Illustration: Naomi Wilkinson


4am is not the time for Teletubbies and a chocolate finger

Robyn Wilder isn't getting much sleep. Not only is she weaning her son off night feeds, but his little brain is buzzing with new memories in the early hours

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By Robyn Wilder on

“Open peasants?” My son asks, in the 4am darkness of his bedroom, where I am clinging on to the side of his bed like a limpet. “Mummy, open peasants?” “What?” I say groggily. “No, no presents. It’s sleep-time.” “Open peasants?” he persists so querulously that I can hear his bottom lip quivering. “Happy birthday cake?” “No,” I repeat. Cue full-on newborn-style scream-crying. “Open peasants!” he wails, as though his heart is breaking open inside him. “Happy birthday cake! Mmm, nummy chocolate finger!”

Three things are happening with my son at the moment. Firstly, he has developed nostalgia. So far, I have seen nothing about this in any of the child-development books I’ve read, or the parenting apps and newsletters I’m subscribed to. Nevertheless, at two years old, my son has developed a very specific nostalgia to his birthday – two whole months ago – where he got to open presents, eat birthday cake and, literally, on one occasion and at the courtesy of his granny, ate no more than three “nummy” chocolate fingers. 

I don’t know whence this passion arose – or why now – but he tends to prance around in a happy optimism, just like the toddler entering the room during that BBC South Korea interview, asking for these specific things at all hours of the day and night.

Since his birth, we have slept all tangled up together, and he has breastfed at will throughout the night, which is partly why I seem to have aged 20 years in the last two

Which brings me to the second thing that is happening. I am night-weaning him. During the day, my son is a boisterous and busy boy, not unaffectionate, but far too busy pinging off the walls and upending things to waste any time on cuddles or sitting together. Night-times, however, are different – since his birth, we have slept all tangled up together, and he has breastfed at will throughout the night, which is partly why I seem to have aged 20 years in the last two. 

Now, he is in his own bed and is limited to bedtime feeds. It’s going OK. In the beginning, he woke hourly, asked for milk and was inconsolable when I refused. Now, he goes down for half the night on his own, then wakes, but is consoled with “Mummy hugs”. My problem is that I then immediately fall asleep in bed with him, and the next thing I know, it’s pre-dawn and, instead of milk, he’s asking for “peasants”, “pancakes”, the “Tebbly-tubblies” or any number of impossible things. As far as night-weaning goes, it’s progress of a sort.

Finally, the third thing that’s happening is that my son has developed a palate. Unfortunately, it is my palate. To give you some idea of how unsophisticated my palate is, when I worked at BuzzFeed I wrote a definitive list of cheese – and received death threats because I included string cheese. My son has inherited my culinary passions, which is why he wanders into the room innocently cooing, “Bit-kit? Peeta? Jipth? Fitch feenga?” when I am working hard to shove five pieces of fruit and vegetables a day (I am discounting the new 10-a-day recommendations, just as I discount the second and third Matrix films) into him.

The result of all this, of course, is that he’ll refuse a carrot the day after he accepted one, because he’s forgotten he likes it – but he’ll bloody remember that, two months ago, he ate a chocolate finger and enjoyed it. At 4am.

There is work still to be done here.


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Illustration: Naomi Wilkinson
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