tell a different story (not to mention the weight I’ve put on from comfort eating). It’s a lot better than it was but her little brain just doesn’t seem to be able to switch off. As the experts say there is nothing physically wrong with her, there isn’t much help available (at least, that doesn’t involve just letting her cry, which is not something I want to do).

And, of course, it doesn’t just create problems for me but her too. Generally she is a happy girl but as the day wears on and she gets more tired, she gets manic. There are no naps any more (not that she was ever much of a napper) so we just take a not much fun trip to meltdown city when she gets home from school.

I’ve tried all sorts to try and help her (and me) over the years from cranial osteopathy to a Grow Clock, restrictive diets to baths before bed, warm drinks to white noise and massage to reward charts but I’ve kind of just accepted now that I have one of those non-sleeping children. As I’ve been told numerous times “She won’t be like this when she’s 15, you’ll have to drag her out of bed.” I have my doubts about that but at least now I can talk to her about it and explain why sleep is important for all of us. Some nights are better than others. I do my best to keep calm and carry on, bake Halloween gingerbread  (recipe here) at 6am and enjoy the sunrise.

After more than four years of it, I have realised a few things that help get me through the day.

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Have you got a non-sleeper? How do you get through the day following the night before?

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Maths – No More Passing The Buck.

“You’re just not getting it, are you?” The man said in a tone that made it clear he was losing his patience with my obvious stupidity.

Later, as I was retelling this story to Mark, he stopped me at that point and said: “That’s when you went ballistic, right?”

Wrong.

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Standing at the tills in the high street shop, even though I knew, I KNEW, I was right, something stopped me from pointing out he was being incredibly rude.

And that something?

Simple maths.

I’d gone to the shop to take back a dress I’d bought Freya which came down to her ankles. The deal was the dresses should have been £8 each but if you bought two you got them for £6 each making them £12 and saving £4 (every little helps).

My plan was that I’d pick a different style from the ones in the same deal and swap it.

I explained it politely to the man.

He nodded.

He scanned the old dress.

He scanned the new dress.

He said: “That will be £2, please.”

I reached for my purse before I realised that no, that wasn’t right.

He pointed at the receipt and said: “You only paid £6 for the old dress and this one is £8.”

“I know but if I buy two dresses I get them for £6 each. That’s the deal. I have two dresses but I want to swap this dress for that dress using the same deal. I shouldn’t have to pay anything.”

He tried to explain it to me.

I tried (again) to explain it to him.

Then he resorted to insulting my intelligence.

I really hate rude behaviour (and I’m quite capable of saying so normally) but maths is my achilles heel. He was so adamant that he was right that I felt a tiny tingle of doubt; maybe I had got it wrong after all? I started to get bit flustered, even considered giving him the £2.

I’ve been feeling cross about it ever since.

I’m not sure when I realised I was rubbish at maths. Junior school, maybe? Certainly in high school when I was placed in the lower set (I got a D in GCSE maths, for the record).

It’s something of a standing joke within my family now.

The strange thing is, it’s not really the hard stuff I struggle with – I really enjoyed algebra, for example (maybe because it has letters in it!), and later, at work, I quite liked picking my way through council/company reports trying to work out where the money had gone.

It’s the basic stuff, especially if it’s on the spot, where I stumble. My brain just doesn’t work that way. Never get me to work out splitting a bill – unless you’re willing to pay for a bit of my lunch (at least that’s my excuse).

In those long months of pregnancy, I worried about who would help Freya with her homework (because, clearly, I didn’t have enough things to think about) but I told myself “Oh, Mark can deal with that side of things”.

This man made me think.

Passing the buck is no longer good enough.

I don’t need to be good at everything but I do wonder whether I’ve switched off to even trying now – and that’s not a great lesson to teach Freya. “Oh you can’t do it, let someone else do it for you.”

