Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

Bedtime Roulette April 1, 2008

Filed under: Baby Bedtime Drama,Lacko Family Chronicles — rjlacko @ 11:45 pm
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I’ve whined about it before: Our 3-year-old Joseph will do anything (and I do mean anything) to avoid going to bed. However, I haven’t spoke of our nighttime strife in quite a while, so I feel absolved from any guilt about moaning about it further.

I’d first like to note that there are, increasingly, evenings when he goes to bed with nary a foot-stomp, plea-bargain or meltdown. In fact, my husband and I are so very hopeful, so naively optimistic about their increasing frequency that we “expect” little Joseph will go to bed before events of grave importance (for example, a new episode of Lost). 

Like the odds of winning at Roulette (even Albert Einstein is reported to have said, “The only way to beat Roulette is to steal chips off the table when the dealer isn’t looking”, or something like that), our chances of landing on a win is slim. Of course, our roulette table is not slotted with numbers and colors, but ingenious ploys to prolong or avoid altogether the march to dreamland. I’ll give you a partial list. Keep in mind, the following are not isolated tactics; they are all used in combination and succession…over several hours.

I suppose I should also note that our son would sooner walk through hot coals than go to bed by himself. Every night, after bath, books and snuggling, one of us has to lay with him until he goes to sleep or he will bring down the house with wailing and kicking and screaming. So, the following takes place upon “lights out,” as we lay together waiting for his eyes to close.

1. The Classic: Read another story! (We read anywhere from 3-6 books at naps and bedtime. Sometimes the same one 3 times in a row.)
2. The Classic II: “Water, please. Want water.”
3. The Classic II with Torture: Chanting “want water, mommy (or daddy)” over and over and over and over… he will whisper it, cry it, whine it, scream, then whisper again, for more than an hour. During this particular ploy, we take turns shushing and begging him to stop. It’s mind-melting.
4. I need my: Joseph will begin a list of things he “needs”. These items might include his jacket; birthday cake; Bonkers the stuffed frog; his Brookie pillow (a pillow his cousin Brooke sewed for him); Baby Hippo; Barker Jr. (stuffed dog); cheese; broccoli; his blankie; (you get the idea).
5. “Light on!” “Light on!” he chants, hoping we will go back to book reading. 
6. “Close the door!”
7. “Want music!”
8. “Fan!” (ceiling fan, that is.)
9. Kicking: A little foot comes up and nudges your back or hip. Every so softly. Over and over.
10. Hand holding. I actually love laying with my little son in the dark holding hands. I know that he won’t go to sleep until we are cuddled together and holding hands in spoon position (and I just love the smell of his hair!), but as you can see it can be a long haul to get to that moment. Sometimes he slips right into sleep so naturally and beautifully that my love for him just swells and glows. Other nights, he tosses and turns, changing hands, changing sleep positions, dropping my hand, then searching for it, etc.
11. Flipping the pillow. He will demand that his pillow be flipped. Within a minute, he demands it be flipped back. This may happen a few times, but it always ends up on the original side.
12. Blankets up to his chin. Blankets kicked down to his feet.
13. Taking his jammie top off.
14. Suddenly asking for the potty. 99% of the time, nothing happens once we get to it.
15. “I do it myself! Myself!” This is the kiss of death, because he is usually quite wound up when he begins this campaign. He wants to go to bed by himself (a concept we’ve tried to teach him countless times) but the moment you agree, kiss him goodnight and say, “see you in the morning!” there he appears, right at your heals. He doesn’t stay in bed by himself for as long as it takes to return to your own room.
16. “Tickle my back!”: Again, my husband and I both like to do this for him, but it would be nice if, in exchange, he would fall asleep.
17. Ever so slowly edging off the bed.

