Sunday, 29 November 2015

The Boy Who Does Not Want To Fall Asleep

The boy's mother will not bore you (much) with all the nocturnal details of the last four years but it is suffice to say that, for Matt, sleeping is definitely cheating. He is not a fan of bedtime, night time, the dark, dreaming, or being alone. We have put his reluctance down to hunger, teething, illness, daylight savings, the light, the dark, the noise, the quiet, etc. All plausible reasons. The most recent excuse, and the most disconcerting, was when Matt declared that the reason he does not like the dark is because he can see things that other people can't see. Yikes, Scooby. 

We have tried a multitude of ways to gently encourage Matt to go to sleep and stay asleep (except consistency). We had a musical cot toy when he was a bairn but when the batteries ran out it said 'NOIGHTY NOIGHT' in a slow scary drawl which gave me the fear. Most notably we bought a Gro Clock. These clocks aim to help the child stay in bed until the sun rises on the face of the clock.However our experience did not go like clockwork. Firstly, the 'fun bedtime story' that comes with the clock failed to inspire us. The rhymes are cringeworthy and the story is weak particularly when the animals saved money in a sock to buy their friend a clock. Isn't that just unnecessary outsourcing of the role of a cockerel? These things went over Matt's head and he liked the farm animals. He also liked having his own clock too. However, the first night he woke up after a couple of hours and when I reminded him of our new world order his reply was 'what clock?' The second night he woke up after a couple of hours and again denied all knowledge of the clock. The third morning Matt woke up at some ridiculously early hour and we pointed out it was not time to get up as the sun wasn't on the clock. He declared 'I can sort that' and pressed the button to make the sun appear. Needless to say we notched that up as another Matt win. 

We have come to accept that Matt needs help to find his way to the land of nod. That is fine. However I am always interested to hear about any innovation that claims to halt the sleep thief in his tracks. So I was delighted when I was given The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep for my birthday. The lovely Mrs Smith pointed out that even though it was a children's book if it worked it would be a great gift for me. I had heard about the book and was interested in the claim to be a new way to help your children get to sleep. I was keen to give it a try as soon as. I waited for the evening to arrive though as the book actually states it should not be read aloud if someone is driving. I guess that is sound is advice if the reader is also the driver.

Evening one with the rabbit: We sat on Matt's bed and I showed him the book. He looked non plussed at the cover and asked what it was called. I enlightened him and he screwed up his face. I feared I was losing him already so I dived straight in without reading the instructions at the front. Shocking I know. We had just read the first sentence when Matt yawned. OOOhhhhh how exciting- could this be working already? Err no. He soon started fidgeting and interrupting. He proceeded to close the book and declare that 'this will take ages. Not tonight.' It is ironic that although Matt is never in a hurry to go to sleep he finds this book too long. That night I expected a quick transition to a dream state but Matt asked for four other stories. The night of all nights arrived and the boy did not sleep until 11 pm. To be fair he did have a cough and I had to calpol him. So, book versus calpol- calpol wins. Evening two, Matt immediately said he was too tired for the book! I guess that is an indirect win for the book? Evening three Matt was sceptical of my attempt to foist the book on the reading pile again and found it a permanent place on the bookshelf. Not exactly a success. I think there are two main problems for us. 

Problem one is the book's problem. It does not look like the other books that we read. The cover, the illustrations, and the amount of text, do not engage Matt. I have read the book myself and I appreciate the psychological rationale behind it. I understand that the repetition of relaxing words like YAWN, the sleep powder and the muted illustrations (sinister according The Dad) have a key role but the relaxation techniques overshadow the story. It is overt rather than subliminal. Whilst it could be a winner from the parents' point of view it fails to achieve the first rule of a bedtime book which is to make the child want it to be read.  I would suggest it could be a touch more more Michelle Robinson and less Paul McKenna.

