Tonight we put the pumpkin to bed with his candle still lit. This was a mistake.
I mean, he looked tired, he acted tired, he was all flickery and vague and asking for his favourite books but when it came to lights out well... he guttered, he sputtered and he burst back into life.
The trouble is that a couple of times recently we let him cross that invisible line between 'enough' and 'too far' and allowed him to experience the dubious luxury of falling asleep on the sofa, in the livingroom, while the TV is on and so now, of course, he knows that this is within the realms of the possible.
We have a several-stage night time plan. Our beloved routine, the praises of which I have loudly sung limps bravely on into the ever-lightening evenings however with a few changes. Firstly, we stand by the 3 'B's of bedtime - bath, books, bottle. Yes yes yes, I know, he'll never talk properly or grow up big and strong or leave home if we don't confiscate his bottle right now but that's how it is, he likes to fall asleep clutching it the way some children clutch their blankies and hey, that's OK with me. So anyway, bath, books and bottle and then, one hopes, bed. Sometimes this works, however if he's not sufficiently tired, we have some playing about that ends with him asking to sleep on the nursery sofa.
This is all very cute, he has his pillow and his blanket and his tigger and his bottle and sometimes his nightlight and he cosies down on what is anyway a futon and sinks blissfully to... well first we have to read ''Duck in the Truck'' several times so that he can chant 'Duck! Truck! Track! Back! Rock! Muck! Feet!" etc. Then I have to lie down beside him until he falls asleep. If, however, when I get up and leave, there is still the tiniest flicker of awareness left awake... the itsiest, titchiest smidgen of flame still wavering, he can turn that into a firestorm of energy and we all know where that goes.
Sadly it happened again tonight and it happens because we are too exhausted to stop it. We just want to sit and eat our dinner and not have it go cold while we do shifts getting him to sleep. We don't want to have to listen to him sob himself to sleep while we sleep train him - firstly the flat is too small and he is too loud, secondly we are too soft and finally he just gets up and walks up to us, presenting us with his sobs like Salome with John the Baptist's head: 'Here is my sorrow, try and enjoy your dinner NOW you rotten sods'. So, like some sort of lame political party, we are trying to find the third way, the path between firm and floppy parenting, the path that will, on average, get us a hot dinner but will also, sometimes, leave us white and exhausted while Salome dances on the sofa beside us, pointing wildly at the cat, flames burning brightly.