‘Bedtime delaaayer, she’s gone and done it again,’ my sister Sausage used to sing to me, from the smug superiority of her half-an-hour-later bedtime, as I brushed my teeth a bit too thoroughly or gave one of the parents a hug that lasted suspiciously long.
She sang to the tune of ‘Wide Eyed and Legless,’ which we were familiar with from a cheesy compilation record my parents had, called ‘Summer Breeze’. It had a picture of a stripey deckchair blowing in the wind on the cover. We used it in our pretend radio programmes. I’ll stop explaining.
Anyway, Ziggler has inherited the title. I have not been allowing myself to sing the special bedtime delayer song but, blimey, she puts me to shame. The bedtime routine is unchanged. She still has a bath. She still has stories, and milk, and a calming song. She still goes to bed at the same time as Pickle and is tucked in with her growing entourage of soft toys and plastic ponies. She has a kiss and a night light and a ‘sleep well’. And yet.
Pitter patter pitter patter down the stairs she comes.
First she needs a wee. Fine. Our loo is downstairs next to the kitchen and she gives me a running commentary about her incredibly loooong wee, double check that there’s no poo coming (there never is) and her very very thorough hand-washing, while I make dinner.
Back to bed she goes.
I pretend not to hear her roaming around upstairs, rifling through the stuff in my jewellery box. I reckon I am not obliged to actually do anything until she appears at the living room door or I hear a very loud crash (Don’t worry. It’s never happened).
Next she’s downstairs because she’s sad. Why’s she sad? She’s thinking about when the duck bit her at the park. Three months ago. And it didn’t actually bite her, it just snapped its beak a bit menacingly. ‘Oh dear,’ I say, faux-sympathetically, ‘back to bed, sweetie-pie (or some other teeth-gritty endearment)’.
Back down the stairs I go, wondering if I’ve finally got rid of her.
Her newest technique is to find something puzzling in her room or mine, and be seized with the unquenchable desire to know what it is. Yesterday it was a Lego wheel. The day before, I believe, it was a rolling red rhino for a helter skelter toy. This evening she had two exhibits. The first was a plastic moulded lady whom she knew perfectly well is a princess because she’s always professing her undying love for it or losing it and emotionally breaking down until it’s recovered. The second she produced with an air of genuine confusion. I admit I prevaricated over the explanation but she wouldn’t rest. ‘Is it a hat?’ she kept asking, ‘who is it for?’ Eventually, I snapped, ‘Yes. It’s a hat for a doll. Now go to bed.’ It was not a hat for a doll. It was, in fact, a red sequined nipple tassel I bought for a laugh one long-ago and childless valentines day. I was so knackered and hot and pissed off that I couldn’t even find it amusing. I can laugh about it now. She was down one more time for some spurious reason I’ve forgotten now but finally it sounds as if she’s gone to sleep.
I’ve tried everything I can think of. I’ve let her stay up 10 minutes longer than Pickle. I’ve promised her an extra just mummy and Ziggler story if she stays in her bed. I’ve made them both run around all day in the park or at soft play or just in our garden to tire her out (just makes her extra grumpy and STILL NOT IN BED). I’ve given her toys and books to keep her occupied. I’ve cajoled. I’ve explained. I’ve lost my rag.
Ziggler’s tired. Pickle’s tired and keeps getting disturbed. I’m tired. By the end of the day I just want them both to go away for a bit. I wish I had written Go the Fuck To Sleep.
‘So what shall we do about it?’ says Trulove. ‘Anything? I mean, it could be worse.’ I think about newborn days and two-hourly waking throughout the night. I think about the time when we stayed in a B&B when Ziggler was small and Trulove and I ended up reading our books and eating crisps at midnight in the ensuite, silently begging her to go to sleep so that we could. I think about my friend’s husband who had to sleep on his daughter’s bedroom floor every night or she would resolutely stay awake all night keening for him if that’s what it took. I remember pushing Ziggler round the block in her pushchair, in the twilight, sobbing because she was crying crying crying and would not fall asleep. It’s hot. It’s not dark at bed time. It’s probably just a phase. ‘yeah,’ I reply. ‘Let’s not bother about it. You’re right. it could be much worse.’