That’s why I found myself insisting to the man in the shop that I was right. I was just about to ask him to get his manager when he suggested refunding both dresses and starting again.

He gave me £6 back for some reason.

“I’m sorry it’s all coins,” he said, which was a bit bewildering.

“That’s ok, I’m going to give it back in just a second.”

He did his thing, eventually scanning the two dresses I wanted. They were indeed £12 and so I pushed the coins back across the counter to him.

I saw the exact moment it clicked in his head what I’d been asking.

I’m not sure what was going on.

Maybe he couldn’t put it through the till any other way. Maybe I didn’t explain what I wanted well enough but there was no need for his rudeness.

He did me a favour in one way because I’m determined to start having a go from now on (and I’ll hopefully get better at it).

Have you ever worried you’re not good enough in a certain subject or don’t have the right skills to be able to help your child?

 

Why Blog?

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It’s an age-old question. Or it would be if “age” described the 20-odd years that take us back to the 1990s when blogging began, which seems like only last week to me. 

Anyway, it’s a question that appears to unite all bloggers at one point or another, no matter how big or small their audience. It is asked at the start, probably many times in the middle and one last time at the end. 

Why blog?

I imagine there is more of a list when you are a pro-blogger; hopefully there is still a love of writing but also income, readership, contracts signed etc. What about for us folks for whom blogging is a more of a hobby? Why do we start and, perhaps more importantly, keep going?

My story.

While I’ve consistently kept a paper journal since I was 18, I found it was a lot easier to grip a phone and type one handed while holding a finally sleeping baby than to attempt to write with a pen in a notebook and still keep said baby from rolling on to the floor.

Blogs had also kept me company in the lonely wee hours of those early months of motherhood when I felt like I was drowning. They helped me find the energy to kick my legs and get my head back above water.

So when I was feeling a little less overwhelmed, I thought I’d have a go at telling my story too. 

It wasn’t completely new to me, I had blogged anonymously in the early noughties (full of angst following a nasty breakup) but much has changed in the online (and offline) world since then  – not least the advent of social media.

As it happens it was thanks to social media that I got a reminder of why I blog. 

A Twitter friend kindly re-shared an old post of mine from more than two years ago, which I clicked on to re-read.

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Freya had just turned one and, as well as celebrating, I was also reflecting on what a hard year it had been and why it didn’t seem like the “done thing” to say so.

Amid my ramble was this paragraph:

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At first I thought: “Wow, did I really include that?” I shocked myself! Maybe I should have edited that out? It’s hardly ideal to admit I was so low that I thought about harming her or me, even if I didn’t do it.

Then I realised, this was a huge moment in our lives – one I had all but forgotten until now.

As I read it again, I was back there, standing at that junction with the pram, the bus coming towards us. I can still feel the deep-down despair, the absolute certainty that I was a terrible mother for not being able to ease her reflux and stop her suffering and that this could be a way to stop all our pain. And I can still feel the whoosh of cool air hitting my face, blowing my hair back, as the bus drove by.

It was a turning point.

I was at my lowest but I decided to fight on.

Look at us now, how far we have come.

Yes, reading it again was like a hug for me, a “you got through it, you survived” but it was more than that. I continued to read and discovered a couple of comments on the post (including from the lovely Jenni, who I remain in touch with). To this day I am still surprised and delighted when people take the time to comment and especially if they can relate in some way to my experiences. I also remembered a couple of emails I’d received from other mums who were struggling, possibly even as low as I was. They said the post made them feel less alone, more able to keep going  – exactly as those blogs that I read when Freya was tiny did.

It’s that connection, along with preserving the memories (good and bad) and the fact I love to write that keeps me blogging and reading blogs (so please don’t stop writing).

I’m not suggesting that every post will hit the mark, especially when I write about falling in love with a lemur, but sharing our stories – the joyful moments as well as the tougher times – matters on a personal front but also on a wider level, possibly more than we think.

Why do you blog? I’d love to know.