Petty domestic disputes no.2: The 6 a.m. watershed

The official start of morning

The official start of morning

For this second edition of petty domestic disputes, I will be staying in the bedroom. During the week my wife works and I look after the children (it’s a little more complicated than that but for the sake of this blog, that’s all you need to know). As my wife is the only wage earner, from Monday through to Thursday, if the children wake during the night, I deal with them. This is only fair. However, when it comes to the weekend, we enter into negotiations.

As any parent of young children knows, a lie in is the highlight of the week. It’s that little bit of indulgence that helps you get through the tantrums, whining, crying, hitting, throwing and screaming without resorting to infanticide. Deciding who gets a lie in when is a delicate negotiation. I will give you a classic example:

Wife: So who’s getting up in the night?

Me: I’ll get up in the night, you get up early.

Wife: But my exercise class is at 8:00 am the day after tomorrow so if I don’t have a lie in tomorrow, I won’t get a lie-in the whole weekend.

Me: But the little sod’s had me up every night this week. I really need a lie in.

Wife: I’ll get up in the night.

Me: Why did you ask me the question then?

Wife: Go to sleep.

You can see that my wife made the classic error of asking the question first, therefore handing me an advantage which she expertly recovered by ignoring anything I said and doing as she damn well pleased. So far, so normal. The real battle starts as the night progresses.

You see, in our household, getting up in the night means any time from when you go to sleep through to 6 a.m. the following morning. Not 6 ish, from around 6 a.m., close to six, but 06:00 hours on the dot. To many people this might sound unreasonable, inflexible even, but it’s through forming understandings like this that our marriage has been so successful.

Rabbit, the source of many sleepless nights

Rabbit, the source of many sleepless nights

Of course, this doesn’t mean the agreement is always honoured. Both of us, in certain circumstances, will do anything to get out of it. Let me give you an example. It is my turn to get up in the night. At 12:30 our youngest loses his toy Rabbit and starts to cry. I get up, find Rabbit, tuck him in and go back to bed. Perfect parenting and I’m quickly back asleep. At 2:30 am our oldest boy calls my name (it’s always my name no matter how many times I’ve told him to call for mummy). I go to him and find he’s had a nightmare. I give him a hug and tell him it’s only a dream. He lies back down and I go back to bed, tossing and turning until I eventually fall asleep.

It’s 4:30 in the morning and I’m woken by my youngest one’s breath on my face. He’s standing right next to my bed, holding his Rabbit, staring at me as if he’s trying to work out if I’m alive or dead. As I open my sleep filled eyes, he says “Milk.” I tell him to get back in bed,  go downstairs and warm up some milk. While I’m waiting for the milk I check my phone and get excited as I see somebody new is following my blog. Maybe this time they aren’t a spammer. I take the milk to my son, tuck him in,go back to bed where I lie for an age trying to get back to sleep.

Then comes the killer. It’s 5:45 a.m. I can’t remember falling asleep but I must have as I’m woken by my youngest son crying. It’s the “huh, huh, huuuuuh” type of cry that isn’t really crying, more a sign of boredom. I’m bone tired. I should go to him, but it’s 5:45 a.m. It’s nearly morning. All I have to do is hang on for 15 minutes and my wife has to deal with him. At this point my wife rolls over. Her eyes are closed she looks asleep, but she isn’t. She rolled over  so she could check the time. She’s had a long week, getting up early to catch a flight then working long hours before flying back a few days later. There is no way she’s getting up until 6 a.m. on the dot. So we both lie there, me hoping our son will settle down, my wife (back right along the centre of the bed), desperate for me to deal with the crying.

Finally, fed up with the lack of attention, our son walks into the bedroom. It’s 5:56 a.m. He walks first to my side of the bed. I refuse to open my eyes. There is a stand-off for a minute as he waits to see if I react. Nothing. He pats at my face but i refuse to budge. Realising he’s getting nowhere, he walks to my wife’s side of the bed. It’s 5:58 a.m. Surely she can’t ignore her youngest son, the little guy she’s missed so much while she’s been working away.

“Mummy, up.”

I smile. There is no way she can ignore that. I wait for her to get up out of bed but instead, she plays her trump card.

She lifts him into our bed.

“Give Daddy a cuddle,” she says, all innocence, “he’s been up all night,” and my annoyance at a lie in lost is swept away as our son wraps his arms around my neck. He squeezes me tight and I luxuriate in this act of unconditional love, doing my best to ignore the grin on my wife’s face.

To read the first in this series: Bed space, click here