I’ve never been one for keeping a really strict routine. When the children were babies, the Gina Ford-esque Open the curtains at 6.24am regime didn’t suit me. But, like all mums, I’m well aware that if certain things happen at the same time each day, then life is a lot more enjoyable.
Bedtime is a case in point.
At no time is a routine more appealing than when it’s all going pear-shaped: I’m talking about jet lag here – that dreaded circadian rhythm sleep disorder that can hold you in its steely, fatigue-inducing grip for days, especially after an eastbound flight.
It’s a disorientating condition that people in our community know well, especially the Americans and Canadians who travel half way round the world to get back, with small children, who then spend the next two weeks mixing up night and day.
We only had a three-hour time jump between London and Dubai, but to be honest, even this is enough to play havoc with your family’s sleep.
Making it worse this year was the fact that BB and LB hadn’t really adjusted to British time anyway. After returning from America, and with no school to get up for, they stayed on a mid-Atlantic time zone, treating us to 11pm bedtimes in England.
No surprises, then, that our first full night back in Dubai went like this:
11.30pm: BB and LB finally succumb to sleep
2.20am: I nod off at last
2.30am: Pitter, patter … BB comes running in. “Mum, I can’t sleep!”
5.30am: BB, who I [foolishly] allowed to climb into our bed, falls back to sleep after three hours of fidgeting
6.15am: LB wakes up – for the day
Tonight (yawn), my overtired boys were also resisting bedtime, in a can’t sleep/won’t sleep fashion.
Then, just before nine, BB lost it, despite being allowed to watch some extra telly. “I want Nanny,” he wailed, in between distraught, heart-breaking sobs.
“But you’ve got me,” I soothed, feeling a bit like the booby prize.
I took him and his brother upstairs and tried reading a book, but it didn’t really distract my by-now-exhausted BB.
More raspy, uneven sobs.
So, I pulled out all the stops: I started singing.
“Show me the way to go home. I’m tired and I want to go to bed,” I crooned, trying to replicate a song my mum used to sing to me while drying my tears years ago.
BB went quiet, finally, and his breathing slowed as the song worked its magic. But then LB, who until now had been quite placid, started crying.
“Mum, don’t sing,” he spluttered, visibly shaken. “I really don’t like your singing. “It’s bad singing,” he snivelled, and sat up in bed, wide awake again.
There really is no pleasing everyone, is there?