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For the cheek-tweakers out there, a column to update you on our fab four

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Bonnie, 8, Billy, 12, Jed, 18 and 16-year-old Dougie, whose childhoods were documented in local papers

MY 12-YEAR-OLD son is looking simultaneously horrified and delighted. His eyes are saying, “Get her off me!” while his mouth is showing a wide smile. His cheeks are being held adoringly by someone who could pass as his granny, but who is actually a complete stranger.

This mild-mannered mugging in the supermarket is not unusual for my children. They were once the subject of a weekly newspaper column, which detailed their early years and my often chaotic parenting. And unbeknown to them, they still have fans. Readers who saw them appear in print as chubby babies, naughty toddlers, and mischievous teens who still recognise them, although the column stopped when the paper ceased being a daily a few years ago.

“Look how you’ve grown!” beams the friendly stranger, leaving Billy unsure whether to thank her or correct her; because in his head he’s not grown enough, being one of the oldest but tiniest in his year at school.

Meanwhile the lady has moved on to ruffle the hair of eight-year-old Bonnie, now looking like a fully-formed human being rather than the wobbly toddler the reader remembered. “And don’t you look like your mum?” she asks. Bonnie has become used to this observation and doesn’t yet see it as the worst thing on earth (although no doubt that will change). I chat to the lady a little longer, filling her in on what our older two are doing and thanking her for keeping track of My Bloke’s career as editor of another paper.

As we bid our farewells to carry on shopping, Bill and Bonn start to question me along the lines of: Who the hell was that and why does she know so much about us? (They had been much younger when the columns ran and possibly thought that all children had their photos taken on a weekly basis.)

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Jed, Billy and Dougie, the early years

We carry on the discussion back at home with the elder sons, Jed and Dougie, now 18 and 16 respectively, who make sure the younger two understand that THEY were FAR more famous in their day, as they had their tantrums, birthdays, school applications, parents’ evenings and every other form of embarrassing scenario detailed to the public at large on a weekly basis for more than a decade. Cheek-tweaking by strangers was a weekly occurrence for us, not just a one-off, they claimed.

But how would they feel now if I’d kept writing about them? My change of job from full-time journalist to university journalism lecturer meant that I didn’t really get to discuss parenting mid-range teens. It would have been just as they hit the door-slamming years, and I would have had perfect source material for a parenting column, with topics like girlfriends, puberty, under-aged drinking, learning to drive, going abroad on their own or, critically at the moment, exams. But is it fair to expose the lives of your children as a paid job?

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Dougie, aged 8, baby Bonnie and Jed, at 10.

Social media would possibly have exacerbated their embarrassment even more, because ten years ago they wouldn’t have been so ‘shared’ via Twitter and Facebook, although they were online.(They don’t have their own social media open to us, quite wisely.)

Feedback was generally pretty good on the column, readers wrote letters and emails sympathising or sharing their own stories, and often it would be grandparents as much as parents who read it, because they could see how attitudes and styles of bringing up kids had changed so dramatically.

Unlike the plethora of parenting advice books, the column wasn’t there to lecture anyone about the best way to bring up kids, but to share experience and tips. Well, that was the intention anyway. I did get relatively regular letters written by someone claiming to represent the entire population of a nursing home who apparently detested me and spelled this out in no uncertain terms. Then there was the mother who wrote to tell me that she was so appalled that I didn’t give out party bags at one particular birthday that she was GLAD her children did not know mine. Ouch.

I’ve always found it curious how hate-mail tended to be from women, who you’d think would be more supportive of the sisterhood. But no, I’m afraid the most zealous critics were female. At least I can say they were engaged enough to be bothered to actually write, buy a stamp and take it to the postbox. Today we’d call them trolls.

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Jed and Doug today

Is writing about your own children in advice columns over-sharing? (And yes, of course I’m aware that I’m sharing their lives again, as I’m writing this right now). Is there a difference between parenting advice columns and the ubiquitous Facebook posts of the landmark events (or otherwise) of proud parents?

OK, so I did sit up in bed and write a column for the newspaper about the arrival of our new baby daughter on the day she was born. But because readers had spent nine months following the saga of my fourth pregnancy it seemed only fair to give them the conclusion. And to be frank, I was so pleased that having a home birth had been such a monumentally better experience than going into hospital, I wanted other people to understand there was nothing to be scared of. Plus, I was slightly off my head on post-partum painkillers.

