Babysitting on an Empty Tank

Everyone was tired this afternoon.

I arrived already feeling a little fuzzy. Last night I went to bed at half ten, hoping to get a proper night’s sleep after a week of late nights and random wake ups. I slept solidly… for three hours. By 1.40am I was done for the night. After four hours of staring at the ceiling I got up and pottered until 8am, at which point I managed to sleep for another three hours. Not enough sleep, and not at the right time. I was tired.

When I arrived in the afternoon, Baby was being carried around in a way that suggested a limpet on a rock and Toddler was waiting for her lunch with big purple sleepy-shadows under her eyes. All through lunch and a bit afterwards she was acting more tired than I’ve seen her before; random bursts of hyper energy and fake giggling, followed by crying jags because she couldn’t take the baby’s shoes, kick me in the face, play with the floor lamp…

I read her a story and put her down for a nap. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of fussing. She’s two and a half, and she resists naps even more when she’s tired. But she got into her cot quite happily and lay down with her toy dog. As I went downstairs I could hear her softly singing to herself.

And I could still hear her softly singing to herself half an hour later, when I put Baby down for the second nap of the day – on the advice of her mother, who isn’t normally home when I babysit but was popping in and out between errands. She cried intermittently for a few minutes and then seemed to fall asleep.

Toddler? Still chattering away as I tidied the kitchen and washed up the bottles. And then her papa came down the stairs, carrying Toddler. I’ve got to admit to a frisson of annoyance. She always takes half an hour or longer to fall asleep. She wasn’t crying, or shouting, or asking to get up. She was just singing softly to her stuffed toys and she would have slept for at least two hours if she’d been left. He isn’t usually home when I babysit either, and honestly I think his presence unsettled both the girls. Baby was up again not long after – a sudden and anguished wail that had me running but not quite fast enough as dad was there first. And of course once she was snuggled into his arms, the idea of coming to me was anathema.

It was like that all afternoon. Whenever I said no, or asked Toddler to stop throwing things, kicking, pushing Baby off the sofa, or just asked her to help tidy up, she started crying for papa. Eventually he took her upstairs to sit with her in his office. Baby sat downstairs and wailed, for her sister and her papa, but babies are easier to distract.

Another day, when I’ve had more than an average of six hours of after-midnight sleep a night for the last week, I would have let it wash over me. Today, I was a bit annoyed. By the fact that a 1 year old and a 2.5 year old love their father more than me? Yeah, it was ridiculous.

Tonight I’m going to bed at 10pm and if I wake before 7.30am I will weep.

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