The Princess is refusing to go to bed these days. We have a bedtime routine, possibly the only successful parenting strategy we have adopted and, until now, it has worked perfectly. She might have got up during the night but she always went to bed. Recently, though she has been stretching the bedtime routine. It’s been taking about an hour and a half from when bed time is first mooted to lights out. In between there is bathing, singing, pyjama putting on, hugging, bottle taking, story reading and chatting, not necessarily in that order. And then there is a howl when we close the bedroom door which is a new and unwelcome feature. And the time between getting the Princess finally into bed and collapsing into bed ourselves is getting shorter and shorter.
Last night was particularly grim. Her father put her to bed and at 8.30 refused to get an extra bottle and closed the door. For a while we listened to her thumping the door saying “papa, papa” and sobbing hysterically but I crumbled and said I’ve got to go into her. He promised to come and rescue me, if I wasn’t out in ten minutes. When I opened the door, she was sitting on the floor red in the face with tears streaming down her cheeks. Her little body was all hot and she was shaking. She was, however, down but not out and she looked at me balefully and said “Go away Mummy, I was calling Daddy not you”. Why, thank you sweetheart. Anyhow, I took her into bed and sang to her and calmed her down and then her father came and we both talked to her and then I left and then, finally, he left. And by the time we had finished, it was well after nine.
In consequence of last night’s late bed time, she was like a briar this morning. She woke up at 7 (too bright Mummy) and climbed into bed beside me (Mr. Waffle was not there, having been in with the boys polishing off the later night shift) and lay there like a soggy sock (I was originally going for limp rag but I thought I would try to invent a new cliché). She wouldn’t eat her breakfast, she wouldn’t get dressed, her chair was too far from the table waah, waah, she wanted a nut from her father’s muesli but he had EATEN THEM ALL (cue Mr. Waffle going to the kitchen to sift through the muesli box for a nut) – you name it, everything was dreadful. She would try the patience of a saint, in fact she did and Mr. Waffle spoke quite harshly to her in the matter of putting on shoes. She came running to me, sobbing hysterically “Daddy scared me”. Poor Mr. Waffle was crushed.
Normally her father walks or cycles to school with her, but this morning, for a variety of reasons, we all ended up driving there in the car. Mr. Waffle deposited the Princess and me outside the school and drove on to the creche with the boys. I suppose we should have realised that this change in routine would confuse her but I wasn’t really expecting to end up holding a wriggling hysterical child who was calling after a departing car “just one last hug, Daddy, please” as other parents looked at the ground and presumably thought “newly divorced, the poor child won’t see her father until Monday”. I brought her nto the classroom and there was prolonged wailing when I made to leave. I stayed for ages, but in the end, I had to go (I know I have the most accommodating job in the world but they do actually expect me to come in in the morning). Her teacher chose this morning to tell me that she is not having very good days at school at the moment. After I left the classroom, I hung around outside for a moment to check that she had calmed down. Even if she cries, she usually stops when we’re not there to hear her. But not today. Peering through the glass pane at the top of the door, I could see her clutching Hop Hop and crying as though her heart would break a good five minutes after I’d left the classroom. But I really had to go, so go I did.
I’m not sure what all this is about. I suppose our dizzyingly complex childcare arrangements for the month of April are taking their toll on her. If it is hard for her father to know who is doing what, it must be even more difficult for her. Breda O’Brien in the Irish Times has taken over from Oliver James in the Observer (he seems to have been tossed out in the revamp) as my guilty conscience in the matter of childcare. If you wish to know the kind of guilt Breda is excellent at inspiring, see this. A couple of weeks ago she said that parents who work full time must get used to their children sleeping less well at night as they try to make up during the night, time they couldn’t spend with their parents during the day. I wonder, could there be something in this? I’m her mother; it’s all my fault anyway, isn’t it? The boys, however, seem to love the creche though they both have runny noses. More guilt, but different guilt. Variety is everything.