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.”
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.