DSC_0068If there was a story in the news about a particular parenting issue, like childcare, or health issues, I’d usually have experienced it one time or another, and knew how lonely, confusing and demoralising those early years as a mum can be. Jed and Doug are only 19-months apart in age, and like chalk and cheese, so I’d had a pretty intensive apprenticeship as a working parent, at a time when you were only allowed 3-6 months maternity leave. By the time Billy and then Bonnie came along, I had four children under ten and had given up caring what people thought of me.
I just wanted to tell people all the things I wish I’d done differently. Or even, and we probably don’t do enough of this, detailing parenting tips that had actually worked.

Today the urge to write about the offspring is somewhat offset by being able to share pictures and updates to family and friends via Facebook (which I try and use just for personal stuff). I will occasionally get asked to write the odd thing for a parenting site or magazine and happily rant away on BBC Radio Northampton whenever they are short of a guest with forthright opinions on bringing up baby.

Jed is now 18, just coming up to his A Levels, learning to drive, playing rugby, going out on the town and looking at universities. yes, terrifying, I know.
Dougie is almost 17, in the year below, doing AS Levels, playing first-team rugby (his team are in the Nat West Schools final at Twickenham in nine days time, and he’s fighting to get back from his first ever injury).
Billy , now 12, has started ‘big school’, also plays rugby, and does street dance, loves to cycle like his looky-likey dad, has successfully ingratiated himself with the sixth form at school, despite being a year seven.
Bonnie, now 8, doesn’t seem the slightest bit bothered that she’s the only one left at primary school, where she does gymnastics, yoga, recorder, ocarina, swimming and unlike her brothers, has never had a bad report. She’s girlier than you might expect (so much for nature/nurture) and somehow rules the roost. They are often hilarious and sometimes idiotic and make us incredibly proud.

Meanwhile, if you see my kids out and about, don’t be afraid to give them a tweak of the cheeks. They love it, really.

 

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Fifty things for kids to do? Don’t try this at home

THERE was a report (tenuous press release) this week about the ‘bucket list’ of 50 things children should do before they are 12, which included making mud pies, flying kites and collecting frogspawn. My lot, despite being townies, have ticked off most of the things on the list (except perhaps hunting fossils and ‘geocaching.’)

They take great pleasure in getting as mucky as possible at the allotment, have to camp every year, get let loose in parks and gardens at every opportunity and love beach exploring at their grandparents.

I mentioned to the kids that there were many things I did as a child that I certainly wouldn’t want them doing before they were 40, let alone 12. Then I couldn’t actually tell them for fear it would give them ideas.

However, for your eyes only, (look away kids, and my Mum and Dad) here’s a few things you won’t see on a children’s must-do list:

Make a ‘death slide’ over a fast running stream while trespassing on an angry farmer’s land;

Search the ashtrays in the cars in the village garage for used fag butts – and then dare each other to smoke them,

Remove half bottles of dad’s homebrewed wine and top it up with water, replacing the corks with a hammer,

Accept rides from older teenagers on motorbikes, even if it is ‘just across a field,’ or

Lie under jumps while your horsey friends – on their horses – jump over you.

It’s a wonder most of us with free-range childhoods are still here to tell the tale.

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How my garden was obliterated in less than three seconds

IT has taken eight years to develop my shady, urban, child-infested back garden, but it took less than three seconds to destroy it.

At around 1.30am on Sunday, I was woken by what felt like the house shaking. Or was it just a dream? My nocturnal other-half came to bed a few minutes later.

“The wall in the back garden has collapsed,” he muttered, before rolling over and attempting to go to sleep.

That wasn’t going to happen. I was wide awake. I went to peer out of the children’s bedroom window to see what he was talking about. It was too dark.

Downstairs to the window nearest the garden. All I could see was a sheet of the climber hydrangea petiolaris, hanging forlornly in a sheet, not clinging to much at all.

As I peered I could see . . .well, not the garden anymore. Just a sheet of bricks. It was an extraordinary sight. Like an instant patio.

. . . after

To be honest, I cried. Yes, I know it’s just a garden and the fact it happened in the night meant everyone is still alive (it would have killed anyone in the garden, it fell so fast), but after recent nocturnal misadventures, like the car getting squashed and finding a strange drunk man asleep in the dining room, it just feels like we are cursed by bad luck.

Self pity? Yeah, but it took me eight years to build that garden. I write about it as a garden journalist. So no, I don’t feel very laid back about it at all.

