Little Sam sleeps now, pretty much. Down and out by 7.15pm, very occasionally up in the night but mostly not.
But then… then… up at 6am. Sometimes 5.30. It’s possibly a phase, or just the summer, I don’t know. But it’s always early and has been like that for a while.
He will not play in his room on his own. He will not go downstairs on his own. He does not give. A. Shit who he wakes up if someone will not sit with him or go downstairs with him and he is forced (in his eyes) to have a massive tantrum.
I’ve tried the Gro-Clock. I’ve tried arguing, I’ve tried pleading, I’ve tried bribes. I’ve tried putting him to bed later.
Despite all of this, he gets up at 6am and someone has to get up with him.
But who? Once upon a time, when Sam was awake all freaking night, Giles would always get up with him, it was only fair. Plus, all his buggering about at night meant he often slept until 7am or later.
But now we both get to sleep, and yet Sam is up early, so who gets up? Whomsoever is doing the most getting-up, doing the majority of the tedious 6am – 8am shift might feel the warm glow of martyrdom about them for a while, but it always turns nasty in the end.
We’d never talked about it, never ever once said the words “It’s your turn.” We just wordlessly sorted it out at the time and then hurled the facts of the matter back at each other during a row about something else.
It had to stop.
I want, I said to my husband, to talk to you about Sam getting up in the morning. Giles leaned back in his chair with the look on his face that an Alsatian gets just before it bites the head off a toddler.
I explained about the having tried everything, about how depressing I found the cajoling and the threats and the fighting for just ten more minutes in bed at 6am. It was just such a sad and horrible start to the day. I was done with it, I wanted my first moments of the day to be determined and positive, not fraught, anxious, angry.
My conclusion was that we just had to get up and deal with it. And in order for no-one to go insane, we’d have to take it in turns.
I always imagine that other couples do this; that chores and childcare are shared evenly in this way, no matter who earns more money or has the “harder” life, but I’m not sure they do.
A conversation with my friend A- revealed that although she and her husband are both high-achieving, hard workers, both with demanding jobs, both bringing down serious money, both in demand and major league – they, too struggled to find equilibrium in the domestic sphere.
Their son shared many qualities with Sam when he was younger – high energy, not scared of confrontation, not a terrific sleeper, an early waker.
“We would always get up in the morning together, said A-,” looking sympathetic. “Neither of us could bear to cede the brownie points to each other.” Not even for sleep!
So I put all this to Giles, with the caveats that no-one had to be a massive dickhead about the “turn”, that it was all up for negotiation from time to time. And he agreed to it! And I thought – fucking hell, we ought to have had this conversation about six years ago.