I’m one of those parents that always believes in a book. If I can’t do something/ haven’t a clue where to go next/ want reassurance on how this is just the next phase, there’s always a book to help. So when I started reading about this ‘phenomenon’ of a book that actually helps children go to sleep, I was all over it. As I may have mentioned a few hundred thousand times before, child 2 is the worst sleeper in the world. She’s rubbish at going to sleep in the first place, she’s rubbish at staying asleep, and she’s rubbish at sleeping by herself. (Yes, I thought it was all about the parenting too, but it turns out that was utter nonsense. Child 1 sleeps like an angel.) Given her inability to sleep and my own resulting despair, I was terribly susceptible to the reviews of ‘The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep’. A book based on actual scientific (well, hypnotherapy) methods that makes children go to sleep? What’s not to rush out and buy?
This is how it went:
1. The three of us get into child 2’s bed. I’m filled with hope and certainty. I explain the book will make them feel sleepy so they have to be comfortable. They mess around changing positions and kicking each other and quarrelling over pillows and duvets, but I am calm. These are but minor issues. In ten minutes, they’ll be asleep and I’ll be downstairs with a drink. Look at that sleeping child on the back cover of the book! The introduction even tells you not to read the book to someone driving! If that’s not reassurance of how it works, I don’t know what is.
2. I start to read. The book tells you to insert the child’s name, so I do. Both children sit up and demand to see their names.
3. We get to the end of the first page. I am already bored of repeating how the rabbit is so, so sleepy, but you know-this isn’t about great literature. I look hopefully at the quiet children. Child 2 says she is hungry. We discuss in a slight hiss the amount of food she had at teatime. She says she is still hungry. I pretend I haven’t heard.
4. We return to the story. Roger Rabbit (insert your own joke here) is walking down the path to Uncle Yawn’s house. He is becoming so, so tired, even more tired than he was on the first, lengthy page. The Heavy Eyed Owl gives him some pertinent advice which I forget immediately because I am too busy wondering how long this bloody book is. No wonder all these children fall asleep; they’ve lost the will to live. However, the children are if not asleep, very quiet. Its going to work! I have faith!
5. Heavy Eyed Owl takes the rabbit/ my children through a standard relaxation exercise. ‘How can I make my eyelids feel heavy Mummy?’ wonders child 1. ‘My legs are SO SO heavy now,’ fakes child 2, who is no stranger to these bedtime meditation exercises.
6. I become obsessed with the poor grammar in the book. I know it’s a translation, but I teach eleven year olds who could have written it better.
7. I realise I am speeding up as we go through the book. This is in direct contrast to how the introduction told me to read the book, which was slowly and calmly. The children are told to slow down and breathe nice and slowly and deeply. I am still on page four of about a million and my own breathing is neither slow nor calm.
8. I start to really hate the rabbit.
9. The children are quiet and breathing deeply. I chastise myself for my lack of faith. Look how it’s working! Look at child 2, all cuddled up with her cat, eyes closed, eyelashes casting a shadow on her beautiful little cheeks. She’s going to be asleep before 8pm for the first time in weeks! It actually works! I’m overcome by love for her, the poorly written book and the little brown rabbit, and mentally phrasing the glowing review I’m going to put on Amazon when her eyes fly open. ‘I’m still hungry, Mummy” she says.
10. Without opening his eyes, child 2 says, ‘you’re making Mummy very sad and cross, Ella.’ Possibly I’ve said that before. I fetch child 2 some almonds, and consider giving up the book and just letting them read their own books after I’ve read the shortest book I can find, which is what I normally do, just so I can leave.
11. I return to the book. OK, so it’s not working so far, but you know, it’s probably because the rabbit himself is not asleep yet. And I paid £7.99 for this book. At the time I considered it cheap at the price, but now I want my money’s worth. We read on. The book tells the rabbit (and the children) that they are being sprinkled with magic sleeping powder. I fear we’re straying into fairytale cliche but there is no reaction from the children. Maybe it will work – children believe all this magic crap, don’t they?
12. Child 1 sits up and says I haven’t put enough magic sleeping powder on his toy horse.
13. The rabbit says in a sleeeeepy, sleeeeepy voice that he is so, so tired, and his eyes are closed, and everyone is asleep. Both children are quiet. Child 2 is lying heavily against me. Hope resurfaces. I can almost feel the drink in my hand.
14. The rabbit is asleep. Everyone in the book is asleep. The book tells the children they are/ will be sound, sound asleep. I shut it,quietly, and peer hopefully down at the silent children. Neither moves. I start to slide out of the bed.
15. Child 1 starts to fake snore, loudly, giggling. I’m guessing he got the point of the book then. Child 2, as wide awake as she was half an hour ago when I started to read the sodding book, finds this so hilarious she falls off the bed with her laughing.
16. Child 2 takes the book the bed. ‘My cuddly toys sometimes find it very hard to sleep, Mummy,’ he says to me, solemnly, and I can hear him reading it as I go down the stairs and relate the whole sorry tale to my husband, who finds it funnier than I’d like. Both children reappear, roughly four or five times, offering variously to read to me, to tidy the living room, and to ‘do just a bit more’ on the homework we battled over for an hour this morning. Neither appear tired in the slightest.
I’m going to sue.