Saturday, 7 July 2007

The Opposite of Sleep

I asked The Girl to choose a bedtime story. ‘The Noddy book!*’ she said. ‘If you like, but it’s not really a story, it’s just about opposites,’ I pointed out (doing a piss-poor job of concealing my desire to read Mrs McTats and her Houseful of Cats). ‘I know what it’s about, Mummy, I want to do opposites.’ Five minutes of the day left and her little cogs are turning until the very last. Sheesh.

We had hot / cold, up / down, in / out, and then: ‘Noddy is young. Like you,’ I said. ‘And Big Ears is?’ ‘Old! Like you, Mummy!’ she said, so proud that she was getting them all right that I hadn’t the heart to explain that thirty-two isn’t actually that old and these are laughter lines and anyway I’ll look a lot younger and fresher when I’ve have more than three consecutive hours of sleep. So I smiled, sweetly.

She reeled off some more opposites, though as I was holding a silent grudge I was only half-listening, but when I came round she had taken the concept to a new realm – and when I say realm, I mean a borderless land of pointing out that every object, action or feeling in the world has an opposite.

There she stood in her over-sized Cinderella pyjamas. ‘The opposite of shopping is . . . no food! The opposite of wardrobe is . . . clothes on the floor. The opposite of my drink is . . . a cup with nothing in it.’ And so on, and on, and on . . . So I flicked to page fifteen of Annoying Parental Wit and said, ‘And what’s the opposite of awake?’ ‘Asleep!’ she trilled. ‘Right, and that’s what you should be right now.’ It was another twenty minutes, including a heart-warming off-the-cuff story about the beetle she’d found in a raspberry that day, before she got the hint and closed her eyes. Watching her, I wondered what thoughts rippled through her mind as she finally wound down.

If there’s one opposite that’s crucial for anyone trying to fit writing in between other, more dominating things, it’s on / off. Off is the one giving me trouble. My writing time is now confined to evenings; some nights I write until I can barely hold my head up, and then crawl into bed and siiiiigh at the chill of the pillow and the comfort of the dark and the sleepy little breaths I can hear alongside me (that’s The Boy – the breathing on my other side tends to register on the Richter Scale, for which he receives regular kicks in the shin). But even though everything is in place for sleep, and I’m so tired my eyes are stinging, and I know The Boy is going to wake me up in an hour or two, I’m thinking – wilfully thinking about the work-in-progress, or the imagined rejection I’ll receive in the morning, or the imagined contract I won’t receive in the morning, or . . . I could go on, and on, and on, and the writing thoughts are regularly interspersed with: did I lock the back door? what time is my dentist appointment next Wednesday?

I need an off-switch.

Like daughter, like mother.

*the new, sanitised kind

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Sarah said...

Your daughter sounds like just the kind of person I like best.

Anonymous said...

Ooooh, yes, I know the feeling.

This blog is wonderful!


Mum'sTheWord said...

Thanks, you two!

I didn't know until today that the opposite of ladybird is, in fact, elephant. Bless 'er.