Friday, May 18, 2012

Sleep Wars

Yeah, I know, a dad complaining about kids and sleep. How cliche can ya get?

Ah my friend, have you heard about child sleeping arrangements in Japan? See, whereas there's a new fangled co-sleeping movement in the US (Which with all things parenting has started up its own war), Japan has traditionally co-slept. Cribs are actually a bit of a newer idea for the Japanese. It makes sense of course, in small Japanese houses where rooms tend to be multi-functional, having a dedicated room JUST for the baby is silly, add in the room a crib takes and...

So at the old, two room house, we started co-sleeping. That is, I'd be on my futon in one room, and Beloved and Makoto would be on her futon in the other. When Hikaru arrived, we moved Makoto to my futon, and eventually to his own next to mine. I have to admit, there are some nice advantages to the arrangement. When the boys viewed Mommy as a lunch, nursing at night was a simple affair of Beloved rolling over a bit, opening the front of her pajamas, popping out a boob and dozing as one of the boys got his midnight snack. Given we were (and still are) on Japanese style futons on the floor, we didn't have any worries about falling, climbing the bars, or getting heads stuck anywhere. And there is (usually) an advantage in cranky kids. When Makoto has a nightmare, or Hikaru suddenly decides he's been abandoned and we hear the midnight wail, instead of having to get up and stumble down the hall towards the source of the cries; a halfway awake "Hey, kiddo, it's ok, Daddy's here" and a pat usually settles them back down to the arms of Lord Morpheus.

There's some disadvantages of course. Two kids in the bed makes it a bit hard to have more, shall we say, adult conversations and activities with the Beloved and we're reduced to waiting with baited breath for them to nod off before sneaking out, assuming we don't fall asleep first.

Having to pre-plan does take some of the fun out of it.

And of course should there be any kind of nighttime release from either end of a kid, well it can get messy and not just on said kid's bed. The first night Makoto had stomach flu ended up with me having a lack of pajamas and bedding as well as him. And a lovely smell that took forever to get rid of. There's also the issue of length. Traditionally, you'd find kids co-sleeping with their parents in Japan well into, if not through, elementary school. Beloved tells me that it wasn't until she was in 2nd or 3rd grade that she decided to move out of her parents' bedroom into her own room at night. Now that we have our own house, we're all sleeping in the same room, which is a bit daunting to think of doing this for the next 7 to 10 years or so.

But all-in-all, I don't have a problem with the co-sleeping and most of the time I'm an advocate for it. Except recently.

We have a problem, his name is Hikaru. Makoto, the eldest, was a kid who bowed to pressure and just conformed to his parents' sleep schedule. If we went to bed at 9:30, that's when he went to bed. We might want a book before bed, but for the most part he was willing to settle down and start getting those Zzzz's (Makoto's sleeping issues are not liking mid-day naps, an inability to get up that doesn't involve a tow cable, and a cranky disposition 3-out-of-5-times when he does wake up). Hikaru however is a baby on his own timetable, damn what his parents' want. When he wants to sleep, he sleeps, even if it's on the floor in the middle of the toys he was just playing with.

Let sleeping babies lie.
 Now, if allowed to sleep himself out, he awakes (early) with a sunny disposition and a willingness to tackle whatever is going on for the day (Usually Daddy's yogurt). Awaken him early and, well, it's like disturbing Godzilla's slumber (And given we're in Japan, ends up about the same way). It's the getting him to sleep in the first place. If he doesn't want to sleep, he won't. And we're on futons, on the floor. There is NO way of caging the beast. Even that wouldn't be a problem except that Daddy enjoys reading before sleeping. In fact, Daddy can't sleep if he doesn't get to chew through at least a few pages of his book before lights out.

IF I am lucky, Hikaru will be sleepy after his bath and bedtime story and will stay in Beloved's futon with his blanket and thus with a kiss goodnight, I can relax and enjoy my book. If I'm unluckly... I will look up to find Hikaru's face grinning at me like the rising full moon over my reading light and my supposed "quiet time" becomes punctuated with "GO TO SLEEP!" and wrestling matches over my book, light, phone, pillow, glasses, or older brother's bedtime items (A book, a rotating stuffed animal, and his Mickey Mouse ears from Tokyo Disneyland), and with random grabs and stuffs from Beloved trying to get the kid into bed and settled down. Which works for about a minute before Hikaru crawls out and tries again, with giggles.

Last night took the cake with a 45 minute marathon between Hikaru who wouldn't go to sleep and who kept  trying to get to Daddy's toys, Makoto who was wide awake because his younger brother was walking back and forth (with occasional attempts at toy/book theft) just next to his head, and the thunderstorm.

I like thunder, the boys like thunder, Beloved is terrified of it.

So, thunder booms. Wife eep's. I attempt to be the good husband and hold her. Get complaints/giggles from Makoto because I have to lean over him and his futon to get to Beloved. Hikaru sees his chance and runs towards the now undefended smartphone/book/light. More giggles from the kid in the middle. I yell "GO TO SLEEP!" and shove one son under his blanket and the other one back to his bed. Board re-sets, and the thunder rolls again.

Like I said, 45 minutes until the most welcome sound in the world is heard, the nightly concert of my boys' snoring... With Hikaru completely out of Mommy's futon, sound asleep upside down on the floor.

Oh well, just cover him with a blanket and call this battle of the Sleep Wars won. Besides, I still haven't gotten past the starting page of my book.

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