No, this isn’t a post about the classic, genre-defining video game (which, by way of making me feel extra old, celebrated its 35th birthday this year). The ‘space invaders’ in question are our three kids who have recently taken to sleeping anywhere but their assigned beds.
There are lots of factors at play here, not all of it poor parenting on our behalf. The kids’ routines have been disrupted over the past couple of months by Heather’s trip to Australia with Kara, the usual spate of minor illnesses, teething and the summer heatwave which had me cursing the efficiency of our household insulation. All of these have disrupted the sleep patterns of our three children, to the extent that none of the three seem to be able to manage a proper uninterrupted night’s sleep.
It’s our youngest two who have been the most unsettled. Kara has been out of sorts ever since being whisked off to Oz a couple of months ago. Since then, we’ve had a combination of refusing to go down quietly at night and waking up wide-eyed at all hours of the night. A combination of controlled crying, late-night music video-watching sessions (a trick which also worked with Isaac at the same age) and bringing her into our bed as a last resort has allowed us to work around these issues, although I’d be the first to admit that some of these have been little more than coping mechanisms which have merely deferred the problem or created different ones.
Then there’s Toby. who frequently refuses to sleep in his own bed. He opts instead for our bed or occasionally the spare bedroom, has to be transferred back to his own later, and then stealthily reappears at the foot of our bed in the small hours. At least Toby tends to sleep quietly, unlike his brother Isaac, whose limbs flail about like a hyperactive windmill in a hurricane when he decides to join the party, which can be any time after 5am and generally spells the end of what passes for a good night’s sleep as he asks whether it’s time to get up yet every 90 seconds.
It certainly seems to be a rare day when we get as far as 5am without there being four or five bodies in our bed, with the largest of those five – me – usually perched precariously on the outermost nine inches of the mattress, with Isaac and Kara attempting to nudge me out with about as much subtlety as using a sledgehammer to crack the proverbial nut,
I know we haven’t exactly been doing what the parenting manuals say we should with recalcitrant non-sleepers, but real life doesn’t always cater for textbook solutions. Sometimes it’s just been a case of Heather and I doing what we need to do to at least get a half-decent night’s sleep between us. On those nights where it was 25ºC and muggy even at 3am, and we had one or more of the kids waking us up pretty much every hour on the hour – at times, I’d swear the three of them had organised some sort of tag-team operation on us – the need to do the ‘right’ thing has been overriden by the need to be able to drive to work without a combination of intravenous adrenaline and cocktail sticks to prop my eyes open. (Thinking about it, intravenous cocktails might have worked just as well.) It’s only really been in the past few days that we’ve finally been able to get things back under control.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s cute to wake up alongside my kids every now and then. Just not every morning. And when it happens every single day there are times when I idly wish I could just take a laser cannon to each of my otherwise adorable children, just like you could with the original Space Invaders. In the meantime, to paraphrase Sheriff Brody in Jaws, I think we’re going to need a bigger bed …