Tuesday, January 09, 2007

All is not quiet on the western front

This third year (starting from say August on) has been a struggle. Food she used to eat without complaint sits untouched on her plate, her arms crossed tighter than even her lips are clenched. Baths, never an easy proposition, have become sideshows of trickery and deception, yet none too entertaining. But it is the sleep issue that may put us over the edge.

Since the New Bed took up residence in our house, the idea of sleeping with us, starfish-style -- all spread out from the center -- has taken up residence in her head.

It all starts out good. We begin the process of decompression: calming down, brushing of teeth, reading of books. Snuggled into her own bed, we give in to the extra story and the calls for water and lights dimmed only so low.

But the needs are endless. First it was water, then juice then milk. At first I balked, knowing that she shouldn't have anything stronger than water for bed lest her teeth rot out of her head. But she didn't really WANT it. She wasn't hungry. She wasn't thirsty. She was stalling.

Eventually our routine got to be worthy of three rings:

PJs = check
Teeth brushed = check
Stories = read three, check
Lights dimmed = check
Monsters sprayed = check
One more story = check
I have to go to the potty = check
Music turned on = check
It's too dark = lights adjusted, check
I want a snack = goldfish procured, check
I want water = check
It's too cold = check
Now it's too hot = This is the last time. Water or no water?
The monsters came back = spray again
I have to pee again = another trip to the potty, check
I need the hotwater bottle ...


... ok, mommy ....

HOTWATER BOTTLE, check ... goodnight.

It all makes me pine for her terrible twos, which in retrospect didn't seem that terrible.

Truly, anyone with the least amount of time on the planet Earth can tell you what's happening here. It doesn't take Dr. Spock to figure it out.

She's testing us and we're getting failing grades.

So every night the time it takes to her to actually sleep gets longer. And in addition to this extended play, every night at midnight or so the monsters wake her up and send her into our room.

The seduction of sleep without the added gust of nighttime coldness of the hallway's hardwood floors makes letting her into bed an irresistible proposition. At first she even fell right to sleep. But then, increasingly, she'd wake up earlier and become more fidgety. She'd poke and prod, and talk.

No matter how cute it seems, no one wants to talk about the dietary needs of the Abominable Snowman at 4 in the morning.

The last straw happened Friday, when she woke us four times during the night. That's it; I need sleep. She's just playing now and it has to stop, I stammered as if Jed hadn't been thinking the same thing for the last six weeks.

So on Saturday a new plan was enacted.

We call it operation NO NEW DEALS.

Bathtime at 7 (and she gets her hair washed when it needs to be)

Bedtime starts at 8:30, she must brush her teeth, use the potty and change into pajamas. We read three to four books; she can have water and a hot water bottle and her music but she can not leave her room. NO DEALS.

As expected, the change was met with tears and tantrums.

By the time she fell asleep at 9:30 I was dreading the midnight call, which came early at 11:30 p.m.

I walked her back to bed and it would seem her head exploded. She did not want to stay in her room with the monsters and the dog farts.

The old me would have said 'who could blame her' but the new me said, "I'm sorry but that's the way it is sugar plum, we all have to stay in our own rooms and sleep."

No sooner had I walked away than I could hear her little pajamaed feet following me, screaming as if I'd torn out her toenails.

I brought her back into her room and shut the door, holding it closed. She threw her little self against it and screamed. I imagine, had she been a little bit older, every second word out of her mouth would have been an obscenity. Eventually she calmed down and commenced bargaining. She wanted the door open.

So we made a deal. The door would stay open as long as she stayed in her room.

I went back to bed.

But all was not quiet in the western wing of the house.

Her shreiking continued from the doorway. She rolled her toys across the floor, tore her clothes from their place in the dresser and yelled at the top of her lungs: YOU ARE MAKING ME VERY NERVOUS!!!!

When the ride-on-horse came rolling to our door I got up and investigated the damage.

It was less than I thought, but still impressive.

I put her back to bed, kissed her head and said: "That's enough for tonight. We'll talk about this tomorrow."

And with that, sleep.

It's been three days now of sleeping through the night. She's even waking up earlier, which has to mean that she's getting better sleep at night.

I'm still crossing my fingers ... If this works out perhaps next we'll attempt to tackle the shower.


tracey said...

That's a classic recap and one I am also familiar with. We are going through some similar struggles with the 3 year old in our house. This too shall pass right? Glad to hear you're on the road to more and better sleep.

kimmyk said...

My son use to do this to us. We'd go through the song and dance to get him in bed and finally I gave up. I put a tv in his room and I'd pop in a video and we'd do the counter on the tv and when the tv went off it was time for bed. No negotiating. It worked.
I can still receit The Lion King to this day.

Sarah D. said...

