Our 4th most-read article of 2019
(Originally published June 7, 2019)
If you’re like me, you have parents who want to sleep ALL. THE. TIME. But a sleeping parent means you’re on your own, and that just won’t do. A sleeping parent can’t feed you. They can’t hold you. They can’t rescue you if a pterodactyl or sabertooth tiger decides it wants a snack.
But don’t despair. These strategies will keep even the most exhausted parent awake at all hours of the day, and most of the night, too.
Before your birth, your parents were active during the day and asleep at night. But you’re a diabolical little goblin who can’t yet produce melatonin, so you need to get them on your schedule, sleeping as little as possible. They don’t need to be completely insomniac, but ideally, they should be awake all night and at least drowsy while at work or on the freeway.
Establish a pattern of unpredictability
Parents thrive on routine, so keep them guessing. Go to sleep at 11 p.m. one evening, 6 p.m. the following evening, and 11 a.m. the next. Vary the time and length of your naps, avoiding any kind of pattern. A good nap should not exceed 17 minutes; enough to trick them into starting an errand, but not enough to finish. If Dad is watching the baby monitor, lie still, pretending to be asleep, and then thrash about violently, making choking noises. When he comes in to soothe you, immediately go limp and snore peacefully. Repeat this cycle every few minutes, timing your spasms to maximize his anxiety, especially if he is a first-time parent. Every so often, give Mom a full night of sleep to get her hopes up, then regress by waking every 90 minutes the following night. Remember: an anxious parent is an awake parent.
Eat your way to success
Nursing mothers need to be woken every two hours (more if she has an important work presentation the next day). To limit her sleep time, take at least forty-five minutes nursing on each breast. Then, make a painful show of vomiting milk unless she holds you upright for another twenty. Let her sleep for ten minutes, then repeat. If possible, both parents should be awake, so if Dad or another non-lactating parent tries to give you a bottle, scream bloody murder until someone with breasts arrives.
Drain their financial resources
Force your parents to lose sleep by hitting them in the bank account. First, make them buy a series of 14 equally useless baby sleep training books. These books should contain conflicting anecdotal advice written by people who don’t have children. After that, move on to bigger ticket items. Fuss incessantly in any bouncy chair that doesn’t have a Spotify-compatible touchscreen. Wail inconsolably in any swing under $350. Rip your arms out of any swaddle unless it is hand-sewn from a Peruvian llama’s wool by a woman named Ingrid on Etsy. After three days, reject all of these items and make your parents replace them with more expensive models.
Night nurses, who charge an hourly rate of $1.7 million, can be useful in milking your parents dry. However, use with caution, as they also afford cranky adults more sleep.
Exploit classical conditioning
Create an elaborate and very specific set of conditions that you need to fall asleep. Soon, your parent will need these, too. With some consistency, even the most sleep-deprived parent will toss and turn unless they have had a warm bath, read Goodnight Moon 13 times, and been rocked to sleep in a 72-degree room with blackout shades.
Crush their spirits
Go for the jugular. Make your parents recognize the futility of trying to get sleep. Cry in their arms for two hours, then fall asleep in your bassinet a minute before the Amazon delivery man knocks on the door, sending the dog into a frenzy. Fall deeply into REM, lulling them into a false sense of security, waking up when they are mid-shower, or cooking risotto, or disputing a charge with the credit card company. The more inconvenient, the better. Wail inconsolably until you can see the will leave their bodies. If neither of them is crying, cry at a higher pitch. Once they are in tears, let them cry it out. It will be hard at first, but in the long run, it will teach them to self-soothe."
Divide and conquer. Sow marital discord by forcing them into difficult Sophie’s Choice decisions. Sleep soundly only in products that have been recalled as SIDS risks. Roll over, but only enough that they can fight about whether or not you can be safely swaddled. Form clear preferences for one parent or the other, then abruptly switch for no apparent reason.
If your parent is still sleeping too much, just get an ear infection and no one will sleep for weeks.
Your parents are now sleep trained. Along the way, you’ve emptied their savings, wreaked havoc on their health, and ended all semblance of marital intimacy. Now you’re ready to start crawling!
Read an interview with C.L. Mah about writing this piece over on our Patreon page.