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?

No comments:

Post a Comment