The wall was too tall. A Victorian garden wall, bordering the large garden of our neighbouring house’s garden really, all the way around their’s, just one border on ours. It had stood for over 120 years, and yet collapsed in one devastating sheet of bricks, covering the right hand garden border and our entire lawn. A lawn the kids had been playing on just 36 hours earlier.

The following morning it felt unreal to see it. Huge amounts of brickdust covered all the plants and the neighbours’ outside lights, strung presumably on their side, where the ground is a foot or so higher than on ours. Like a horticultural Becher’s Brook.

I couldn’t even start to organise what to do next, as sons needed taking to rugby matches and general life needed to go on as normal.

Bloke spoke to the neighbours the next day. Discussions, apparently, that involved talking to our respective insurance companies. I rang them, they said they’d get back to us. They did, only to tell us the wall wasn’t covered because nothing had hit it, “like a car or something.” Unsurprisingly, getting cross and emailing them the photos didn’t make any difference.

Since then it’s been raining solidly, and each morning when I get up and look out of the window at the missing garden, a little part of my soul wizens. Under all those bricks, somewhere, along with all the other crushed plants, is a snowdrop named ‘Bonnie Scott’, named after my daughter.

What to do next? I can hardly face it.

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Stockpiling Gripe Water may not curb the colic

SO, shops have run out of Woodward’s Gripe Water. Frazzled parents, driven to despair by colicky babies, are at their wit’s end and bottles usually on sale in Boots for less than £2.50 are being sold on Ebay for a tenner.

Yet the burpy liquid has stopped being manufactured because it’s being investigated by the Government’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

You can usually buy the booze-less version in any pharmacy where it is given in a tiny amount to babies over one month old who are suffering from colic, or trapped wind. Other brands are available, or you can even make your own.

If you put your ear to the tummy of a colicky baby – between the ear-drum-piercing, high-pitched screams – you can hear bubbles.

The blurb claims that the mixture of bicarb of soda and dill oil disperses the bubbles, relieving the discomfort and usually producing a big burp.

However, there seems to be manufacturing and licensing issues with the remedy, which was made by SSL International before being bought out by Reckitt Benckiser, who have halted its manufacture – for now.

Lots of parents-of-a-certain-age will recall Woodward’s Gripe Water from years ago, when it still had alcohol in it. It probably didn’t have any E Number preservatives in it then because, let’s face it, alcohol doesn’t go off.

More recently the alcohol was taken out, so today’s recipe contains a basic mix of Sodium bicarb (hence the burp), dill seed oil and E215, E217 and E219.

We tried Woodward’s when our eldest, now 14, was wreaking havoc on our lives as a new baby. We were still baffled by the tiny infant who screamed his head off after just about every feed. He’d pull his knees up to his chest and clench his tiny fists, and we just didn’t know how to help him. We’d have tried anything.

Sleep-deprivation due to his crying had turned us into neurotic zombies. Bloke would walk him around for hours, baby Jed lying over hid shoulder, doing the New Parent shuffle, swaying side-to-side to the same CD, the only one that seemed to calm baby down (to this day neither of us can listen to Sacred Spirit Vol.1: Chants & Dances of the Native Americans . . .)

We tried Woodward’s Gripe Water, and once we’d worked out how to get a 5ml spoon of a very runny, sticky liquid into a squirming baby’s mouth without getting it all over ourselves, up the baby’s nose, or all over the carpet, it would usually elicit a burp within a minute or so. (Ask your pharmacy for a medicine syringe, it’s far easier).

The gripe water lulled us, temporarily; into thinking we’d solved it. But the wailing would inevitably start again.

So we tried Infacol, another colic remedy, which you are meant to give BEFORE a feed. To be honest, we don’t think that worked either, though many of our friends will testify both worked on their own colicky babies.

With the benefit of hindsight, and knowing now we didn’t have any problems with our subsequent three, I wonder whether Jed actually had colic at all.

I just don’t think we knew how to ‘wind’ a baby properly. (And that’s not to say colic doesn’t exist, before a barrage of angry emails drops into my inbox).

When you have a new tiny baby, you are terrified to handle him or her with anything except metaphorical kid gloves. But to get bubbles out of a baby’s tummy, or break them up small enough not to cause discomfort, you have to rub, and rub, and pat, and rub, for what seems like hours – or until the next feed. One burp isn’t usually enough.

