Monday, April 27, 2009

Sleeping around

Field study notes: The sleeping habits of the suburban queer family

Location: Detached, two-story family home in northwestern Ontario.

Subjects: Occupants of house: Two adult women (codenames: Buttercup and Sausage), parents of one four-year-old boy (codename: Quiggy Quoggy Quoo), one toddler (codename: Pwink).


March 2009: Buttercup and Sausage have alternated sleeping on the futon in the basement in order to slow their child-induced, sleep-deprived descent into hell.

April 2009: In an effort to make bed- and night-times smoother, Buttercup and Sausage set up a single bed in Quiggy Quoggy Quoo’s room (hereinafter referred to, with varying degrees of success, as “The Brother Room”) for the thrilled Pwink, who has been longing to share in the bedtime festivities. After some initial bumps, the new system takes hold and all four family members resume sleeping through the night, on one level.

Buttercup, in a flurry of optimism and determination, hauls the double futon up from the basement to Pwink’s former room and declares it “The Spare Room.”

Nothing lasts.

Some highlights:

Wednesday, April 22, 7:30 p.m.: Pwink yells, “Love you!” over and over as Buttercup descends the stairs at bedtime. QQQ complains that Pwink is too loud and decides to sleep in Buttercup and Sausage’s bed. They will transfer him back to his own bed later on in the evening.

4:10 a.m.: Pwink wakes up and announces, “Mama, cuddle!” As a result, QQQ also wakes up and requests cuddles. Sausage climbs in with QQQ and Buttercup hauls the duvet off the parental bed and bunks down with Pwink. She must have slept, because she knows she dreamed (of weddings), but it doesn’t really feel like it. Sausage, whose bed is now duvet-less, sneaks out of QQQ’s bed and goes to sleep in the spare room.

Thursday, April 23, 12:40 p.m.: Pwink goes down for his afternoon nap. Spurns his single bed in the “brother room” in favour of QQQ’s bed. Two minutes in, decides that the futon in the spare room would be best and traipses across the hall to sleep there, exhorting Buttercup to join him. They settle down, he sticks thumb in mouth, and 10 minutes later he is asleep. Buttercup leaves. Later, she may regret not napping with him. But regrets are for the weak. She is not weak. No.

Thursday evening, 8:22 p.m.: Buttercup finds herself lying next to Pwink for 45 minutes until he is completely and utterly asleep. Each time she tries to leave, he wakes up and says, “Mama, night night!”, patting the bed beside him. If she continues to tiptoe out of the room, he starts to cry, forcing her back in so as not to wake up QQQ. Pwink has Buttercup’s number.

Friday morning, 3:30 a.m.: Buttercup wakes because her right arm is COMPLETELY ASLEEP and numb to the touch. This happens more and more frequently of late, and while it has nothing directly to do with the children, it never happened before they arrived and so must somehow be their fault. She turns over and uses her left arm to haul her right arm into a less compromising position and wonders, as she always does, whether the recurrent pins and needles are doing permanent damage, and what would happen if she didn’t wake up: amputation? She goes back to sleep.

5:22 a.m.: Pwink wakes up. Calls out, and in so doing wakes up QQQ. Sausage attempts damage control by bringing Pwink to sleep with Buttercup, except that QQQ follows them both into the parental bed and cannot be persuaded to cuddle up in his own bed with Sausage. All four lie down. Much squirming ensues.

5:32 a.m.: Just as everyone relaxes enough to make Buttercup think that just maybe, sleep might just occur, someone snores. Pwink sits bolt upright and announces, “Noise!” QQQ grumbles about Pwink being awake. Sausage absconds with Pwink to QQQ’s bed to stave off the possibility of all four having to get up. Pwink cries.

5:35 a.m.: Buttercup tells QQQ she will be “right back — don’t move!” and delivers lost blankie to Pwink and Sausage. Pwink continues to cry

5:42 a.m.: Buttercup tells QQQ she will be “right back — don’t move!” But she is lying. She instead climbs into QQQ’s bed with Pwink and Sausage, who immediately stops crying and snuggles. Sausage leaves that ungrateful Pwink and climbs into bed with QQQ. Buttercup, her arm trapped beneath Pwink’s head, stares at the open door and tries to will it closed with her eyes. It doesn’t work.

5:46 a.m.: Pwink asks for water.

6:10 a.m.: QQQ decides it’s time to get up. Buttercup is fairly certain — based on previous experience — that Sausage has coached him on keeping his mouth closed (“Like this!” and mimes buttoning her lips together) and being extra quiet as they descend the stairs. By virtue of the open door and his hawklike hearing, Pwink hears them anyway. Insists on getting up. Insists that Buttercup come with him down the stairs. Buttercup delivers Pwink to Sausage in the kitchen and returns to sleep in her own bed, because it is officially her morning to “sleep in.”

