A handclap echoing round a silent house in the early hours of the morning sounds a bit like gunfire.
It’s loud. Really loud.
I crawl out of my bed and trudge into my daughter’s bedroom, my patience twanging in the air like broken guitar strings.
“You HAVE to be quiet, now. You can’t carry on like this. No-one is getting any sleep,” I hiss.
My daughter seems to exist entirely of ruffled hair and huge, wild, staring eyes. The hysterical laughing starts again.
“Enough. This isn’t funny.”
A strange look comes over her face. She doesn’t look right. She doesn’t look like my daughter. I suppose it’s hardly surprising, as this is the fourth night in a row when she hasn’t had any sleep. I’m not exactly sure what she’s running on. She looks like she’s been mainlining Pro-Plus and coffee.
“I’m PISSED OFF,” she shouts. “I’m PISSED OFF.”
I’m taken aback.
But this is just the start.
“I don’t fucking care. I don’t FUCKING care. I don’t FUCKING CARE.”
I try to hide my astonishment. It’s as if my daughter has been replaced with some sort of boggle-eyed swear-bot.
Using a huge amount of effort to keep my voice calm, I tell her: “We don’t use that kind of language in this house.”
For all the notice she takes, she might as well have answered: “I think you’ll find we fucking well do.”
Eventually, she stops. Other noises take over: a yodel, animal sounds, more handclaps, guttural laughs. Peace finally comes at 4.30am. For half an hour. Then the silence is broken by a yelp, and I bundle her downstairs so she can’t wake her brother up.
A week later, and the intensity of the night-time ravings and rantings has subsided a little. We’ve had one night’s sleep followed by an up-all-nighter, then two night’s sleeps, and another insomnifest.
School have been aware of what’s been going on: one day in the middle of the maelstrom, she decided to spend the entire school day shouting and making strange noises. Her teacher has been brilliant: she’s come up with a detailed behaviour management plan which we’re linking up to use both at home and at school.
We’re trying to pinpoint what’s triggering this. If we can just get back to more than a couple of night’s catch-up sleep, I think we can break the cycle.
Oh yeah, and just to add more trial to the tribulations, throughout all this, I’ve had an awful cold, cough, sore throat, the shakes, the shivers and the sweats. And all I want is a really good sleep.
Song is The Decemberists - Sleepless. It's kind of beautiful.