The second problem is with my son! Sort of. Matt has the potential to be the best candidate for testing this book as he is the boy who really does not want to sleep. But because of this Matt does not see what he has in common with the rabbit who wants to. The title has made him deeply suspicious of the book. So on the one hand I would say that this book is a hit as it definitely gives off a soporific aura but because it is so obvious it is just not for Matt. I understand that such processes of relaxation only work when the individual is open to suggestion. Thus the reluctant sleeper will find it harder to engage with the title and the process. He simply does not want to sleep. Words like sleepy and yawn do not induce relaxation. When this young colt hears such words,  with or without emphasis, he rears up. This is a horse that needs to be led in to the sleep box backwards. So, Mrs Smith,  I wholeheartedly appreciate the gesture, and fully trust your book judgment but this one hasn't delivered yet. Maybe we need a horse whisperer rather than a rabbit book. No probs if you have already bought books for Christmas though.

So the question remains what is the solution for the boy who does not want to fall asleep? 

Of course books are the answer just not as directly as the wabbit one.(Except in the case of illness when TV in my bed is the answer- I never claimed to be Supernanny). Reading a good book or two is enough relaxation in itself. We read what Matt wants to read (mostly) and we stay close. Some nights, once in a blue moon, he gifts me a one-booker of a night but sometimes I have to cap it at four or five. There are some books that are not conducive to an easy bedtime. Matt's reluctance to read this book is on a par with my reluctance to read certain other books at night time.  My lovely pal Mrs Williams has upstairs and downstairs books. We have day books and nighttime books. Day books are mostly those that involve activities, questions, lots of text or require excess effort! The prime example that springs to mind is one that The Dad tries to use his powers of suggestion to get Matt to ask me to read. The book in question is the very splendid What Do People Do All Day? There is just too much going in there for bedtime!

The second phase of a relaxing bedtime is for the parent to remain calm too. Some nights this is easier than others. But try we might. Once Matt's book sesh has finished I sit beside the bed and read my book. Not out loud I might add as I am not sure he is ready for Game of Thrones. A good book is my way to ride the bedtime wave- waving not drowning. I now have all the time in the world for him to fall asleep. By all I mean not all- I do have my list to write for tomorrow. And there is cake downstairs...The other benefit of my own reading at Matt's bedtime is that I am showing him how books are the givers of peace and the vessels of calm. Books have always been an important of Matt's winding down routine but I had not realised that they could be the key to keeping me relaxed at his bedtime too. 

If the rabbit book works for you and your willing participant- fab stuff. Maybe one day it will work for us. But for now I will keep ploughing through a ton of books to reach the same end- a calm, rested, boy who feels connected and safe enough to sleep. The popular parenting books and TV shows may say I have made a rod for my own back or call for boundaries and independence. I say he is four. I am cheaper than a gro clock, more engaging than a bestselling book, and usually less scary than an musical cot toy. I am also the only thing he wants. He said it succinctly the other night- 'I just need cuddles and I just like company'. How can I refuse that? Although I do like to point out to him that cuddles and company are also available in the day too.

If you too have had problems with your child sleeping you could always read them this post and see if that works?! Yawn. Noighty Noight!

That which we seek.

That which we receive. On the landing. Asking about the differences between eyelashes and eyebrows. Shall we discuss it tomorrow instead, son?

Friday, 13 November 2015

There's Nothing Like A Bit Of Healthy Competition

You know when you have a nugget of an idea and you share it with someone and then they run with it and then you find yourself racing around town trying to win a book challenge. Yeah? Me too. 

On a play date with our buddies from Giftsfromthepirates I mentioned that it would be fun to do a charity shop book challenge where we see who can get the best selection of children's literature. Pauly loved the idea and it was game on.

The morning arrived and I was pumped. I was more than match ready. I excitedly told Matt what the day had in store but then my team mate stuck the boot it with 'there isn't any room for more books on my shelf.' Whilst this is almost true I felt deflated. I had to have a good changing room talk with him about how you can NEVER EVER have too many books. Only when he had agreed to give 110% (intensely dislike that phrase) did we head off to whoop the pirates.

We started the day on friendly terms with a group trip to the library. It is an inspiring building- at least from the outside- and we hoped it would set the tone for our book day. Matt asked if the man on the chair was a story teller. I love how he came up with that idea but no, son, that's Charles Darwin. The Other Parent tells me he built the local shopping centre or somet.

The library was hosting a session for little ones so we grabbed some books and took our notsolittleones to sit in the teen section. The books there looked a little more adult than the Judy Blumes I was happy to read back in the day. The boys were only interested in their haul though.

Pauly kicked things off by reading a couple of stories.

