Archive for the ‘bed’ Category

15th birthday party


Eliza’s 15th birthday party was changed at short-notice from Saturday to Friday to accommodate some of her friends, meaning that L was away and I was sole adult in charge. I had made stern warnings against alcohol, invited guests only and guests coming and going. 20 guests arrived, including one lad who was far taller than me.

Eliza’s friends were very noisy and really polite. They danced and chanted along to songs in the kitchen and the garden. I kept a low profile but at one point went into the kitchen where they were all holding up phones and dancing to a rap song with rude lyrics. Soon after 10pm I reminded Eliza that she should bring things to a close. An hour and three-quarters later, the last of her friends left. Eliza glowed with the fun of hosting a party.


Robin loathes being overheated in bed. He sleeps bare-chested to keep a tolerable temperature. Before bed-time, he lies on the floor, lest his body heat up the bed before it’s time for him to sleep. One evening, Gabe lay on Robin’s bed playing FIFA on Robin’s X-box. Robin was infuriated that Gabe had warmed up his bed.


Gabe’s school week is evenly balanced between lessons and free periods. He uses his frees to study, read and do crosswords. When Gabe reported that he had completed three quick crosswords in a single free period, I challenged him to try a cryptic crossword. I showed him how they work and then we tried to solve one together. The twisted logic of the cryptic clue appealed. He has teamed up with L to solve more puzzles and is nearly ready to fly solo.



It’s the night before the exam and Eliza cannot sleep. She twitches and becomes upset. “What’s the time?” L stays with her, but one hour and then two pass since her bedtime. A cup of hot milky chocolate comes and goes. She’s befuddled; too tired to sleep. Eventually, she drifts off, with more than seven hours to go until she needs to be up, getting ready for the school entrance exam.

Eliza has prepared diligently for the entrance exams all through the summer holiday. Taking tests, learning parts of the maths curriculum not covered at school, getting faster and more accurate.


I used Eliza’s preparations to persuade Robin to spend 15 minutes per day, around half of the holiday, to work on his times tables. Grumpy and reluctant at first, he began to pick up speed and finally memorise the ‘multiplication facts’ as the book called them. He also did some non-verbal reasoning, usually while in the bath, which entertained him as a puzzles.

Today, at school, he applied his holiday efforts in a mental maths test. He did well, he assured me. He knew his six times table.


Gabe slumped through the summer holiday: on the sofa, with TV on and tablet or phone in near constant use. I imagined his fitness draining away.

I was wrong. Back at school, he achieved his best ever bleep test score: 9.1.

Ailments and remedies

Gabe had a stomach upset that lingered and hindered him for almost a week. At its peak he was too poorly for school. Inert during the day, he fretted and was unsettled at night. L and I each spent time with him in the middle of the night, leaving us tired and impressing on him that he needed to get himself back to sleep.

So, one night at the end of the week, woken by his bad stomach, Gabe went into Robin’s room, woke him up and told him to come back to his room to keep him company. Robin obeyed and spent the night in bed a reassuring presence for Gabe.

Robin explained that he thought Gabe had chosen him because he is such a good hugger.

Eliza had an ailment too: an infection of her left index finger, which went swollen and hard. As well as the pain, it left Eliza unable to play her musical instruments. The doctor offered to lance the swelling, but Eliza chose the foul tasting antibiotic instead. After a couple of days the swelling went prune-like, the outer layer of skin fell off and Eliza was back to recorder and violin.

Just the three at home


With Eliza and Robin away at a sleepover from the mid-afternoon, Gabe had what he recognised to be the longest time alone with L and I since Eliza’s emergence ten years ago. He and I used the initial hours to go to the cricket nets on the last day before they are brought down for the winter. He gee’d me up to bowl, which I did as fast as I could, without troubling him. He then bowled quick and straight at me until it got too dark to carry on.

Back at home, Gabe and L watched ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ – unsuitable for younger siblings – and we ate together. But Gabe was unhappy at bedtime as he didn’t like being alone upstairs.

Eliza and Robin

Eliza and Robin stayed with their best friends, also brother and sister. Eliza and E made videos together. One, in which Eliza starred, was sent to L for us to view. Robin and A played football in the afternoon, evening and morning – getting up and playing in their pyjamas in the garden.


Night and day in Yorkshire

Daytime in our Yorkshire holiday home was a delight. The vast garden and tennis court were the scene of cricket, football, badminton, mini-Olympics and many variants of tennis. The three sitting rooms hosted games, computer-use, TV viewing and lounging. The kitchen had a food supply to match its size.

Nighttime in our seventeenth century home was less appealing for the kids, who shared one large room. Robin was the first to show. He wanted to go home. But Gabe found sleeping there the hardest. He was up until midnight and awake again at 4am. This continued, though less extreme, through the week.

Eliza had bagged herself a bed slightly different to the boys. Less appealing I thought. But half-way through the week, it became the object of desire, with Gabe complaining late one evening about Eliza monopolising it. Just as an intractable battle was welling up, Eliza soared above the others’ bickering, declaring decisively, “Right, you have it and keep it for the rest of the week.”

Chocolate Factory

The reality of family outings feels like five individuals’ interests can rarely be satisfied. The problem is actually subtler. It is possible to engage five individuals’ interests, but it is harder to have five people be positive about a plan for an outing. This is partly about preconceptions (Robin: “not another castle”) and partly about  a desire for control (Gabe: my way or the whine way).

