Bemused Parent: Entry 2
Dad and I could do with an early night. I don’t mean sleep but sitting down by 9pm, to read, chat or watch TV, without Ada.
Several months ago, she made a sticker label to put on her bed saying: “Go to sleep by 8.45pm, or else.” A great intention I thought, except Ada’s sleep motivation was her impatience to play with Dad’s new label printer. Ada goes to bed late every day and it can often take a while for her to fall asleep. When we think she is finally nodding off, it’s a race to cram in outstanding chores before Dad turns the TV on, expecting me to be ultra-alert picking up the nationalities of every new crew member in Star Trek Discovery. Alternatively, Ada will want to make parents time off what she calls a “family evening” and insists that we are cruel to leave her out.
School is not bad at encouraging tiredness. If the school day is composed of “show me something new” (no spelling test, times tables test, repeat of French vocabulary, repeat of science lesson) then Ada will generally nod off faster. But now that the summer holiday is here, we’re contending with even later bedtimes aided occasionally by the crazy hot weather. On a holiday several years ago, my husband filmed Ada bouncing delightedly on her hotel bed at 3am, egged on by jet-lag. I also remember the raging tantrum that happened on our return, when we checked into an airport hotel and I told her to have a few hours sleep.
Apparently many HLP kids scorn sleep and can be up all hours. When Ada was a baby, she slept less than my friends’ children, dropped her afternoon nap early and usually needed three pram walks a day on top of all the toys, storytimes and In The Night Garden episodes. Her amused Granddad nicknamed her “Sleep Deprivation Unit”. I thought it was just bad luck, but pity my friend SH, whose 10-year-old son goes to bed at 9pm and regularly wakes at 5.30am. Still, three cups of coffee in the morning seem to help me feel less knackered, although I tell myself my eye bags are not from ageing but from the receiving end of an HLP child’s sleep-deprivation drive. Excuses eh?
There will often be the delay tactics, such as taking too long in the bathroom, a health worry that could have been aired earlier (“I’ve got stomach ache”), or the burning need to ask a question. Tonight, she used her bath towel to become a pterodactyl. We try to be much firmer these days about going to bed on time and sticking to a routine. There are signs that relaxation thinking rather than techniques can help: Ada told me yesterday about a “sugar milk” that Japanese people enjoy, and, although she has never tried it, thinking about it yesterday helped her snooze.
I wonder if Ada’s sleep needs will change when she is older? Elon Musk actually said that reducing sleep reduced his work output, but he found a balance of six hours. JK Rowling used to write through the night but nowadays prioritises sleep.
Or will there be a permanent on switch?
Lack of sleep, yet full of energy and high achieving: it makes me think these kids are superhuman.
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