In practice, you have to be reasonably vigorous. My Mum is an absolute master at winding. She’d lie the baby on her lap, or across her shoulder, and do a rhythmic routine of patting, stroking up the back and patting again. Without fail, she’d get them belching for England, without so much as a whimper.

Making sure their stomach is pressed against you while winding, or propping them into a sitting position, holding their chin in one hand and patting the back with the other can work.

And *whispers* lying them on their tummy in their cot (only if they can hold their head up) also worked for all four of mine to stop the bubbles waking them up after a feed.

If you have a colicky baby, and the Woodward’s has run out, then you have the full sympathy of every parent on the planet.

I’ll let you in on another of my Mum’s bizarre, possibly placebo and thoroughly un-PC remedies for crying babies. Warm, previously boiled water, allowed to cool in a small cup with half a spoon of sugar stirred in. Give one spoonful to baby from a METAL spoon. It works especially well on hiccups.

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Our son communicates in drawings

SOMETIMES being a parent can be baffling. Our four are constantly throwing us curved balls.

The older two talk in riddles, and when they do deign to speak to us they seem to miss off the beginning and end of every sentence.

Three-year-old Bonnie has decided that every mealtime is mucking-about time. She knows perfectly well how to sit at a table and use a knife and fork. But lately she’s given up all table manners, eats with her fingers, keeps her mouth open when chewing and gets up and down from the table several times. And she shouts “tomato sauce” at everyone regardless of what’s on her plate.

Little Bill has taken to drawing everything and writing notes. Not unusual for an eight year old, you might think, but as well as lovely messages like ‘I love you Mum’ left on my side table, or portraits of everyone stuck to bedroom doors, if he’s told off or is in a grumpy mood, he writes lists of ‘things he should be happy about’ or draws pictures of himself looking sad. Or captions describing himself ‘mean’.

It’s heartbreaking, and when we ask him about it, he brushes it off as just something he likes to do.

We’ve worried that he’s feeling he’s not getting enough time with us, what with the constant demands of four offspring with differing demands, especially his little sister. As he usually seems pretty content and good at getting himself up and dressed and ready for anything, maybe we’ve not given him as much attention. Something we’re now trying to remedy.

Still, he’s better than the rest of us at art already.

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Are party dresses conditioning girls into impractical clothes for women?

BONNIE has just got to the age when birthday parties are the most exciting thing to EVER happen to a kid, what with all those ball-pits, pass-the-parcels, party dresses and cakes.

Up until the age of three, parties can be a little baffling, but when they reach the grand-old-age of four – as Bonnie will in a week – the socialite is born.

She’s been to two parties in the past two weeks for her best friends Izzy and Alice, which have both led to a dilemma I don’t remember witnessing with the boys: what to wear.

The boys just accepted whatever shirt and trouser or jumper and jean combination I wrestled them into; for Bonnie it seems far more important than that.

She’s been coming home from nursery and putting her summery party dress on just to have tea – and objecting most loudly when sent back up to change.

She seems genuinely conflicted about whether a pretty party frock or Princess dress-up is de-rigueur for a party at someone’s house, or at Wacky Warehouse, or Berzerk.

While I’m trying to coax her into a t-shirt and jeans so she can be more comfortable, she’s wriggling into some multi-layered Rapunzel floor-length ballgown.

I just don’t know where her love of dresses has come from (as you can tell, it ‘ain’t from me). So we’re already compromising: I let her wear her fancy dresses over a pair of leggings and a t-shirt, and wellies if the weather is bad.

At Berzerk last weekend, I bumped into a former colleague and Dad-of-Girls on similar party-marshaling duty. I voiced my concerns about letting her run about the climbing frames and slides in an ankle-length dress, and he laughed. “You’re not used to dealing with girls yet, are you?”

Then he pointed out that just about every girl in the place was dressed in flouncy frocks, with sequined cardies and pretty clasps in their hair. And they were all climbing as high as possible, running as fast as they could, and not caring a jot about having to hitch up their hems to do so.

I guess this is the start of a learned tolerance for impractical clothing that every girl takes into womanhood . . .

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Still talking – latest Vlog from our Chron columns

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Getting kids to wear coats is snow joke

AT the time of writing (February 6), there’s still about four inches of snow outside but we’re assuming school will be open this week.

Nevertheless it may be the ice rather than snow that throws the proverbial cat amongst the (frozen) pigeons. It’s meant to be bitterly cold this week and parents should be prepared.

