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SAM CURTIS: Spooked by tales of things that go bump at night

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: April 25, 2013

Sam Curtis

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Three hours' sleep. You are lucky I can string a sentence together.

The reason? There is usually only one.

The child.

If you are parents to youngsters under three years of age you expect to have a few rollercoaster nights. But my daughter is eight in November.

I had hoped by now she would be going to bed at 8pm, waking at 8am and any time in between would be uninterrupted 'me time'.

Time for me to watch numerous programmes about the NHS and of course, to sleep.

I am currently a little addicted to Channel 4's 24 Hours in A&E and BBC2's version on a Tuesday. I don't watch because I have a morbid fascination with medical procedures. No, for me, it's all about how the indomitable human spirit shines through when faced with immense physical trauma or life-threatening illness.

I could do with a splash of 'spirit' this morning – all I want to do is sleep and maybe have a little cry.

But what was the trigger for Lottie's bout of sleeplessness? It seems it was two-fold and, in the cold light of day, I can be rational about it and even sympathise with her.

Firstly, kids being kids, they tell each other scary stories. Ghost stories, tales of alien abductions and monsters under the bed.

It's something of a childhood rite of passage.

That delicious thrill of fear and the tingle of goosebumps as the tale reaches it spooky conclusion, '...and when they walked up to the old woman she faded away because... she... was... a... ghoooooooooost'.

Which is fine while the children are all sitting together in broad daylight but when the dark of night is all around you and the house is quiet, it's hard to shake off the imagery, well, it is if you are a sensitive soul like my daughter.

When she woke at 2.30am I was surprisingly tolerant. I spoke to her, talked it through with her, stroked her head.

But by half past five, when she had pinged in and out of her own bed and tried to get into mine more times than I could count, all I wanted to do was find her 'off' button and push it. Unfortunately, kids don't come with one of those.

Mr C was intermittently involved with the nightmare of getting Lottie back to sleep. He took over the first 'shift', giving her a cuddle while trying to coax her back to the Land of Nod.

But she was having none of it. She wanted me.

Ordinarily I wouldn't be too precious about a good night's sleep but I was London-bound in the morning to attend a work-related awards ceremony and as the middle of the night faded into dawn, I began to realise the next 24 hours were about to turn into a marathon of travel and networking (which I loathe) followed by another late night to boot.

And therein is the second part of Lottie's sleep issue. Since she came along, I have been away from home for just one night, to visit a spa (oh, heavenly, sweet memory). The rest of the time I have been right where she expects me to be. At home.

And with the birds tweeting and the sun rising, Mr C decided that this was as good a time as any to suggest the reason we were both suffering such a torturous night was because; A) I hadn't been away on my own enough (he travels to football matches all season long) and B) I hadn't sent Lottie on nearly enough sleepovers (her cousins go to stay with Nanny most Friday nights).

In essence, it was all my fault.

I knew it was tiredness talking so I tried not to pay too much attention. Plus, I think I might have fired a few accusations of my own back across the pillows at him.

We spent 30 minutes laying the blame at each other's door when we could have been snatching forty winks.

However, when the handle on the bedroom door turned and Lottie appeared for the umpteenth time we were a united front, as we chanted, 'go to bed'.

I could tell Mr C's patience was wearing thinner by the minute. Sweeping statement alert, but I think mums can keep their cool for longer in these situations. Women seem to have a slower, more gradual build up to the point of screaming 'GO TO BED' than their male counterparts but still, when they are ready to blow their tops, they go with the force of Mount Vesuvius.

And yes, I did shout. My patience eventually ran out.

When she finally got the message that she was not going to creep into our bed, not even to sleep in the bottom corner, Lottie opted to watch a DVD in her own room.

It was now 5.45am.

I must have caught a few winks and when my alarm went off at 7am I plodded downstairs to make a caffeine-laden hot drink and my daughter padded down behind me.

'Morning Mummy', she cooed, as if the night before had never happened.

I made her a boiled egg and toast, put a really chocolatey cake in her pack-up (to give her a lunchtime sugar boost) and looked at her sleepy face.

'Are you okay? I asked her.

'Yes', she said, 'but I think I am going to be a bit emotional at school today'.

I hear you little girl. There's one way to ease that feeling. Sleep.

Weekly columnist Sam Curtis, 43, is mum to Lottie, 7, and lives in Lincoln in a house that's not as tidy as she'd like with her football writer husband Leigh.

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