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.
Oh god. I feel for you. My son still gets up at 6.30 and he’s 11. At least now he’ll. get up and get his own breakfast and be ready for school by the time I stagger down but still I wait eagerly for the teenage years when he’ll just stay in bed. Weekends we do “turns” but my husband just doesn’t get up quickly enough so for years we have had tantrums and yelling cos dad keeps saying another 5 mins (and not just from me). Means my lie in is ruined as I’m awake and angry!!
Yes Fleur that has been a major problem – but now we all agree to get up and out promptly…
We tried a Gro Clock with our then 4 year old, as he was always getting up at 4:30am: instead he would wake up at 4:30am and yell at the top of his lungs ‘WHEN IS THIS STUPID CLOCK GOING TO TURN YELLOW??’ So not much of an improvement. Still, better than my 9 year old who has austim and apparently can survive rather happily on 4-5 hours sleep a day.
Alexandra YOU WIN
I very much sympathise. My older son (6.5) is awake every morning by 6am – we’ve finally managed to get him not to come into our room until 6.30am but that’s the best everyone can manage – I am just accepting that this is how it will be until he’s a teenager probably! My husband leaves for work ridiculously early anyway so often he will be downstairs first, but I then have to follow within about 10 minutes in order that he can leave the house.! Looks like my 2 year old son is also going to be an early riser too, so….I guess I should just give up on the idea of ever having a lie-in! Good luck and hope the turn-taking works out well for everyone x
My son will be 7 tomorrow and still wakes at 6am. I have just resigned myself to it now and am also looking forward to the teenage years when I imagine myself lying in at the weekend until something dizzying that may even begin with a 9! Although by all accounts the teenage years come with a whole host of other parenting nonsense that may well have me longing for the days when I was woken at 6am.
It’s a boy’s thing. My son also gets up at 6.15. He is 7. He is allowed to go on the Wii, the iPad, the TV, ALL THE SCREENS as long as he doesn’t wake anybody. He is obviously very well aware how great this is as he manages not to even wake his 6-year old sister who shares a bunk bed with him.
My son is the same (aged 6) up at 6am every morning (whatever time he goes to bed). We take it in turns at the weekend to get up with him, and during the week I’m lucky as generally my husband gets up early anyway. But it is a massive PAIN.
I have twins (who are now ten. I also have six year old, which is irrelevant, but I include it to prove I was fucking INSANE and had a third child…), which has been a marvellous blessing as they have proved by their personal sleep clocks that there is fuck all I could have done about their sleep patterns. In my experience, you can Gro Clock and star chart all you like, but some children just need less sleep.
One twin needs lots of sleep. She will get a pained, tight look on her face at around 8.30pm and take herself off to bed and sleep in until about 7.30am, unless turfed out of bed earlier for school. Her twin is a complete night owl and has been since she was about a month old and woke out of her prematurity stupor. She will dick about at night after lights out, reading and playing with teddies, and will ping awake at about 5.45am. I find it incredible that she’s not crawling about on the ground with exhaustion but she is perpetually full of zing, in complete contrast to her twin. This is same routine, same family, same food, same school, same sport. She just needs less sleep than her twin sister. Gro clocks and blackout blinds and star charts made bugger all difference. The only thing that cured it was Time.
Once my twins hit four years old the self-sufficiency suddenly kicked in. They no longer required one of us to go and sit with them downstairs, bringing them drinks and watching Charlie & Lola loops, but would shuffle off by themselves. They learnt to switch the television on and load a dvd, which meant my husband and I finally got a lie-in, which I then wrecked by deciding to have a third baby. It perhaps helped that there were two of them, as they had a companion and DVD operating side-kick, but I would honestly say four is a magic number. Even my little boy, now six, managed to get his act together by about four years old and he is HOPELESS – loafs about looking appealing, expecting to be waited on hand and foot.
I used to remind myself that it’s a life skill for a four year old to be able to entertain themselves in their room for an hour or two, and past that point I wasn’t getting out of bed unless there was a spillage or catastrophe. At the age of 42 I don’t need to get up at 5.40am to watch Toy Story.
I feel your pain. Sleep deprivation coupled with the mandate of keeping three children alive drove me demented.
Tess this is totally fascinating about the twins being so different. A genuine full-on science experiment
I know! I find them fascinating – how the dynamics and little power plays work. But mostly I’m just in awe of how cool they are and how lucky they are – it’s a lovely thing; a gift for them (and for me), which they take wholly for granted, because they can.
Although it was pretty hideous for the first year. Dark times as we dragged ourselves through that shitstorm!
Plus it’s the greatest guilt-buster as there is always a ‘control’ to any experiment. One of my twins had massive feeding issues post-weaning (ate nothing but yoghurt for a year, which was hideous, hideous, hideous), which of course I blamed myself for, but which was mitigated in the few moments of rationality as her twin was a completely normal eater. I would think “what am I doing wrong?” when my little girl would arch her back in her highchair and scream and refuse the food (the stress!) and yet her twin would be sitting next to her, gobbling down her chicken & sweet potato glop. It helped in those endless, awful months of a child not eating, to know that, rationally, it wasn’t anything I’d done wrong.
