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is rip­ping up the rule book when it comes to par­ent­ing.

The other night I broke the rules. Well, my rules. (I’m sure you’d never have ridicu­lous rules like I do.) I woke up my eight-year-old son, Ol­lie, brought him into the big bed and slept with him in my arms all night.

It wasn’t for his sake. It was for mine. It had been a week full of hor­rific news world­wide. Chil­dren were killed in a ter­ror­ist at­tack, I in­ter­viewed a fam­ily whose lit­tle boy was dy­ing from brain can­cer, and all I wanted to do was have Ol­lie close.

I can count on one hand the num­ber of times Ol­lie has slept in my bed. I raised him on a strict rou­tine: I never rocked him to sleep, never fed him to sleep and never brought him to my bed when he woke at 5am.

My de­ci­sion to raise him like this was partly due to ne­ces­sity, be­cause I worked full-time and needed his car­ers to know his rou­tine; partly be­cause I had huge per­sonal stresses go­ing on at the time and needed that part of my life to run smoothly; and also be­cause I had him at 26 and had no idea what I was do­ing, so at least I could turn to chap­ter six of the “Rou­tine Book” for the an­swer.

Ol­lie ran like clock­work. He slept from 7pm till 7am, ate like a cham­pion, could be farmed out to any­one and, in all hon­esty, rarely caused us any grief. Un­like my new lit­tle munchkin, Evie, who tests my pa­tience on an hourly ba­sis. She’s feisty and de­ter­mined (and yes, I know who she gets that from), but she is also a snug­gly, funny, de­li­cious ball of yum­mi­ness who has changed our world for the bet­ter. Yet I curse the morn­ings when she won’t sleep in like her brother, want to cry lis­ten­ing to her scream ev­ery time she’s forced to sit in her car seat, and feel frus­trated she won’t let go of my leg if I need to leave her with some­one. If I said jump, un­like her brother, who would ask “how high?”, she would give me a cheeky smile, run off with my make-up bag and paint the car­pet with lip­stick. I se­ri­ously ques­tion my par­ent­ing on a daily ba­sis and, nine times out of 10, Evie wins. But as I lay in bed with Ol­lie snug­gled un­der my arm, I re­alised I’ve been do­ing this par­ent­ing thing all wrong. My de­sire to have my kids fit into my sched­ule, for our life to run to plan, to know I can leave them with any­body, and to have them sleep like hi­ber­nat­ing bears just so Mama doesn’t lose her rag, means that I’ve been miss­ing out on some of the best mo­ments ever.

I wish I had bro­ken the rules more with Ol­lie – hope­fully there is still time. And now, when Evie is re­fus­ing to get in her pram be­cause she wants to walk on her own, I try like mad to stop and re­mem­ber that if something hap­pened to them to­mor­row, I wouldn’t spend my days rem­i­nisc­ing about how many hours a night they slept. In­stead, I’d recall the time I drove Ol­lie around for two hours on a Sun­day just to chase Poké­mon. Or how, the other week, I sat on the floor and let Evie draw all over me – face and all – for an hour, much to her squealy de­light.

It’s not that I am about to be­come a free-range par­ent, I need my sleep too much for that, but I am def­i­nitely go­ing to al­low more spon­tane­ity into my life. Well, I’m go­ing to try. I’ll get back to you and let you know how I go. Car­rie co-hosts The Project, 6.30pm, week­nights, on Net­work Ten.

“I wish I had bro­ken the rules more with my kids – hope­fully there is still time”

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