Adding insult to injury, at school he goes to sleep like a dream; at home, we are clearly nothing short of chumps. How did we get to this place? That’s easy: by catering to our son. From infancy we let him sleep with us until we were too exhausted to function, then we played along with his little games because we’d just moved into a new house and wanted him to feel comfortable, then we put him in a new school and wanted to reassure him, then because we just had another baby and wanted him to adjust…

During numerous conversations about this dilemma, my husband Joseph and I agree that, in truth, we both greatly enjoy aspects of laying with him, namely the snuggling, kisses goodnight and quiet talk about events of the day. It’s the rest of it that has gotten old. And, that many nights, we don’t even get to see each other, because little Joseph carries on these, um, “hi-jinx” until late into the evening. Sigh. My husband swears that the rest of the world uses the Ferber method and lets the child cry it out. He probably believes this because we’ve tried every other method in parentdom. I just can’t believe that refusing to answer a child’s increasing panic over being left alone is the healthiest approach. What about his ability to trust that we will meet his needs? Of course, exactly how healthy is our current “method”?

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5 Responses to “Bedtime Roulette”

  1. Cris Says:

    I feel your pain. Above all else I want my children to know that they can turn to me when they are scared and I always want them to feel safe–I too am a big ol CHUMP!! I have a 4 yr old & a 9 month old & after 4 plus years of no sleep with the older child the no sleep cycle has started with the 9 month old and I can’t bring myself to Ferberize…oh well. My mom says it’s going to get crowded in bed when the kids start getting married 🙂

  2. rjlacko Says:

    Dear Cris,
    Aaah, I knew we were not alone! My oldest son is now 4, and while he does still expect us to lay with him until he falls asleep, by some divine and/or mysterious power, he does without fuss. Just a few stories, some cuddling and tickles on his back, and he actually closes his eyes—sometimes sleeping until the morning! (I say this to give you hope!)
    My 2-year-old tries to pull his brother’s former stunts, but at this point, I am willing to let him cry for at least 4-5 minutes before I run to his side. It actually seems to shorten the whole ordeal. But then, he was always a better sleeper.
    I wish you much luck! Or, you could always opt for a wall-to-wall mattress to accommodate everyone 🙂

  3. […] operations before they will agree to close their eyes for the night. We’ve tried everything (and I do mean everything) to put them to sleep, including altering their dinner options to encourage a restful […]

  4. Lindsay Says:

    I am really having a tough time with this, and I only have an 18 month old. We switched her to a toddler bed at 15 months because she is a monkey, and my pediatrician suggested we move her before she hurts herself further. She slept fine for 2 months and didn’t fight us at all. But now we are really struggling with keeping her in bed. She immediately moves from her bed to the floor next to her bedroom door. I move her, and 50% of the time she wakes up and is mad about it. I just don’t know how to keep her from moving in the first place. We are all about routine, so I don’t have a lot of ideas. Any suggestions?

  5. rjlacko Says:

    Dear Lindsay,
    Sounds like your daughter is quite the spirited sweetie! You may be relieved to know that my son (now 4) has outgrown all those antics I wrote about. Mind you, his little brother (age 2) is just ramping up his own brand of bedtime drama, so we’re still at the roulette table, so to speak.
    However, I would like to reassure you with this: do nothing. Allow her to sleep on the floor next to the door. She may do it every night for 2 straight weeks, but by no means will it be where she sleeps “from here on.” If there is only one thing I’ve learned as a parent, it’s that everything changes. The baby transitions in and out of patterns over days or weeks, and with a parent’s loving devotion, we make accommodations, it’s that simple. What I’m sincerely asking you to do is simply let go.

    I might also add the importance of oohing and ahhing about how comfy her bed is, endear her to her blankie and pillow, and help her to “nest” within it. You may also try tucking her favorite stuffed animal into her bed, making a big eposide of being sure it is “sleeping.” Put nothing on the floor–keep all the comfort and coziness on the bed, and she will find her way back on her own. Be sure to applaud her smart choice when she wakes up in her comfy bed!


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