Illustration: Naomi Wilkinson

UP WITH THE KIDS

“Bedtime? I don’t think so, Mummy. The sun is still up”

How on earth are you meant to get kids to sleep when it feels like the middle of the day outside, asks Robyn Wilder

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By Robyn Wilder on

It is evening. The temperature outside is roughly a trillion degrees fahrenheit and we’ve flung all our doors and windows wide open. Our garden, it transpires, is lousy with birds. Obnoxiously loud birds.

“Hello, I am a bird!” shouts one of them. “Tweet, tweet!”

“I am also a bird of a different species!” yells another. “Caw, caw!”

“SEAGULL SEAGULL SEAGULL!” scream a trio of seagulls, circling overhead.

For the first time ever, I consider buying a gun. Tonight, my husband is out, so it’s my turn to do bedtime. The baby is already asleep, so the next child to tackle is my three-year-old, who is currently engrossed in a Blaze And The Monster Machines marathon.

I try to catch his eye and pretend to yawn.

“Bedtime soon!” I say, over the din of Birdapalooza in the garden.

My son, dewy with sweat and beautifully tanned (despite my constant reapplications of factor 50), pulls a face.

“I don’t think so, Mummy. The sun is still up so high in the sky.”

The boy has a point. Not only is the sun high up in the sky, but it is shining with a fierceness that I forget is possible during the wintertime. Going outside without sunglasses is inconceivable and simply glancing at a window leaves an imprint on the retinas for minutes at a time.

“The sun’s still up because it’s older than you, so it gets to stay up later,” I reply, scrabbling for the upper hand. “But all little boys still have to go to bed at bedtime.”

Just then, a troop of fucking kamikaze little boys on scooters start zooming up and down the lane outside our house, cackling hysterically.

“We’re staying up all night!” they shriek.

I resolve to hunt down their parents and present them with a stack of strongly worded letters.

“Come on.” I pick up my protesting son, shove him under one arm and march up the stairs. “Bath time.”

Next door starts playing the Macarena at full volume on the patio. Immediately, my son is up and bouncing on his bed. 'Party, party, party!'

Upstairs, it is yet hotter. The heat has coalesced and is generally getting in the way. To get to the bathroom, we have to squeeze through it, as though it’s a team of too-large people in lumpy coats camping out on the landing.

“It’s so sunny in here!” my son cries gleefully, pointing at the windows, as I hose him down in the tub. Painfully, I swallow down the memory of walking through the house with the estate agent, saying, “Gosh, isn’t there a lot of light?” And the day my husband and I decided to just... not put up curtains? I try not to think about that.

Somehow – even though I’ve kept the blackout blind down all day – walking into my son’s room is like getting off a plane in a tropical country. The heat presses in all around us and I can feel my extremities evaporating. Regardless, my son chooses his fluffiest pyjamas and snuggles under the duvet.

“Shall I turn the electric fan on?” I ask him.

“No thanks,” he says. “It’s a bit too windy.”

We read two books – working our way through each while I fan myself with the other – and I have to stop every few minutes to blot my face with my T-shirt. My son starts to doze off, the sweat from his head ringlet-ing his hair. Eventually, he stares at my face, his eyelids beginning to flutter shut.

“You have drops of water on your moustache,” he tells me, then falls asleep.

Which is when next door starts playing the Macarena at full volume on the patio.

Immediately, my son is up and bouncing on his bed. “Party, party, party!” He shouts. “PARTY, PARTY, PARTY!”

Downstairs, the baby starts wailing.

It is 10pm before my older son finally falls asleep. In the intervening time, I bring the baby upstairs and feed him while his brother throws shapes on his bed to next door’s music. I employ the fan – despite its alleged “windiness” – for breeze and white noise.

My husband rolls home soon after I’ve put myself to bed with the baby.

“How was bedtime?” he whispers.

“He’s literally only just gone down,” I tell him.

“Bloody summer evenings. It’s always such a struggle when it’s so light,” my husband sighs. “At least he’ll sleep later in the morning.”

“Hello, I am a bird!” shouts a bird. “Tweet, tweet!”

“I am also a bird!” yells another. “Honk, honk!”

I open one sticky eye and look at the clock. It’s 5am. My son rushes into the room.

“Good morning, Mummy!” he screams, in my face.

@orbyn

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Illustration: Naomi Wilkinson
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UP WITH THE KIDS
PARENTING HONESTLY

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