An odd lady with wild hair read another.

The boys started sniffing around for food so we had to leave the library.

Happy boy. Honest. As long as you feed him regularly. As in 'stop typing, Mother, and open this, peas'.
I cannot advocate eating in the library (we shall ignore the 1996-1999 period of my life when I regularly consumed purple Nik-Naks in the basement of the Brotherton Library in Leeds. Lunch I think it was called back then) so we sat outside by Darwin. Whilst the boys snacked us grown ups discussed the precious rules for the competition:

£5 to spend. 
No shoplifting
No fighting
No books from home- I possibly accused the other team of this, oops. 

We had to see what books we could find for our budget and choose one as a gift for the opposing team.

And then suddenly we were under starter orders...

G'wun Matt
Matt and I headed for Oxfam Books. I thought this was a stealth move. I was delighted to find a Christmas section and immediately snatched up Tolkien's Letters from Father Christmas and How The Grinch Stole Christmas. I was just sizing up the children's section when Matt announced that he needed a wee. I quickly paid and we took a time out. We found the loos just in time but not before we had walked in on a lady who evidently had not locked her door. We shook off that experience and got back in the game.

I tried to keep it fun for Matt but the five minutes of timewasting had made me sweat a little. We headed to another charity shop and Matt spied a dinosaur. It was not a book and it walked and roared. I was stuck in a deep dark moral quandary and caved immediately. He did have £2 in his pocket to spend on something he found he absolutely must have. I was contractually obliged to purchase it and I figured it would boost team morale. I was just peeved that it was not something smaller or quieter. He promised it would encourage him to keep his mind on the game so off we went to the next shop.

The plan was to meet back up at twelve for lunch and to be joined by our pals Lucie and Martha who were to be our adjudicators. Pauly tried to steal another 30 mins but nothing gets in the way of our lunch time. Nothing.

The Referees
Holding back our trove, we both declared that still had a pound or so left so we headed off for round two. We found a shop with books as cheap as 10p so I spent the rest of my money there. Lucie got stung for a Tiger book that cost a pound and ran out of battery within the hour. My lowest point was finding an Olivia book and having no money left. It still hurts now.

I turned my frown upside down when we met back up at the cafe in the Museum. 
We played at reindeer whilst we awaited our hot chocolates. See an emerging Christmas theme developing?

The results:

We bought:
The Father Christmas Letters
How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Mr Popper's Penguins
Ladybird's Little Red Tractor: Bye Bye Blue
The Young Rider
Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent
Dinosaur Atlas

They bought:
Harry and The Dinosaurs Make a Christmas Wish
Nessie Needs New Glasses
Yo Yo King
Mini Beasts
The Way Back Home
Roald Dahl Skin
Old Nursery Rhyme Annual

We gifted the Dinosaur Atlas and Mr Popper's Penguins to the pirates. They gifted us with Dahl's adult book Skin and the old annual. The annual was our gift because I had been saying how I love books with character. I do like seeing the traces in a book left by other people before me (a name, a message, not so much hair or stains). This book had Helen Partington's name, writing, colouring, and pages coming out. A real character indeed.

Ah the joy of books
We all enjoyed ourselves but then the inevitable question of who won reared its ugly head.

We all looked to the judges. Lucie deferred to Martha who undiplomatically granted the others the win. I called for a steward's inquiry seeing as the refs accepted the bribe of an Oliver Jeffer's book.

I held my breath waiting for Matt to loudly express his disappointment at losing. But in a last minute shocker Matt declared that we were all winners! And a few moments later, when Opeie told Matt that you don't get extra points for stepping on the lines on the pavement but you actually get lasered, Matt shocked me again. He uttered some words I had not yet heard in four years: 'ok, we'll try it your way'. Now, that is being a good sport. And that, my friends, is a result.

If anyone knows a Helen Partington (or nee Partington) possibly of Shrewsbury, please tell her not to be so rigorous with her books although we have very much enjoyed her penmanship. If she would like to be reunited with her nursery rhyme annual please get in touch (with £1, some sellotape, and proof of handwriting).

Pleasez excusez some of the book links- some publishers no longer hosted details for said books and I could not trace the publishing details of others. Judge me not harshly. I tried as much as I could be bothered for this time of night.