Friday evening, 7:23 p.m.: Sausage finds herself lying next to Pwink until he is completely and utterly asleep. Each time she tries to leave, he wakes up and says, “Mama, night night!”, patting the bed beside him. If she continues to tiptoe out of the room, he starts to cry, forcing her back in so as not to wake up QQQ. Pwink has Sausage’s number. Sausage fall asleep next to Pwink and stumbles downstairs two hours later.

Saturday morning, 2:11 a.m.: QQQ appears in the parental bedroom because he is cold, and insists there is room for all three of them in Sausage and Buttercup’s bed. He climbs in. Buttercup decamps for the spare room.

6:12 a.m.: Pwink wakes up, ready for the day. Buttercup gets up too.

1:04 p.m.: Pwink goes down for a nap. Buttercup who is tired and oddly besotted, take him upstairs and lays him down in QQQ’s bed. When he says, “Mama, cuddle,” she lies down. One day, they will have to break him out this habit, but right now the thing she wants to do most is snuggle up with her baby boy. She’s a sucker. He has her number.

Tuesday night: For a variety of reasons too tedious to detail here, Buttercup spends the night on the futon with Pwink’s feet tap dancing in the small of her back. She does Not Sleep Well.

Wednesday morning, 2:13 a.m.: Pwink appears in the parental bed.

Wednesday morning, 5:15 a.m.: Pwink wakes up, hysterical. Sausage suggests to Buttercup that she should just suck it up and get up with him. Buttercup counters that Pwink will indeed go back to sleep in a few minutes. Sausage decamps for the futon, but is waylaid by QQQ, who has woken up because of all the screaming. Sausage bunks down with QQQ.

Wednesday morning, 5:23 a.m.: Buttercup sucks it up.


And so it goes. I haven’t bed hopped this much since ... aaaaaaaaand, you know? I’m not gonna finish that sentence.


  1. ok, so i'm teaching a darrin hagen book this semester and there's a line "we fucked, of course, because that's how you met people back then." my students tittered and led me to understand that that is not, definitively, how THEY meet ppl. but as our class discussion evolves, it becomes apparent to me that nonetheless, they *sleep around* constantly. some of them live on their own and crash at a g/f's or b/f's place, at a frat house, at somebody's brother's place because they're too drunk to get home. which is still within the realm of the imaginable for me. but the weirdest are the "kids" who still live at home, and sleep .... wherever. one family has a rabbit that chews on the bedframe, and when the rabbit chooses your bed to gnaw, you decamp to the L/R and only hope that someone hasn't got there first. or you shack up with your sister (why not?). or you just decide to do an impromptu sleepover in the rec room with all the kids -- and, sure, the parents too! and these guys are 18, 19, 20 years old.

    wait. this is not the comment you were hoping for, is it?

  2. So ... I'm hearing this would all make more sense if we got a rabbit?

  3. I have a frilly rabbit you can have but it won't gnaw on the bed frames. Maybe that's a perk. Of course, the rabbit's petticoats are oddly disturbing and may disrupt what little sleep you people are getting.

    This post made me very tired and now I need a nap.

  4. I think it means these 18, 19, 20 year olds have never been broken of the habit, because everybody was just too damn tired.

    I am sending sympathies and seriously wish we could over a sleep vacation for either sausage or buttercup, or both of you.... sorry that we live so far away.

  5. I loved reading this Susan! My little pwink-aged child likes to wake up very early in the morning, get butter out of the fridge and smear it around on doors, tables, anywhere that she feels like it basically and to remove all of the neatly folded clothes in her dresser onto the floor where she proceeds to try them all on (with buttery fingers!). She is very stealth while she's doing this too, quiet as a mouse.
    I've thought about a fridge lock and moving the clothes out of little one's reach but as we're moving in a few weeks, I don't know which is more trouble.
    your fellow, maman-sans-merci!

  6. This was so funny I almost woke my baby up reading it. This blog will prevent you from the parental amnesia that ends up automatically making things sound easier in retrospect than they actually were. I would recommend sleep training but then your blog wouldn't be so entertaining! - XOXO F

  7. Vikki: Thank you so, so much, but I could never take something so special. Really. I also expect that the rabbit would be attached to a four-year-old, and we already have one of those here.

    Sus: Thank you. I would totally take you up on it. And wish you lived closer, too.

    Mama-sans-merci: Butter, huh? I'm trying to decide if I would rather do the butter thing than the screaming and waking up all night thing. But you could hide the butter, couldn't you? At least she's quiet...

    Fiona: It's not that we don't want to sleep train, it's that we don't know how to do it with a mobile toddler who is not in a crib, and who shares a room with his brother. Any suggestions?

  8. Ah Susan, once again you make me shudder with nervous anticipation (horror?) at the prospect of L leaving his least now when he wakes up every morning at somewhere between 4:30 and 5:30, we know he can't actually get anywhere...and alternating mornings in the spare room till there's really no deluding yourself that he's not going back to sleep (5:45-7am!) does at least mean one "lie-in" till 6:45 every other day, at least until one of you goes away for a couple of nights (aagh!). Hx

  9. PS Any idea which idiot non-parent coined the phrase "sleeping like a baby" ?

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  11. How it possible to sleep in this room? :)