A trip to my parents and Gabe’s imminent birthday gave an opportunity for an alternative approach: a surprise trip; or, a stubborn refusal on L’s or my part to share any information about where we would be spending Bank Holiday Monday until the road signs told their own story. As a tactic to quiet pre-trip moans it did the job. The begging to be told where we were going was far less irritating than the complaints about the choice. Given that the choice – Cadbury World – was relatively uncontroversial, we may have created more fuss than needed, but the experiment was worth it.

Cadbury World itself was forgettable, but engaged us for more than an hour. More popular was the motel we had stayed in the night before. Robin, buoyed by a lengthy kip in the car, wouldn’t sleep until 1am. He tried waking Gabe at midnight to announce his endurance. Down the corridor, L and Eliza were more peaceful. (Families of five or more are too rare to merit dedicated rooms or suites of rooms in budget hotel chains).

Robin found Gabe and me underwhelming company and rushed to be back with Eliza in the morning. After breakfast, Eliza and Robin accepted a challenge to move slowly back from the restaurant to the bedrooms (100m distant) by shuffling there on their bums. Gabe was enervated by this juvenile behaviour and, when L also joined in, he teetered on launching a violent reaction before rushing off ahead and away from his exasperating family.

We accumulated 18 chocolate bars on our factory tour but saw no umpa-lumpas.



Dream sequence


A discussion of dreams while walking to school, led to an experiment. Eliza had been told that if two people are dreaming of the same place, they’ll see each other in their dream. A little like the familiar-looking spectators in the background to a Wii game we wondered. Eliza nominated McDonald’s as the location and we went to bed with that destination in mind. But the theory remains unproven as the next morning only Robin, more suggestible or less reliable, reported getting to the chosen place in his dreams.


Gabe is in a high run of form on the football field. He has started to complement his silky midfield passing with a more physical presence – harrying and tackling opponents. He came to the fore in a cup semi-final, which his team won in nerve-wracking fashion.


Robin has followed brother and sister down the Harry Potter route. He has finished the first book in the series and is reluctant to read his school book club assignment as it diverts him from school wizardry.

The great cough


Gabe started coughing on Saturday. It’s Wednesday and he’s barely stopped. During the day it’s continuous, but settles down at night. By Monday, with no let up I took him to the doctor’s surgery. Gabe was concerned it was psychological (recognising that when he feels sick it often is) so relieved to hear he had a chest infection. I kept him off school, which meant he missed the French spelling bee contest in which he represented his class and hall. Unusually, he put some visible effort into preparing for it.


L was away for a long weekend at her parents. Robin turned up next to me in bed around 6am on Saturday. “I don’t want you to feel lonely,” he explained.


Eliza was facing a weekend of football, more football and rugby. Gabe’s cough ruled out one of those events. A timely invite to go shopping with a friend, her friend’s mother and grandmother excused her another. She had lunch with her friend and was wearing make-up when I picked her up. She had a book bought for her by the grandmother. It featured a 13 year old dating a 17 year old boy. This is new territory. Eliza said she enjoyed it.

Bedtime superstition and ritual


Bedtime is an occasion of superstition and habit. Gabe will resist climbing into his cabin bed unless L or I am in the room with him. He’s very reluctant to go upstairs to get ready for bed unless there’s a parent with him.

Once in bed, we have developed a ritual. Following a countdown and synchronised nodding of heads, we try to switch off the ceiling light at the same instant as his bedside lamp is switched on – he controls the latter, I the former. If synchronicity is lacking, we repeat as many times as necessary, but not ever more than ten times, until the movement of light from ceiling to bed is seamless.


“You lied to me,” said Robin. He supported this accusation by explaining how there isn’t a Father Christmas, but that mummies and daddies go out to buy the presents and put them into stockings while the children are looked after by babysitters. “But you didn’t have a babysitter before Christmas,” I pointed out in an effective distraction tactic. “It’s a magical time of year,” I reminded him.


Eliza was struck with insomnia one night this week. Reading, being read to, making lists in her head, me/L sitting on the end of her bed all failed to send her to sleep. An espresso cup of warm milk was the last thing tried and so may itself become a ritual.

Rampant materialism, happy kids

This Christmas, L and I have shocked ourselves at our consumption on our kids’ behalf. To Eliza, a Kindle Fire. To Gabe, after much agonising, a PS3 and a 2nd hand portable TV, so it doesn’t dominate the living room set. To Robin, new football boots, ball and goal. It was like a mini, intra-familial arms race, where we were providing the combatants with weapons of mass-distraction.

Each of them has said that it was the best Christmas ever. Two days later and they are experiencing the rest of the month as an anti-climax, but they don’t take much persuading to return to the loot that provided the high on the 25th.

The night of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning was tense and expectant. Robin woke as Santa was about to deliver, but was guided back to bed, via loo. Eliza was awake at 2.30am, sitting up in bed with light on and laden stocking lying beside her, squeezed and sized up but not violated. She thinks she stayed awake until 4am. There were general stirrings at 6am and by half-past all three were up and waiting for the magical hour of seven.

We will introduce the word ‘austerity’ in 2013.