On trying to get a child to sleep.

Sitting on the bedroom floor

One hand in your hand, waiting

For your breath to steady

And slow, and sleep.

You huff and puff and toss and turn.

I scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll.

Go to sleep, I mutter.


Still you writhe and squirm and shuffle.

I scroll.

I want to escape, to sneak downstairs

” Me time.”

At last, I dare to carefully, carefully, withdraw my hand.

I sneak.

You sleep.

I go downstairs, collapse on the couch

And scroll.


All the wise and experienced folk who write parenting books give untold amounts of advice on all stages and aspects of your newborn baby’s life. Some of them are straight forward and easy to follow. Some are like myths from far off lands, too elusive to be grasped by mere mortals such as you or I.

” Put your baby to bed sleepy, but not asleep.”

What they want you to do, these wise and experienced book-writing parents, is for you to be sufficiently attuned to your baby’s needs and subtle communications as to be able to identify the perfect moment – for it is just a fleeting moment – to lay them down in their cot to sleep. Too soon, and they will roll around giggling at you, and you will stand by the cot frantically rubbing their back and shushing them, without making eye contact. Too late, and they will scream with all the might their little lungs can manage, and you will stand by the cot frantically rubbing their back and shushing them without making eye contact.

Needless to say, this was one of many parenting skills I did not master. Have not yet mastered. And so I have spent years of my life lying on hard wood bedroom floors between the hours of seven and nine, with an ever increasing sense of despair. To begin with of course, there is nothing more wonderful than your darling child falling asleep on your chest. You sniff their darling little head as they bunch their knees up to their chest and cling on to you whilst your bodies rise and fall together. Time passes, of course, time passes. My baby no longer clings to me.  A part of me is glad,  though it seems heretic to admit. He climbs into bed , independently, but because I never mastered the sleepy but not asleep thing he has never learned the vital skill of ‘self-soothing’. Do any of us? Have you? So I sit on the floor, having read a story, and wait for him to drift off before I creep out and thank god for non-creaky floor boards. Sometimes I am too keen, move too soon, and a cry comes out. I return to the floor. Hours I have spent here , on the floor. I am blessed to have raised my children in the time of the iPhone, so instead of staring into the dark night for hours at a time, I was able to improve my mind by reading classic works of literature on the Kindle app. Kidding! Of course, I made excellent use of this time by scrolling mindlessly through the burning cesspit of outrage and other people’s ghastly opinions that is Twitter. Oh, but what I could have achieved.

Now, he is nine, and she is five, and things have moved on. I am allowed to sit in my room, with the door open , lights on and TV blaring. It’s progress , of a kind, and of course I am now doing much more productive things with my evenings than scrolling through Twitter in the dark. Much more productive things, than smelling their precious heads, rubbing their backs, as our bodies rise and fall, soothing one another.

2 thoughts on “On trying to get a child to sleep.

  1. I love watching my youngest fall asleep. I’m dreading when they both go to sleep on their own in some ways, but looking forward to it in others. this past year I backed off social media because the outrage was actually making me physically ill. I pulled out an old kindle and started reading- though not great works of literature- and that helped my anxiety a lot more. The kindle died and I felt a sense of loss so I had to get another one. I’d discovered I liked crawling into a book more than crawling into the minds of people who scare me online. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think the whole “putting a baby down sleepy but awake” thing is a bit of a myth. I guess it might work for some unicorn children but not mine. So now I just embrace the extra cuddles and don’t stress knowing my daughter will get there in her own time. Right now she needs me

    Liked by 1 person

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