It seems ridiculous to say but you do see children turning up at school without warm clothing. I don’t care if your children ‘don’t like wearing coats.’  You’re not their friend; you’re their adult, so insist they wear one. And if they refuse, make them walk the last couple of streets to school instead of getting a lift from door to door.

My elder two seem to think that coats are an optional extra when the temperature hovering around the zero mark, but they get dragged back to stick a coat on over their school uniform. No son, your blazer just won’t cut it. I don’t care what other kids do; you’ll secretly thank me for that coat. And yes, I do tell them that they “won’t feel the benefit” if they wear coats indoors.

The younger two are still, thankfully, at an age where they like a warm coat, hat, scarf and gloves, even if we do get through several every winter (only to find them cluttering up the house come the summer). I think I’ve bought at least four hats for Bonnie since November and even putting gloves on the old-fashioned string-through-the-coat-sleeves doesn’t seem to preserve them for long.

Bonnie and her snowman as brothers fight behind

But Bonnie recently announced that the navy blue snowsuit she’d been wearing for a couple of winters was a, far too tight and b, FOR BOYS. (Billy’s hand-me-down)

I did look around the shops for several weeks for an age-four snowsuit – not too puffy – but couldn’t find one. You may get lucky on Freecycle for coats, or by checking the charity shops. Kids can grow out of coats in a season and it can be an expensive business.

Then last week I found the perfect all-in-one at Blacks up at Riverside. It was pink, waterproof, not too bulky, and £20.

When the snow came at the weekend, our lot all layered up in warm coats and hats – even the boys, who know from experience the pain of a snowball hitting a cold ear or a being shoved down the neck.

While Bonnie was happy to join in hurling snowballs with her brothers, she soon got bored and devoted herself to making a tiny snowman, or lying on the ground making snow-angels. Meanwhile the boys’ snowball fight descended into all-out warfare, including fortified walls both at the Racecourse and in our tiny back garden, where they trampled my plants and lawn underfoot.

I’d like to tell you that Bloke and I observed maturely from a distance, but it would be a lie. Not only did we race each other inelegantly down hills on toboggans too small for our grown-up bums, but Bloke was at the heart of Sunday’s long-running snowball skirmish. And much to the disgust of our elder boys, we sneaked out to the Racecourse during Saturday’s late-night snowstorm to join other grown-ups building snowmen and running around like kids. OK, so we might not be the après-ski at Val d’Isere types, but at least we can still enjoy a bit of snow closer to home.

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Kids’ TV is dead. Long live kids’ TV

YOU can usually tell someone’s age by asking them what their favourite children’s TV programme was when they were little.

Rentaghost

The surreal delights of the Clangers, Mr Benn, Rainbow, Rentaghost and The Wombles would label you as a child of the 70s, while Dangermouse, Thundercats and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would shift you into the 80s.

If Thunderbirds, the Sooty show and Andy Pandy in black and white trigger misty eyed reminiscences, it’s safe to say you are older than me.

Our own children, now ranging from ages 14 to 3, were blessed – and some would say cursed – by the invention of multi-channel TV in the 1990s.

Our eldest two boys were the original Cbeebies generation; the first to enjoy Teletubbies when it was causing a national kerfuffle, and Bob the Builder when he was still made of clay and flirting with Wendy (Sunflower Valley and CGI ruined it).

And while Billy had Balamory and Bonnie enjoyed the strange delights of In the Night Garden and Waybuloo, it seems some fear decent programming for children may become a thing of the past.

Russell T Davies, the man credited for rescuing Dr Who from TV purgatory and restoring it to prime-time family viewing, is warning that children’s programmes are on life-support.

In an interview with the Observer, Davies said: “I am passionate about children’s television, but it is, as ever, an endangered species, under threat.

“The most shocking thing I have seen is that, apparently unnoticed, five years ago ITV dropped children’s programmes. There is now the complete absence of children’s programmes made by ITV on CITV.”

When we were growing up there was always a snobbery about ITV, which I’m not sure has diminished much in 40 years.

While I always did prefer Magpie over the goody-two-shoes Blue Peter, and liked Press Gang more than Grange Hill, I can’t say I’d automatically associate ITV with great children’s shows.

It’s probably also worth pointing out that the undoubtedly talented Mr Davies is working on another children’s TV show for the BBC – Aliens Vs Wizards – about a teenage wizard and his scientist friend trying to stop aliens who intend to destroy the earth. And while his ability to spin a good script is undeniable, he did also write for Chucklevision.

