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The great escape


The Dad Diary
Edwin McGreal

I’ve often been accused of only telling positive, happy stories about our eldest, Frankie, and leaving out the grim realities of parenthood. When I brag that Frankie has never woken up during the night since she was just shy of six months of age, for example.
Every night Frankie would gladly walk to ‘beddies’ and go to sleep within minutes, sleeping until the next morning, almost always past 8am. We took this pattern for granted.
Then, when Éamon came along a little over six months ago, we were reminded all about the long nights and the lack of certainty when a baby goes to sleep – Will he stay asleep for the night? How long will we get before the first whimper?
Most days we’d smugly say, ‘We’re so lucky with Frankie’. And it was the absolute truth.
But that’s starting to change a lot in recent weeks. The 8am ‘sleep-in’ is no more. Now Frankie wakes almost on the dot of 7am every morning, screaming for attention. With Éamon asleep next door, you have to act fast so you don’t have to face dealing with both of them with a big, sleepy head on you.
But the catch 22 is Frankie is learning that screaming gets you what you want. I must try it sometime and see how I get on. It might be therapeutic, if, I predict, hugely unsuccessful.
But I doubt many other parents used to 6am wake-up calls every morning will feel much sympathy for us losing the 7am-to-8am hour in bed.
Frankie’s afternoon naps have become an exercise in delicacy too, because she is starting to become indifferent to them. So you have to wait until she’s tired but not overtired. Learning the difference should earn you a college degree.
When you get it wrong, it can go badly wrong. She will stand up in the bed and cry. A couple of times we left it for five minutes and she wore herself out and went to sleep. Problem solved, eh?
Then one day we heard the cries getting closer. Yes, Frankie had escaped from her cot and came flying down the hall and into the kitchen door bawling her eyes out. A game changer. It takes a serious amount of agility to get out of a cot when you are two-foot, ten-inches tall. But Frankie was hysterical and where there’s a will, there’s a way.
So what to do? In another generation, one of Frankie’s parents also had a propensity for escaping from the cot – until the parents, who shall not be named here, came up with the ingenious idea to cover the cot with chicken wire and padlock it to the four corners.
Now, we haven’t and won’t be resorting to that here. Not least because it could be a job for Tusla. But it did me no harm 35 odd years ago.
Back in 2019, however, we have to be more creative in our thinking. So tiring out Frankie with either a long walk or, when the weather is not compliant, a good spell of horseplay, is the current strategy for solving the problem. It is, still, a work in progress.

In his fortnightly column, Edwin McGreal charts the ups and downs of the biggest wake-up call of his life: parenthood.