I’ll be disappointed if Reservoir Mum isn’t high on the chlorinated steam rising from the spa bath at her mid week all expenses paid Sports Medicine conference at Hepburn Springs right now but all I can really think of, as the time creeps on towards 8pm, is the long night ahead where I’ll be juggling the ever-waking Tyson and Maki solo and that’s why I pause just before turning their light off to try for something a little sneaky:
‘Hey, if you two sleep in your own beds for the whole night, without coming in to my bed even once, I will let you pick whatever toy you want from the shops tomorrow’.
When the octonaut-obsessed Maki sits up and screams ‘Can I get a Gup-A?’, as if I’d just delivered 2000 volts into his chest through a pair of defibrillator paddles, I’m thinking I’ve stumbled onto a really really great idea, but then Tyson sits up in the bed next to him, coughs out a bit of Winter cold, wipes his nose with his sleeve and says, ‘No Dad, I won’t do it’ and so I swallow my high hopes and encourage the boys back to their pillows before I weaken even further and try for a much more enticing bribe, like unlimited iPad access or a ride on Luke Hemmings’ pony.
Over the past twenty years insomnia has been my most constant bed companion (if you exclude Reservoir Mum, Tyson, and the haunting memory of the time I sat down on the high school high-jump mat while wearing shorts with gaping leg holes and some elastically-challenged underwear and managed to give Tracey, Rachel and Sharon an unobstructed view of my steaming testicles) and tonight it has been like an insatiable lover, bumping against me like a horny… well like a horny me really… and it was only after I looked at the bedside clock to see that it was 1.45am that it finally accepted my cold shoulder as an unshakeable no and left me in peace.
Oh my God, the inside of my head feels like it’s filled with wet sand and dead bodies and my face is so fully under the influence of the hormonal sleep cocktail that I actually have to open my lips with my fingers to say shhhh when Tyson rushes into my bed, coughing and spluttering, searching for warmth so desperately and with such disregard for the softer more vulnerable parts of my body that he must be dreaming he’s a cat and I’m the bonnet of a car.
Within seconds of willing my body into different positions and whispering words to soothe him my mind is kicking back into gear and as I’m reaching for the tissues I’m thinking of how RM texted me a photo of her big bed at the spa resort and how she’s probably so comfy right now, and as I fumble around in the dark for the tissues to wipe Tyson’s geyser-nose I’m guessing that she’ll wake up in the morning and find herself in the middle of a pedicure and on her way to a facial and a relaxation massage and that she’ll be so rested and spiritually centered that lotus leaves will sprout in the wake of her footsteps and bloom a trail of vitality and happiness from her resort room right down the hall and all the way to her complimentary big breakfast, and I’m covered in the snot and phlegm of our offspring and happy for her.
After two hours of a sleep best compared to Chinese Water Torture Tyson finally seems settled and I’ve shuffled over to the edge of my king sized bed and I’m alone – alone – but just as fully unconscious sleep seems possible the sweet pitter-patter of my three year old’s feet sound over the carpeted floors like a T-rex crashing through mega fauna in pursuit of its dinosaur prey and he’s suddenly on my side of the bed whispering and tearing back the doona and backing up against me, forcing me into a spoon, and I’ll do whatever he wants, I really will, because I’m trying to maintain my semi-slumber before my mind wakes enough to engage me again, but it’s useless. Five minutes pass before I realize I’m trying to remember the brand of our electric toothbrushes because we really need new rotating heads, and Jesus Christ… I’m not sure if I handed in Archie’s excursion form last week, I mean I know I filled it out… and then it’s 4.20am and 4.33am and after I get lost in faux-memory; imagining myself dancing to Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson in the quadrangle at high school; how all my class mates are clapping and cheering hysterically – because they just didn’t know I could move like that – the sound track changes to Diana Ross singing Upside Down and I’m laughing to myself thinking it’s the perfect song to describe what the kids are doing to me right now and that’s when I look from the clock – to see that it’s now 5.20am – to Maki’s wide open eyes and realize that my bribing trickery has really backfired because he puts his hand on my face and says, ‘Dad, where’s my Gup-A?’
‘Oh,’ I whisper. ‘No… you only get a Gup-A if you sleep through the night in your own bed, without coming into my bed. You see?’
When Maki’s bottom lip wobbles I feel like the arsehole of the world’s largest cat because he’s just not quite old enough to understand the sequence of effort and reward involved, or maybe I just didn’t explain it clearly enough, and when he rolls away from me, so forlorn, and sits on the edge of the bed I give in, think of coffee and cappuccino and consider the whole range of known stimulants up to and including Ice and say, ‘Hey, let’s go down to the lounge room and watch some Octonauts.’
My four boys are up and fed and dressed and ready for school and Tyson seems to have recovered from his coughing and spluttering after several hours of solid sleep and I’m playing Upside Down through my iPhone as we make our way to the morning school run, feeling happy really, crazy actually; madly delirious in a fun sleep-deprived, stimulant-affected way so that when RM texts me with this gleeful message…
Hey, went to sleep at 11 after finishing some stats, slept all night in a king sized bed all by myself and woke just before the alarm at 7.50!
…I place another teaspoon of instant coffee into my mouth and text back: That’s GREAT my love!, giggling towards a privileged kind of hysteria as it dissolves under my tongue.
9.30am the following day
Maki slept the whole night in his own bed!