Here’s what happens to your neighbourhood when you’re trying to get your baby to nap


A fine dad friend of mine muttered darkly over the internets the other day about trying to get his daughter to sleep. ‘Whoever is revving their hairdryer moped outside our house,’ he wrote, ‘is going on the list.’ Boy, I understood that one.

His neighbourhood is residential, leafy, pretty quiet. I’ve never once heard a moped symphony there, but there’s a reason for that: every time I’ve been there, no-one has been trying to get a little human to sleep. Because as soon as you try to do that, all manner of small hells break loose.

You know those times you’ve tried to creep home and into bed when you’ve been out later and had more beers than you said you would? And how in those moments the volume on your otherwise whisper-quiet house gets turned all the way up? So instead of stairs, they’re STAIRS. The door is a PORTAL OF CREAKING TERROR. Your toilet declaims “RELEASE THE KRAKEN!” when you flush. It’s like that, only the volume effect gets spread into the surrounding area.

Basically, if you’re attempting to get the child to nap it’s The Upside Down in your ‘hood, especially if – like me, most days – you’re trying to do it alfresco, with them in a sling. Everything becomes dark, and loud, and hideous.

Strolling through the ‘hood on nap duty, yesterday

Here are some obstacles to expect during daytime nap manoeuvres:

Infinite dogs*

Your otherwise dog-free neighbourhood will ring to the jangle of collars and the clack of claws. A polyphonic spree of hitherto unknown bastard Alsatians will bark from six houses at once. ‘Woof! Woof!’ will go the little voice from inside the sling. It won’t sleep.

Home improvement

The good tradespeople of the locality will burst into a coordinated version of the anvil chorus, played out above a simmering sonic wave of power tools and hollering. I fucking know where Jeff is. He’s on the roof. Stop bellowing for him. ‘Jeff!’ shouts little voice.

Other goddamn kids

There’s nothing like the particular frequency of other small humans to keep your small human awake and alert. Particularly when they’re hooting ‘Jeff!’ and ‘Woof!’ as they zoom by on their murderously loud tricycles. ‘Baby! Bike!’ shouts little voice.

Your frickin’ phone

The one you always set to silent but didn’t this time and now an unknown number is calling and it’s almost certainly Satan coming to get payback for All Those Things You Did. Or it’s grandpa. ‘Grandpa!’ shouts little voice.

Traffic, traffic, oh god traffic

Sure, 90% of the time the background hummmm of traffic lulls the child, or you don’t even notice it. But as they reach the cusp of sleep and could tip either way, that godforsaken Prius will be the loudest noise the planet has ever known and sure enough, little voice will struggle awake. ‘Car! Car!’

Little Old Ladies

The sweetest and most innocuous denizens of the hood will become harridans from the very depths of raging Hades when you’re in the danger zone of Nearly Asleep. They’ll insist on cooing over your drooping child. Or – and this really happened to me – they’ll reach inside your baby carrier and pluck your child’s dummy out of its mouth ‘to see their little smile’. There’s no smile. They’re furious at being awake and will remain so for THE NEXT SEVEN MONTHS, you charmingly cardiganed witchbit. Yeah, I still shouldn’t have kicked her into a hedge. Your honour. ‘This! This!’ mutters little voice, straining to retrieve her dummy from the thieving wrinkled claw.

I could go on and on. Plastic bags. Coffee machines (just when you need them most). Gates. A solitary robin. The motherfucking summer breeze. I could try it at home, of course, but then – well, see the volume effect above.

And then of course they’ll drift off, looking serene as they randomly snooze through a pneumatic drill knocking a hole in reality two feet away. So who knows what goes on in their sleep control centre? Just enjoy the peace while you can, your neighbourhood is clearing its throat…

Got weird things that stop your small human napping? I’d love to hear them. Share below!

*Or whatever it is that your own little voice is into at the moment. Cats, balloons, trees, Gozer the Gozerian…you can expect them all to rock up.


An update from the dog about the baby

We call this the ‘look of extreme reproachfulness’

So, the dog has – to our miserable horror – managed to get hold of a Starwriter from somewhere (1997, I guess) and hammered out another letter. She’s still not fully on board with the baby.

