Part of a Lego exhibition we saw on the weekend and in no way a freakishly accurate representation of our bedroom when it’s my morning to get up at dawn with Garnet.
The last few weeks have involved a lot of of autopilot mornings. The kind where everyone has played musical beds all night, and when you realise there is finally a crack of dawn in the sky and there is no point hoping for sleep any longer, you get up. In this house, H and I alternately get up with the earliest riser in the morning. This civilised turn taking is like a gently teetering see-saw upon which our happy marriages rests. Recently those mornings have begun around 4.55 am, a time known to normal people as ‘still night’.
That is too early to think, so the only way to manage when things get like this is to have a system. Order and repetition are your friends. Here follows my system, which is pretty much transferable to any household with children under six, I think. Feel free to borrow it.
Stumble downstairs in ug-boots and giant towelling bathrobe with the singed right sleeve.
Make rash whispered promises to whichever child is up (hint: it’s the goddamn three-year-old) that you will buy them a new Octonaut toy or a lear jet or whatever the hell it will take if they come quietly and don’t wake their sibling.
Switch on kitchen light. Remember it doesn’t work because you are renovating in two weeks and refuse to buy any more bulbs.
Turn on desk lamp that is now standing on top of fridge, giving the kitchen the ambiance of a stasi interrogation room.
Turn on gas, place kettle on the lit gas ring. Placing the kettle on any of the three unlit gas rings is the slow way of making coffee.
Blow out flaming sleeve of giant towelling bathrobe.
Draw Harry Potter scar on forehead of three year old using the Revlon Colorstay Eyeliner kept beside the stove for this purpose.
Ask three-year-old to feed the cat.
Return nine-tenths of the cat food to the tin. Ignore cat giving you the finger.
Answer all questions with ‘Not until the coffee is made.’
Once the coffee is made, answer all questions with ‘Not until I have drunk this coffee.’
Empty dishwasher. Dry all the plastic things by hand.
Wonder at the futility of it all.
Offer weetbix to the three-year-old.
Engage in a protracted negotiation about whether bacon is a sometimes food or and everyday food.
Extinguish sleeve again.
Drink coffee while making lunches that adhere to school restrictions on pretty much all foods except Vegemite sandwiches and apples. As you pack the food into the lunchboxes, say, ‘See you this afternoon, have a great day!’ because you know it will mostly be back. Chicken sandwiches always come home to roost.
Sit on the sofa and drink coffee with eyes closed, so you can’t see anyone jumping off the armchair with a drumstick clamped between their thighs a.k.a. ‘Quidditch practice’.
Stare at the walls while a small voice witters on about how their own version of Harry Potter is better than the original, because in their version Harry’s parents don’t die, there are no baddies, and the three-headed dog only has one head.
And that, my friends, is how you make it to 6 o’clock in my house.
I don’t know why Garnet has been so rubbish at sleeping recently. He’s had a couple of colds, which don’t help, and the weather has turned pretty chilly, and he’s incapable of keeping his covers on, so that’s obviously part of it.
He goes to bed okay, but then some time between midnight and 3.30, he wakes and hops in with us, where he shifts and wiggles and generally does a convincing imitation of the San Andreas fault until whoever’s turn it is gives up and takes him downstairs to start the wretched day.
We made him a reward chart last week, where he would get a sticker for each night he slept in his own bed all night, without me in there with him. We explained that every time he got one sticker, he could have some chocolate when he woke up in the morning. And if he slept for four nights in a row, he could have a new toy.
While we explained, he had a very polite and interested smile on his face.
‘See?’ I said, ‘we’ll stick it here on the fridge, and you can put the sticker on each morning!’
‘Okay, Mummy,’ he agreed pleasantly, and by that he clearly meant ‘Stick your chart wherever you like, lady, except in the space between you and Daddy in your bed because that is where I will be sleeping FOREVER.’
And so it continues. After ten days there are two stickers on the chart, and they were given more for encouragement than achievement.
I think maybe a giving-up chart is a better idea. It’ll be for me, and each time I give up on trying to get my children to do something, like sleeping, tidying up their toys, not interrupting, I will give myself a sticker. After four stickers I will get a new bottle of gin.