The sound of silence


The Dad Diary
Edwin McGreal

Every parent will admit it you that it is a relief when the kids are gone to sleep at night. If they say otherwise, they are lying.
While it is great having the kids around, playing with them, watching them grow and develop, they need their rest – and so do you. When they are gone to sleep, you can do what were once normal things, like talk to each other, have some dinner in peace (even if it’s 9pm!), get housework done and sit down and watch a bit of TV.
But the threat of them waking always exists, and this keeps you on your toes.
Any visitors who arrive will be frantically ushered to the back door – the front door is in the  hallway off which both Frankie and Éamon sleep, whereas you’ve to go through three doors from the back to the get to the same hallway. The extra doors are essential for sound proofing.
Noise from either baby monitor will be treated with trepidation. The TV will be paused to see if it is only a momentary stir or something that requires action. Knowing the difference is key. We’ve been caught going down to kids to discover they had gone back to sleep only to be rewakened when we open the door.
Frankie rarely, if ever, wakes properly, so any stir from her is less of a concern. Éamon, however, frequently wakes up if he stirs and has mislaid his soother, so down one of us will troop.
It is a particular skill to go into a pitch-black room, find the soother and place it gently in his mouth without further waking him. And it is hard to find the way out in complete darkness too. One night I woke him on my exit by walking into the door, which I thought was still two feet away!
It is mad though that the longer you are in there, the more you adjust to the darkness and can see with whatever small chink of light is getting in. Then you will be blinded by the lights when you return to the kitchen!
The simplest things can catch you too. Going in there in your bare feet can lead to squeaky noises from the timber floor. Nothing you would notice normally, but in a room silent but for breathing, you may as well sound the klaxon.
And age can be a curse too. Kneeling down over the cot when you have to settle him back to sleep can be sore on your back, and creaking noises from your joints as you try to stand up straight again often wakes him, sending you hurtling right back to the bottom of the hill again.
If you get as far as the door, there’s the big debate – close the door or leave it just ajar?
Closing it protects him from noise from other parts of the house, but then the door itself has a mind of its own and can creak whenever it wants to. That game of Russian Roulette has added many grey hairs to my head.
If things are going well – ie, Éamon is not teething, sick or going through a growth spurt – once he gets through the first couple of hours, he tends to be down for the night.
Which is just as well, because after a few trips up and down, that’s all you’re fit for yourself.

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