A not-eating thing, or fussy eating is just so, so stressful. I really tried not to give too much of a shit about tiny things with my kids, I knew plenty of kids who had bizarre diets when little who grew up fine and varied eaters. But when you are THERE in that moment and you know he just won’t fucking eat anything except yet another goddamn boiled egg… well… it’s not easy x
Laura McC says
I wish my 4yo would let us take turns. We are entirely at the mercy of who she will accept. And if we don’t jump to it she’ll go and wake up our 8yo… who cries…
Yes Laura this was also a problem with Sam in the past – he would ONLY have mummy or ONLY want Daddy. He’s got over that now though thank FUCK and just takes whoever is on duty. FOR NOW
Yes, you should have done this years ago! I was ok with getting up when I was breastfeeding, due to my husband not having breasts. But after weaning we fell in to a routine where I ALWAYS got up first, just because I couldn’t put up with the noise of wailing through the baby monitor for as long as he could. Naturally I resented this massively but did not actually tell hubby this, just expected him to innately realise through my passive aggressive coffee-making technique. I finally flipped one morning when, on a designated ‘family day’, I was up at 6am as usual. At 8am he got up, went to the loo, I though ‘thank goodness, I’ll finally get some adult company’ and then … HE WENT BACK TO BED.
I waited until 10am, put the baby down for a nap, wrote a note saying I was going out and did not know when I would be back, got in the car and drove away (I think I was vaguely planning on heading to a nearby Premier Inn for some kip).
It took ten minutes for him to call me. We had the nearest thing I can do to a row (I am not very good at shouting), during which he tried to defend his record thusly:
Him: “Well I can’t always get up with her. On Thursday I was in Edinburgh for work overnight.”
Me: “Yes, I know. Because we both came with you.”
In conclusion, we agreed to take turns. That was nearly 18 months ago and all has been plain sailing since. We occasionally switch about, for example if one of us is anticipating a hangover. I still have a few more earlies than him because he’s away more. But generally it’s all good. He is even taking our now 2 year old camping for 3 nights this weekend! I have never looked forward to a luxury holiday abroad as much as I am gleefully anticipating this time alone at home. Just me and the dog. Who is old and does not require me to get up before 9. Awesome.
My kids are much older now (27 and 24). They still occasionally bring me grief but it is getting easier!
Looking back, it was my experience that as soon as you feel you are cracking one problem another one emerges. I don’t know how I survived those broken nights but I did. I can remember all the lovely experiences we had when they were small but they remember nothing!
I do sympathise, really I do. But there comes a time when you have to train them to be quiet in the dead of night so that they don’t wake you up.The joys of teenagers. And one such teenager on a gap year who plays bass guitar in a metal tribute band. Just be grateful that they are at an age when they go to bed early enough for you to have an evening. Slayer anyone?
My 3 year old often doesn’t sleep till 9 or 10pm and then wakes at 5.30/6am so is totally awful as I don’t have any evening time either. Wouldn’t mind getting up at 6 if he went to sleep before 8pm?? Plus I’m a single mum so no turn taking…just to make anyone reading feel a bit better!! And to have a moan of course..
Celia that is really tough
Petra Im so jealous that you can sleep through teenagers coming in. I have 3 teenagers and cannot sleep until all 3 are in. At the weekends this can be a nightmare. My husband sleeps through all my fretting, anxious texting and multiple uber arrangements and I hate him for it. I do agree lack of sleep is a torturous thing but so is worrying about them being safe and imagining them being raped/kidnapped/murdered by said uber driver. My husband thinks Im mad and this is possible. The upside is they don’t get up early thats for sure so I guess there is some justice X
It’s okay Sarah I sorted it x
Very frustratingly I also have one who likes to get up pre 5am and wake as many other people as possible. But, with an 11 month old and associated nighttimes, the morning shift has been firmly my husband’s domain (when he’s not AWAY and abandoning me to the Canadian wilderness and 4small children like now 😳)… reading your post though I have a sense of impending doom, that this morning shift duty is about to start being shared as the baby is not so much of a baby anymore..and, well, this fills me with dread.
I had a year of five am starts from 2 – 3 with the boy, fooking horrific. He’s six and would happily get up at five every morning but we threatened him with everything, I mean everything, full on massive scare tactics. It was brutal but now he gets it, he stays in his room until six forty five, winner. Sam will get it soon.
I have two kids- the best sleeper of all time (oh how smugly I danced to and fro from the playground and soft play. “Oh,” they said, “he doesn’t roll. Are you not worried? He should be rolling”. Later they said “Oh, he can’t walk. Are you worried, he’s quite old not to walk”. Others asked, “gosh, really no words?” But I had one reply, one I gave with a smile and with a spring in my step: “seven til eight EVERY NIGHT, bitch” (and if they really deserved it I mentioned his 100% reliable daily 3 hour nap). But now… now… I am humbled before Caesar and the world. I have the worst sleeper of all time. Worse than anyone I know… A GOOD NIGHT involves only three wakes. Since he was born, the longest sleep I have ever had is 6 hours (and only twice). He is 16 months. I have done every single wake. All of them. And, to top of off, I get both kids up in the morning (I’m a lark, so don’t really sleep past 6:30 anyway).