Certainly as budgets get hit, children’s TV isn’t going to get as much dosh thrown at it as perhaps it deserves. It’s probably cheaper to import some overdubbed cartoons, or Disney-style tosh about overconfident teens than it is to make a decent home-grown programme.  Deadly 60, the hugely popular and intentionally hilarious wildlife show, must cost a fortune, as its bonkers presenter Steve Backshall travels the world looking for creatures that can kill you.

But I agree with RTD about TV networks not seeing the bigger picture with children’s productions, and that by categorising a show as ‘just for kids’ is failing to recognise both the writing talent and the potential cash-cow. After all, he made a lot of money for the Beeb from Dr Who and its Sarah Jane spin-offs.

Now I’d like to see Horrible Histories, the very best thing on TV, moved to prime-time BBC at, ooh, 7pm every night? Even its repeats would be far more intelligent and entertaining than what is currently offered in that slot.

Until the BBC complies with my demands, you can go to the CBBC website http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/cbbc/episode/b011qlwb/Horrible_Histories_Series_3_Episode_2/ and catch up with Series 3 of Horrible Histories. You don’t need to have the kids around. Put your headphones in and enjoy. It’s more educational and humorous than any half hour you’d spend on Facebook.

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Don’t let bad sleeping habits lie

“SHE just won’t sleep, and I’m so tired I just let her come into bed with me,” a friend confided in us last week. “I feel like I’ve failed.”

It’s a situation most parents will recognise, but not necessarily under the same circumstances.

That once-contented, angelic baby, who seemed perfectly happy to nap during the day AND sleep at night suddenly decides that night time is party time. Or whiny time. Or cry loudly at the stairgate time.

Maybe they’ve always been restless and demanding at sleep time. Determined not to nod off unless walked around, rocked in a pram, driven around in a car, anything that worked, just for a few hours. Please.

Then just baby settled into a regular sleep routine, their teeth start to break through, and they are grizzly, dribbly, and produce nappies that make your eyes water.

You think it will pass, all this Not Sleeping.

You waver in your reaction.

At first you jump and run to them every time you hear the slightest whimper.

Then, slowly, you (should) try to ignore the first murmurings. Then, if it develops into a full-throated scream, (and you’ve other children trying to sleep), don’t turn the light on, quietly reassure them, put them back into sleeping position and leave the room.

We’ve all sat outside that door, going in and out, listening to wailing that seems to go on forever. And if it’s the middle of the night, sometimes it feels the only way you’ll get any sleep, and therefore sanity, is to let them into your bed.  It’s not a road you want to travel down for long.

Our friend has the added complication of now being on her own. She looks after two under sevens, works part-time and doesn’t have family nearby. It’s fairly understandable that she’s too exhausted to try the recommended ‘ten-day habit-breaker’ – where you spend up to two weeks just putting your child back into bed everytime they wake, refusing them the shared bed they’ve become used to.

It’s a hard thing to do: you shouldn’t get into conversations, just tell them they need to sleep in their bed and keep putting them back in it. It feels cruel, but after a few days of being resolute – you are the grown-up after all – you should find they gradually settle for longer.

Her three-year-old daughter – not her first child – has formed a habit of wailing and getting in with her mum. Her older sister has always slept well, in her own bed, and doesn’t seem to get disturbed by her sibling’s night-time shenanigans.

Whatever the psychological reasoning behind this inability to sleep in her own bed, it’s something their Mum knows has to be sorted out before the habit becomes too hard to break.

We’ve had periods when I’ve ended up sleeping in the spare bed with a grumpy, disobedient, usually poorly toddler, because it’s just been too exhausting to keep intermittently coming in and out.

But we have always had a stairgate over the little ones’ bedroom door, so they couldn’t just wander into our room. Partly to stop them thinking it was alright to do so, and partly because it always scares the bejesus out of me when a toddler appears silently by your bed in the middle of the night.

The exhausted mum-of-two is now going to try to put her daughter to bed by at least 7.30pm each night (somehow bedtimes became irrelevant when she was up all night anyway). I suspect this may help, if she’s resolute and doesn’t let it slide. A routine (wash, teeth, story) is important but not always possible (regularity is the key).

If things don’t improve she’s going to use half-term, when no one has to get up for school or work, to ‘train’ her daughter back into her own bed. It may not be easy, but in the long run, it should mean a better night’s sleep for all involved. I wish her luck.

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