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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What I realised about Freya starting school (it’s not you, it’s me).

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I longed for this day.

During that first year when, on top of the huge changes that motherhood brings, the reflux, intolerances and sheer exhaustion of never sleeping in more than 10 minute snatches brought me to my knees, I thought ‘One day I will get me back, when she goes to school.’

What I didn’t realise, what I couldn’t realise back then, was that when that time eventually came, I wouldn’t want to let her go.

People told me ‘it won’t always be like this’ and, a personal favourite, ‘you need to make the most of it’. That’s easier said than done when my baby was crying in pain 80% of the day and night, refusing to feed, losing weight, not wanting my comfort but refusing to be put down – and no one was either willing or able to help. The only thing I could do was hold on and wait for it to be over.

I know it could have been far worse but it was still hard. I’m not going to pretend otherwise, even though I feel guilty about it.

They were right about one thing though, it did get easier. At nine months the reflux settled down, at a year I saw glimpses of what was to come. The fun, the laughter. Yes, there were also tears and tantrums – and a continuing lack of sleep – but by then we were bonded. She was my sidekick, my little shadow or, as our postman described her the other day, my co-pilot.

He was used to bumping into us, off on some sort of mini-adventure.

“Where’s your co-pilot today?” He asked, not realising she was now at school full time.

The truth is, for the last couple of years she’s been much more than co-pilot – quite often she picked the route, made the announcements and was flying the plane. Our days together, when I wasn’t working, were dictated by the journeys she wanted to take. Now she’s handed back the controls but after an initial rush of euphoria where I got a hot chocolate (and sat and drank it in the shop without having to colour anything in or make conversation about My Little Pony), had a henna tattoo and got my hair cut, I’m…directionless.

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I miss our outdoor adventures, exploring new places, visiting somewhere on a whim – even going to the local playground.

I. Miss. Her.

While I don’t miss endless hours of playing games that make no sense, the four-year-old rage or the constant commentary on anything and everything, I do find myself counting down to 3.30pm.

I realised on her first day that my fears about her starting school had nothing to do with her – she loves it, can’t wait to get in each day – and everything to do with me. My role as a mother to a baby, a toddler, a small child is over. There are no more babies for me and Freya will spend the majority of her time with other people now.

Early motherhood is… done.

And, as bad as of some of it was, I’m not quite ready for it to be over. I’m not quite ready to be flying solo again. 

It’s going to take some getting used to, just as motherhood did – although hopefully with more sleep this time.

Bubbablue and me school days linky

 

The One Where Freya And I Share The Honeymoon Suite (A Weekend Adventure In Felixstowe).

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“And when I turned to look, Freya was trying to wash her hands in the bidet,” I laughed, as I explained what happened to my mum on the phone. 

That wasn’t even the worst part.

My goodness, what a weekend. My brother, sister-in-law and nephew came over from America (on a ship) and were staying with my parents in Ipswich, which was absolutely wonderful. I haven’t seen my sister-in-law (in person) for probably 10 years because she doesn’t like flying (completely understandable) and I was last able to hug my nephew and brother three years ago. It was a lovely, happy reunion – especially for Freya, who was delighted to see her only cousin.

As the house was full up, I booked me, Mark and Freya into a hotel in nearby Felixstowe, a seaside town we used to visit all the time as children, so we could be close and spend as much time as possible with them.

I used my birthday money to treat us to a night at The Orwell Hotel, one of Suffolk’s oldest and best known seaside hotels, so it felt like a little holiday for us too. 

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The hotel was designed by the influential architect John Shewell Corder and built in 1898 to cater for the influx of visitors who came by train to the fashionable resort.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel fairly extensively, staying in every sort of hotel you could imagine – from the five star St Regis Grand in Rome to a no star hostel near Gare de Nord in Paris.

The Orwell reminded me of a much-loved stately home; one that had seen generations of the same family happily grow up within its walls. Somewhere along the line, the family fortune was lost – probably gambled away by a drunken heir – and now the present generation has to overlook that it’s all a bit, well, frayed around the edges.

I was completely charmed by it. 

The communal areas had an almost otherworldly elegance. I felt like I should be dressed in period costume (certainly not jeans) to step into the library, let alone sit on one of the chairs and read.

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Our room was huge and had the added bonus that all the fixtures looked like they were older than me (or certainly Mark who was born in the ’80s). It was great. Like stepping back in time.

 

So often these days, hotel rooms are boringly uniform. Not so at The Orwell (although it was sold earlier this year and I believe it is being gradually refurbished).

While the furniture was “traditional”, shall we say, the sheets, towels, carpets etc were spotlessly clean (as was the room itself) and the toiletries rather lovely.

 

But, just as I was happily soaking in the atmosphere… (ok, using the free wifi) the music started.

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I can’t even claim ignorance. Not only are you warned when you book that the hotel hosts functions and some guests might be disturbed by the entertainment but there are multiple signs up when you arrive at reception too.

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How bad could it be? That was my thought at the time of booking. 

As it turns out, pretty bad.

Our family room was on the second floor and I can only assume above the wedding reception. All we could hear was thumping base. When 9pm came and Freya was still wide awake, I rang down to reception to ask when it might go off.

Maybe 11.30pm but probably nearer midnight, the very nice lady said (in fact, all the staff were polite and as helpful as can be).

I’m not sure if I groaned but she must have sensed my displeasure because she said: “We are almost fully booked but we do have the honeymoon suite available.” She assured me this would be quieter so, dressed in our PJs, with Freya wrapped in a blanket, we all trotted along the corridor to the new room. The alternative was going to be leave and sleep on the living room floor at my parents house, which I would have been so sad about (not least because I would have wasted all my money).

 

Thankfully, it was blissfully quiet… but only had a double bed. As Mark goes to bed later than Freya and I, he volunteered to stay in the old (party) room while we took the new one, which was bathed in a glorious orange light from the setting sun.

The nice lady said there was no extra charge, which was a relief.

While Mark and I were talking about what bags needed to be transferred to the new room, Freya had put herself to bed and was already nearly asleep.

Knowing she gets up at 5am no matter what, I tried to get off to sleep myself – even though I really wanted to explore the suite. It was set across two main rooms plus a bathroom and separate toilet with the same faded glory apparent in the first room.

As it happened, I found it hard getting used to the new noises (including the lift next door going up and down). I’m the same in every hotel. The strange thing about this one was that I didn’t hear another person. No voices in the corridor, no doors closing. I’m not sure whether the walls are just thicker or the guests more considerate.

Freya woke up with a tummy ache at 1am and then she needed to use the bathroom a little while later before, as predicted, waking for the day just after 5am.

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You can see me (fully-clothed) reflected in the tap *wave*

It was as I was attempting to work the shower (“turn on the cold water first and then gradually add in some hot” sounds simple enough but turned out to be a fine art) that she said she was going to wash her hands…and I turned just in time to see her turning the taps on the bidet.

“Noooooo!” I screeched, before trying to explain what a bidet is. She looked really confused, as well she might.

Once we had finally showered I took her to a very nice play area by the sea before returning to meet Mark for the buffet breakfast in the decadent restaurant at 8am. IMG_2736

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Would I stay there again? If there wasn’t an event on, sure. I guess if Freya was older and we stayed out later it wouldn’t have been as much of a problem – although it really was loud.

Was it worth the £128? For the two rooms we had, definitely. For one on its own, especially with the noise, I would say no.

As I only seem to pick noisy hotels, I’m going to let Mark do the booking from now on.

Still, all was well in the end – and it’s probably the only time I’ll ever stay in a honeymoon suite!

Oregon Girl Around the World