I actually think I might be evolving past needing sleep as some days my eyes don’t hurt…
Also, why don’t you just bring Sam into your bed with vigilante dogs on the iPad?
THAT is a long story x
no, my god, just like… once he’s on the iPad it’s impossible to get him off it, the hateful unmellowness of the screen and the bleeping and the whatsit first thing in the morning in the sacred sanctity of my beloved bed. plus my husband is a fucking maniac about screens and screen time and would do his nut if I even suggested it. So downstairs they must trot. His turn tomorrow! HA HA HA!!!!!
My nine year old was a terrible sleeper, in contrast to her sister who’s now 15. The age gap meant I was completely unprepared for the effect of sleeplessness. Life was in three hour cycles for about five months. It improved gradually and she would play or go downstairs and put cbeebies on from about 3. Problems have come and gone. However……. for the last week, obsessed something is in the wardrobe and now in the habit of waking at about 2am, she’s in our bed with her head wedged between my shoulder blades! I now work four days a week, I’m nearly 10 years older, I can’t do it. Husband is totally unaffected.
I’m just going to add my agreement to the many statements about
1. The Gro-clock. ‘Matthew, the sun isn’t up!’ ‘It’s broken mummy, porridge please!’
2. How long it takes daddy to respond to the crying/ shouting in the morning, meaning I’m wide awake with red hot rage coursing through my veins once he’s finally gone downstairs.
3. How much they really don’t care who they wake up. I’m simultaneously horrified and a bit in awe/ admiration of how much he just doesn’t give a shit. ‘Matthew, you’re going to wake up the baby. Shhhh as we go past his room, ok?’ NO! Want to see Andrreeeeeeeew! Wake UP baby ANDREW!’
We’re actually finally having some sort of success with the gro clock, some of the time. But baby Andrew hates sleep too, so I’m still knackered. Elaine x
My eldest is autistic and was on a 3hr sleep cycle from birth UNTIL HE WAS SIX. Now, he sleeps fine but if he’s awake, he will appear by the bed like something from a horror movie to loudly intone that he is awake and we need to be as well. Then he goes and wakes his brother up and they scream at each other until me or my husband finally loses it and shrieks at them. All before 7am. What the neighbours must think!
Emma Onslow says
My eldest son is Autistic too. He’s only just starting sleeping through the night – even after spending a fortune with the Millpond Clinic. We have just got a new psychologist and she has helped us crack it. She is great – she’s the lady off the Secret life of 5 year olds. She recommended that my husband & I just go absolutely fucking mental when he gets up. She reckons that we are just not strict enough these days & faffing about with sleepy cushions makes it worse. I now get proper angry – like really angry – when either of the kids get up. I found it really hard at first but it has worked for me.
I don’t have any sleep advice, not any that actually works anyway. But, the getting up in turns thing works. We have always done it, even at weekends and it’s never an issue. It’s not set in stone obviously, so if one of us has a mysterious virus (hangover), then the other covers. Simples!
After six years of early morning pain, my six year old now mostly amuses herself and her brother (she can switch Netflix on) and they help themselves to bananas and cereal…. The only downer is my body clock is now programmed to wake up at 5.30 even at the weekend!
Rachel Williams says
Once we got past the breastfeeding/night feeding stage my husband did all the getting up with kids. He has an ability to get up, sort out a child then instantly fall back to sleep. If I have to get out of bed I’m awake for the next two hours so I told him he could do it and he does!
Both ours sleep pretty well but we are an early rising (farming) family so it’s not an issue that a 3 year old wakes us up with requests for a poo by 6am every morning. I do miss the option of a proper lay in on a Sunday morning though.
Did you watch that sleep programme on the BBC? Fascinating and depressing in equal measure. They said if you have bad sleep you absorb more calories from food😢. Lots of interesting tips though. Ours have both been horrendous early risers and we’re still often at pre 5 starts. We instigated reverse lie ins where we sometimes go to bed before 8. X
Yes it is absolutely key to go to bed early if you have early risers. If you can’t beat them….
hi, I’m a bit late to this but I found the best solution was to go away to sleep. At the moment, it’s OK, but when the little one was littler… FML…. I had to go away every now and then just to sleep. Esther, can you sleep over at your mum’s or your sister’s or, sod it, a fancy hotel or even an Air BnB down the road? I still do all night wakings and most early mornings (yes, I know. He thinks it’s 1957) but even when it’s his turn, I can hear them so it’s pretty pointless. Get yourself out the house for a lie in XX
Bless you… it’s actually working out really well. It’s hardest on Giles as he wakes up at 5.30 with Sam and then even if I take Sam downstairs Giles can’t get back to sleep – it’s HIM who needs to go away to sleep! xx