Inevitably, I have returned to the perennial topic that consumes so many parents. The one on which we all compare notes. That takes up an unwarranted amount of brain space, just thinking about it. About how it feels to have some. About how to get more of it. No, not wine. Although that is a close second. Sleep.
Just thinking about sleep makes me both momentarily drowsy and claw-my-own-eye-bags-off-my-face irritable. Because (and please do pass me the prize for stating the bleeding obvious here) I do not get enough. Nowhere near enough. If I slept from now until Christmas, I would only make a small dent in the slumber deficit I have. Hmm. Perhaps there should actually be a Slumber Deficit Index, which tracks your lack of sleep. With four and a half years of not getting a good night’s sleep, I would be ranking somewhere around a seven out of ten, I would think. The SDI (that’s the Sleep Deficit Index, not some nasty sexually transmitted disease… please keep up, anyone would think you were tired or something) would work in conjunction with the Sleep Interruption Index. The SII would track the frequency of sleeps that are interrupted by your kids. On which I would be scoring a 2, as we have had a miraculous three-night stint of no interruptions. However, last week, in the throes of B having taken up Extreme Teething as his latest sport, my SII would be a 9. At which point, I would be multiplying my SDI by my SII and scoring an alarming 63. I think parents should wear their sleep scores on a badge on their lapel. Anything over a 50 and you know not to ask them anything too taxing like how to divide up the lunch bill between three, not forgetting Jane didn’t have a pudding. Anything over a 65 and don’t even think about gently criticising their kid who is currently up-turning the tables in the cafe. Over 85? Just back away, throwing biscuits and compliments toward them like they are going out of fashion and get the fuck out of there.
See, I must be bloody tired, I think I attempted some multiplication in that last paragraph.
Fatigue does strange things to my brain. When I try to think, it’s like my brain is calling me long distance. There seems to be a three second delay before anything actually materialises. I am sitting at the table and glance down to the floor to see half a leaf that has been walked in from outside. I then see B, speed-crawling his way toward a tasty pre-lunch snack of muddy foliage. I look at the leaf again, thinking that I really must pick it up and do it soon. B gets closer. Okay, time to bend down and pick it up, I think. But my body is inert. B is slowing down as he reaches his prize. Any moment now, I muse, my brain will tell my arm to get the sodding leaf. B picks up the leaf and moves it to his open mouth. Finally I move, snatching the leaf, leaving only a few granules of mud on his bottom lip on which he happily sucks. Ah well, what doesn’t kill him makes him stronger, I think. then I looked at him again, just to make sure it hasn’t actually killed him.
I think that long term tiredness has just slightly broken my brain. Once, words were all stored up there in an efficient and tidy manner, and I could retrieve them in an instant. Not only that, they would appear out of my mouth in the right order. Some were even longer than two syllables. Now, my brain has decided to store my vocabulary in a slightly different way. Less highly effective filing system, more lottery balls bouncing around in utter chaos. I was having lunch with E the other day, and I said: “Pass the…” I knew what I wanted to say. After all, I was staring right at the bloody bottle of ketchup, it was not as if my brain was grappling with the complexities of string theory. The trouble was, no word came out. I thought a bit harder, probably frowning with the exertion of all that mental activity. But all I could imagine was thousands of tiny white balls, ricocheting around my skull, on one of which was the word that I was grappling for. But I was buggered if I knew what it was how to get it out.
“So, here comes the first ball on Word Lottery… good luck everyone… we are using Guinevere today and set of words number seventy-two… here it comes… and we have ‘table’.
“Pass the… table,” I eventually ask E, who looks at me, quite rightly, as if I have gone just a little bit mad. I think I have shocked myself. Pass the table? The table? What use is a table? Ooh, I could lie down beneath it for a kip…
“What did you say?” he asks.
“Err… nothing.” Ketchup with fishcakes is highly overrated, anyway.
Sleep deprivation also has a charming effect on my body. Particularly my face. Now, I never was much of a mirror gazer. For me, my face has always been more functional than aesthetic, containing as it does useful holes through which I can see, breathe and eat. But now, having had children and bog all sleep for over four years, I have been known to actually duck when walking past the bathroom mirror. I do not need to see my eye bags; I know they are there. Christ, there is practically a breeze on my lower eyeballs where the eyelid is being pulled away from the ball due to the weight of them. And I have a friend who helpfully mentions how tired I look pretty much every time I bump into her, which is nice. I would punch her, but I am just too sodding tired.
I spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking about sleeping, particularly given the little I actually do of it. This morning, I gave myself a break from thinking about sleeping and was thinking about the future, when the boys have left home. My first reaction to this thought? ‘Oh my god, I will actually be able to have a lie in whenever I want.’ So only another eighteen years to wait, then.