Sorry about the language.

Butler, scullery maid,

What in the shitbarnacled name of almighty holy fuck? It MOVES? It fucking MOVES?

This is beyond a joke now. At first I thought your bizarre naked puppy was defective because it didn’t move, but it turns out that was one of its saving graces. Sure, it was an unrelenting squealing catastrofuck, but at least I knew where it was.

But then you went and taught it to fucking crawl.

Oh, sure, it was all laughs and smiles for you as it woke up crying every hour through the night, trying to inch forwards and possessed by a feverish St Vitus rocking motion. I can only assume they were tears of mirth and joy for all those weeks, because I couldn’t be sure over the puppy’s wailing, and besides, I had my own whimpering to take care of.

Now, a word about that. I’ve taken great pains to develop a new half-whine half-howl in response to the incessant caterwauling. You’re always bleating on about the puppy’s new achievements (I’m still reeling from the fact that you gave it a round of applause yesterday because it managed a sip of fucking water), but what’s my reward for carefully crafting a fresh vocalisation that I can crank out in sync with the puppy’s crying – at high volume – even when I’m to all intents and purposes asleep? Some claps and goofy smiles? Nope. You locked me in the kitchen, you titbiscuits.

Anyway. Now you’re all giddy because it moves and you’re encouraging it to roam all over the place without so much as harness or collar on. Can I just point out that the single biggest investment of time you’ve ever made with me is in insisting that I learn to fucking ‘stay’? Hours, we spent, as I patiently walked back over to you to explain that I’m a hunting terrier and not interested in sitting still, until you finally went out and bought treats of an acceptable level; and now you’re praising that thing for moving?

Where is the consistency? All the training books I got you stress consistency above all else. That’s why I so consistently place my chew toy – you know, the rolling one with the sharp gnawed edges – right under your feet when your back is turned.

Look, a case in point: because you love it when the puppy moves, I figured you didn’t need me to ‘stay’ any more. But when the butler was collapsing the stroller outside the front door in the rain and I didn’t ‘stay’ in the hall like he asked and wandered out onto the main road for a look around, he got all shouty and shaky and had to do that thing where he takes deep breaths, once his hands had stopped quivering. See my problem? Consistency.

So, I’ve tried a few disciplinary actions of late to remind you that the puppy needs to remain still at all times, instead of clambering over the bed to poke me in the eye as it shrieks “BOG!”:

  • First, there was the protest wee on the playmat, but you only went and washed it once you’d both taken your heads out of your hands and stopped making that low moaning sound. On a related note, what does ‘rehoming’ mean?

  • Then I faked that illness where I pretended to be all listless and off my food. I thought taking me to the vet and spending hundreds of pounds on needless blood tests would snap you out of it, but you’re obviously as thick as labradors (and Jesus, those guys are simpletons). You didn’t even twig when I perked up the second the vet had seen me and the nice receptionist gave me the fancy vet treats. I’m doing this for your own good, you know.

  • I’ll admit that the expensive new dog pillow that takes up the entirety of one of the sofas is cosy, but you needn’t think I’m snoozing on that while the puppy crawls. I need to know where it is at all times, and the best vantage point is directly under your feet, which is where I’m going to stay until you make it sit on its own pillow, or at least buy it its own puppy crate. Yes, that includes when you’re frantically sterilising bottles while the puppy wails.

Have any of these done the trick so far? Have they bollocks. So I’ve had to resort to writing again with a simple demand: teach it to stay. It needs to be still, be silent, and get its hellish little hand out of my ear.

However, I’m nothing if not merciful, so there is one thing you can do to make your lives better. If you will agree to keep offering it solid food, I will agree not to chew its fingers the next time it crawls over and pokes me. While it’s strapped into that tall chair thing throwing delicious pasta at me, we can have a truce. No, I don’t care if I get fat. Pasta. Fucking NOW.

Now that I’ve got my Starwriter you can expect more regular updates from me. You clearly need all the help you can get. Up next: how not to fuck up my walks, you utter tossclumps.


Mistress Dog

ps./ I’ll have some of those rice cakes, too.