Saturday, November 17, 2012

There’s a Spoon in my Room and Other Bedtime Excuses

Children and bedtime. Ah yes that fun pairing. Man, just when you think you’ve gotten the hang of it there is another elephant crap sized obstacle that gets in your way. Like the fact that they can walk and talk.

When the girls were babies I was the queen of sleep-training. It was my mission. This was a major point of pride for me. I did the Babywise technique.  Yes I know. I’ve heard the criticism of this method. “It’s too strict and coldhearted! I can’t listen to my baby cry!” Whatever. Toughen up unless you want them to be your bedmate for years to come. (Not against family bed. But it is not for me.) I’m guessing most people who bitch about Babywise haven’t even read the book. It is not as harsh as rumored to be. Basically, you teach your baby to fall asleep on their own in their own bed. It’s great! And it works. The shit works. End of story. Okay enough of my “Babywise is not baby torture” rant. So I had two perfectly trained kids who slept through the night on their own solidly.

Awesome! My sleep-training job is DONE! I thought.

Ummm no. There is a whole other stage. And this time they can talk and move out of their room.

The list of excuses Love Monster has used to come out of her room and talk to me after bedtime have been quite entertaining:

1.     There’s a spoon in my room.
2.     Smirker put a band-aid on me.
3.     Smirker won’t stop saying cock-a-doodle-doo. (Yeah that would be annoying.)
4.     I forgot to say I love you.
5.     I can’t sleep. I’m too shy.
6.     And one more thing… (She has used this to preface numerous excuses…)

It began with each child right after I removed them from their nice safe, cell like crib and into their toddler bed. I could see the wonder in their eyes.  I could hear George Michael’s Freedom sound-tracking this moment and I did not like it. With Love Monster it was easier. There was no Smirker yet so from day one of the toddler bed we put a gate up at the door. Sure there were plenty of nights when LM would come to the door and pull a Stewie, “Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mommy! Mommy! Momma! Hi!” But the gate was there. She’d give up eventually and go to bed. Then she didn’t even open the door anymore. Again, take that sleep training!

But now. Now there is Smirker and sleep training has met her match.

I got this started off wrong. I will admit that. I put Smirker in her brand spanking new toddler bed and I did not put up the gate. I didn’t because of LM. I didn’t want Love Monster to feel trapped. What if she needed to go to the bathroom? But then when Smirker came of her room every five seconds for weeks on end I realized not using the gate was a mistake. So no biggie, let’s throw that gate up.

“NOOOOOOO GATE!!!!!” was Smirker’s response. And this was no, let her cry it out tantrum. She would scream this over and over try with all her little strength to rip or kick the gate down and then throw herself down on the ground crying in emotional pain. LM just looked at her like, “It’s a gate, man. Chill. Learn to co-exist with it. I did. And I want to sleep. Stop it.”

So the gate was OUT. But I couldn’t do this! She would come out of the room so much I didn’t know what to do. And her cuteness was seriously tough. First there her patented Smirker grin when she’d peek her head around the hallway corner. I’d walk her back into her room and lay her down and she’d cry softly, “Mama sit. Mama lay down. Please.” She’d bat her tear soaked eyelashes. For real.

Then not only did she have hard time going to bed, she began coming into my room around 2am, waking me up by whispering, “Surprise”, and crawling into bed with me. Here I made another mistake. I let her stay in my bed. I was tired. She’s pretty snuggly. Oy. I created a monster. Now she won’t leave my bed.

I made the decision to re-sleep train Smirker at three years of age.

I prepped. I read books and blogs about re- sleep training. The night of I drank a glass of wine. I mentally prepared that this would be tough and I wouldn’t get a lot of sleep. This is the key folks. I was ready. Bring it, Smirker.

I put the girls to bed at 8:20. LM fell asleep fast (school does this). Twenty-five minutes go by before Smirker got out of bed the first time. I was ready. (And my boyfriend had pen and paper in hand to do a tally). Smirker peeked out from around the hallway doorway. And I did what my research had told me to do. Calmly go up to her and walk her back into bed. And leave without a word. She fought it the first couple times. But then she got used to it. From 8:45 to 10:47 she came out of bed a total of 41 times. Each time she was further and further away from the living room. The last time she got up she just stood in her doorway. 10:47 and she finally gave up and fell asleep. Whew! It was tough but damn it I feel accomplished! She is my stubborn kid. But I won.

But I knew the night was not done.

“Surprise.” Her sweet little voice woke me up.

I looked at the clock. 3:45. I continued the method. Walk her to bed then leave. I put her back in bed 15 times. She (and I) finally went to sleep around 4:55.

And that did it. After that night. She didn’t get up. She may be stubborn, but I’m queen of stubborn.

Since then it’s been good. The girls do love to play before bed. I often hear them playing post office or The Amazing Café (the girls run a great coffee shop). And I’m good with that as long as they go to sleep in a reasonable time and stay in the damn room. And as long as LM doesn’t tie Smirker to the chair to force her to play tea party, which has happened. 

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