I had two babies who were bad sleepers. I was up with both of them several times a night and I was knackered. Not in a light hearted ‘I’ll joke about this one day’ fashion – it was more of a drained, angry feeling I dragged about with me all day. My one aim of every morning was to try to get my babies (around 6 and 20 months at that time) to take a nap at the same time. It took a good bit of planning but sometimes I managed it – and as soon as they were asleep in their cots I would race to unplug the phone and place a note on the front door: Please do not ring the doorbell or post heavy parcels through the letterbox – 2 babies sleeping. Just leave anything on the doorstep. I’m very tired. Thanks.
One day I had just jumped into bed and that first blissful wave of sleep was washing over me when the doorbell rang. I heard an immediate wail from the toddler, followed almost straight away by the even louder baby. After all that work to get them to sleep!
Dizzy from being hauled back from the brink of unconsciousness, my eyeballs feeling scorched with exhaustion, I stomped to the door and yanked it open.
The postman looked at me, startled.
‘Look what you’ve done!’ I screeched. ‘It took me all morning to get them to sleep. Can’t you-’ I stopped mid-rant as I pointed to the empty space where I had taped the note. It was gone.
I looked sheepishly at the postman. ‘Sorry,’ I whispered, pointing vaguely at the side of the door, ‘I had put a note there not to ring the doorbell.’
‘No problem,’ he said, though I could barely hear him over the howling from the babies’ bedroom, right beside the front door. ‘Good luck getting them back to sleep,’ he added cheerfully.
It wasn’t his fault but I kind of hated him for his cheeriness in the face of what would be an impossible task.
A few months later I had abandoned trying to get them to nap in their cots. If someone cleared their throat in the house next door, they heard it and woke up.
I started driving around at nap time with loud but soothing music, heat on full blast in the hope of making them sleepy. I was probably the most dangerous driver on the road at those times, as I yawned and forced myself to stay awake.
It usually worked, except it was impossible to move them out of their car seats without waking them – so I would lean back and fall into a deep slumber in the driver’s seat of the car, parked outside my house, engine running to keep the heat up and the lullabies blaring. Of course, this was usually when the postman would arrive. By then he knew better than to try to talk to me. Even ‘hello’ was risky, but as he walked past my window to deliver our letters, but he always gave me a cheery smile and wave, much as you would someone from a foreign country when you want to be polite even though deep down you think they are well-weird. Goodness knows how many times he passed me when I was actually asleep, face pressed up against the window, mouth hanging open, dribble on my chin.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I was mid-way through the morning mayhem, trying to get to playgroup and nursery on time. I was attempting to gather a three and a four year old in the hall for long enough to wrestle them into coats and shoes, while bawling at the thirteen year old to stop straightening her hair and get off to school. We had the same conversation every morning.
‘Keep your hair on, Mum, I’ll easily make it.’
‘Don’t speak to me in that tone of voice. And you won’t make it, you’re going to be late. Again.’
‘It’s only registration.’
I spluttered in outrage at this oft repeated line, but was prevented from continuing because Child Number 3 had pulled the shoes off Child Number 2 and received a wallop on the head with a plastic light sabre in return. They were both lying on the floor crying, and the teenager was still arguing with me about whether or not she was going to be late (even though she only had five minutes to walk what took me ten at top speed).
The minutes ticked past and my stress levels rose. Every day I vowed this situation wasn’t going to arise and yet, here we were again: disorganised and running late. Before I had children I’d had this vague idea I would tell my kids what to do, and they would do it. I know, how funny.
Child Number 3 had by then run off to find a light sabre of his own to exact revenge. He was shedding his coat as he ran and I screamed at him to come back. Child Number 2 was still bawling on the floor about his shoes so I yelled at him to get up and put them back on again. The teenager was rifling through the hall shelves looking for an umbrella to protect the straightened hair so I shouted at her too, how many times have I told you to get everything ready the night before? If I’ve told you once I’ve told you a million times. And I swear I won’t tell you again. Vague, pointless statements came spewing out of my mouth at high volume. I was in full rant-mode: Get up off the floor and put your shoes on and come back into the hall right now and put that light sabre back where you found it and pick your coat up off the floor and no I haven’t got time to drive you to school you should have left earlier. If I’ve told you once I’ve told you …
There was a noise from the letter box. I fell silent and watched it being pushed open. A pile of letters tumbled onto the floor and beyond the frosted glass of the door I saw a shadowy figure straighten up.
And that’s pretty much why I mostly now avoid eye contact with the postman.