Most parents look forward to the quieting down of their children at night. Let’s face it, parents are busy and the only “Me-time” or even “We-time” we get is after the kids are asleep. For me, though, bedtime is the most stressful time of day. The whole day seems like a race to get from one moment to the next, with the finish line being bedtime. My girl looks at bedtime as a starting line for a whole new set of delays and challenges.
Her problems with sleep are deep-rooted. It’s not her fault; she was never trained to sleep. She spent the first fifteen weeks of her life being held-by my husband and I and nurses in the hospital. When we brought her home, we were told not to let her cry for too long due to her lung disease. The problem was, no one ever told us when that restriction was up, so we never let her “cry it out.”
Every night, I would rock her in my arms until she fell asleep, then I gently her in her crib. When she woke up during the night, I would race into her room and repeat the process. Rock and place. Rock and place. (Unless I just gave in and brought her to bed with me.) This dance continued for the first two years. We had missed our window of sleep training it seemed. I did try to let her cry it out at one point. When I went to check on her after she finally fell asleep, I found her curled up in the corner of her crib. The entire mattress, except the spot she was in, was covered in vomit. She cried so hard that she barfed all over her crib! I was horrified. I tried one more time (with the same results-blech!) after resuming our tried and true method. Rock and place. Rock and place.
When she got her big girl bed, I thought this was it:
my her sleep solution. She would be so in love with her bed that she would want to sleep in it, all by herself! (It’s ok, you can stop laughing now.) In reality, we now have a habit of me snuggling in bed with her, reading three stories, then lights out. I obey her “Rub my back!” and “Rub ‘tween my toes!” commands until she falls asleep. (What? Your kid doesn’t make you rub between her toes?)
Usually this is the time when her
mouth brain goes into overdrive. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree-my girl has the gift of gab. She asks me questions from the time the lights go out until she passes out mid-sentence! Lately she has been super wound up, not falling asleep until 9:30 on some nights. There have been many times when she wakes ME up, as she has out lasted me in that nice, quiet dark room.
Her sense of wonder, curiosity and memory are astounding to me. She goes back into the archives of her mind to bring up topics that happened years ago but must be discussed RIGHT NOW! “Why did the dog climb the ladder? Tell me that story Mommy” “Why did you crash your car?” “Why your hair not red anymore?” “Why that boy doesn’t love Taylor Swift, Mommy?” “Why did Mrs. Gulch take Toto?” “Why was Dorothy sad?” “Why?” “WHY?” “I’m hot.” “I’m cold.” “Can I have a drink of water?” All these things are pressing on her mind, worrying her every night.
I try to keep my answers as short as I can. I don’t even try to tell her I don’t know-that just pisses her off and delays sleep even longer. I try not go get frustrated that she’s still awake. I try not to reflect how I feel about this bombardment of questions…again. I try not to worry. Will she ever sleep on her own? Will I ever be able to help her sleep on her own? (Is that wrong?) Eventually, she gives in to sleep. Someday I will miss this.
Every night, I sneak out of her room and rush into the living room to start being a grown up again. What will it be, scintillating conversation or mindless TV with lots of swears? Usually, I find that my husband is barely awake on the couch. I roust him and the dog and corral them to the bedroom. There’s always time for meaningful conversation tomorrow, right? We snuggle in and get some shut-eye before our little creeper wakes up and tries to sneak under our covers with more toe rubbing demands.