Scanned over your blog...as I was doing the "next blog" thing...
I love your writing, if I was as eloquent as you, I would write more!
Oh, and the going to bed thing, doesn't get any easier at 4, either! We go to bed ok, but she still wakes up throughout the night!

Kcoz said...

Anyone remember how Great their parents smelled when they were a small child? Their aroma was intoxicating. I was a child who suffered horrible nightmares as a little guy, I even dreamed there was a big snake in my bed when I was two or three. I’ll never forget the image as I looked under the covers and seen a huge python wrapping itself around my legs, though I had never seen one for real. I never had nightmares as a little guy when I had the opportunity to sleep snuggling with my parents and their soothing aroma.

Many years ago, before the Internet I read an article about SIDS and there was one doctor who stated that according to his studies, parents who sleep with their infants did not experience a SIDS episode. He believed that human infants as a species were naturally wired to snuggle with parents and siblings through out the night and our modern society was hampering a natural instinct by forcing this separation. He even stated that many infants learn how to breathe when sleeping from the more experienced adults. His theory was; Modern society was suddenly repressing about two hundred thousand years of human evolution. I think it was a Readers Digest articles back in the late seventy’s

A girl I was dating at the time had her infant niece die of SIDS and that is why we researched the subject, the baby was alone in its crib.

I had a baby sister (she is now deceased) who was many years younger than the rest of us (the accident child) and my parents gave up the fight and let her sleep where ever she wanted, and she would snuggle up to all of us from time to time until she was about four or five. She grew up completely well adjusted and why I do not believe when some doctor says the child must be in its own bed by any certain age.

All though Annabel is not likely to experience a SIDS episode at her age, her clam that she is becoming nervous is probably a true feeling from the loss of her parents comforting snores and aromas through out the still mysterious (to her) events of night time, dreams and sleep. She may also feel that she is no longer part of the family’s inner circle by being cast away to another room at nighttime while the both of you sleep together… Think about it.

toyfoto said...

Kcoz makes some interesting, and well articulated points. I find it completely understandable that sleeping with your infant -- if you are not an alcoholic, substance abuser or suffer from sleep apnea yourself -- is a wise idea if you can. But seriously, I think we all underestimate the effect of sleep deprivation on parents and kids when we advocate it as a societal imperative for all.

As I can only speak about being Ittybit's mom, I don't presume to know what works for other families. I only know that we had fully intended on adopting the parenting style of Attachment when she was an infant. But I ended up learning that she didn't sleep well with us. For 11 months she woke up every two hours to nurse. She fussed and did not sleep soundly in our bed. When I put her in a cot nearby our bed she instantly feel asleep and stayed asleep longer. She awoke happier and well rested.

To me that says: This kid needs sleep and she needs to be alone.

It went along like this without incident until about three months ago, when she started stalling at bedtime.

Now, I am not talking about turning away a kid who wakes up terrified in the middle of the night; I'm talking about a pattern, whereby the child's timetable gets caught in a 9, 10, 12, 2 and 3 a.m. circuit. Not to mention a child who LOVES her room at all other times except 8 p.m. (It is usually at 8:15 p.m. that the monsters come, well before she's even tried to sleep).

I agree that if it works for you; if your child is comforted and sleeps better WITH you, then the family bed makes sense. But if not, I think we are doing ourselves harm by risking our health and safety by sleepwalking through our days.

It's been four days since we made the NEW RULE; and I have to say it seems to be working. She's sleeping through the night, she's waking up earlier (and coming in to snuggle in the morning) and generally in a better mood.

Of course, this may not work for everyone; you know every kid being different and all.

Melissa R. Garrett said...

Good for you for putting your foot down. I wish I could grow a spine and do the same with Bridget who, at 18 months is still a ferocious nurser and in bed with us from 11:30 until morning.

Perhaps Annabel is (was) acting out due to the whole new baby news?

We all need our sleep, young and old alike. I say, whatever works for your family is BEST for your family. Ittybit knows you love her, even if she has to sleep in her own room.

toyfoto said...

This isn't new with the news of a new baby; this coincided with the purchase of our new King-sized bed, which she LOVES and wants to bounce on morning, noon and night. I don't think that's the impetous for this new sleeplessness, though, as much as having the freedom to get up as she pleases from her own Big Girl Bed.

When we had company for the holidays, we moved her big girl bed into our room and she slept there OK, but she often wanted to go back to her own room, where guests were sleeping. I think it mixed her up a bit, too.

But as for growing a spine, I wouldn't worry. If sleeping with the kidlet is working for your family then it's a good thing.

Xdm said...

I am walking in a crimp today from sleeping curled up on the end of Dude's new Big Boy Bed. He put his pillow in the middle so that we could share it.

toyfoto said...

Oh, I feel for you xdm. I have been blessed (or cursed, depending on your point of view) with being small enough in stature that I can ALMOST fit comfortably curled up with her in her Big Girl Bed. It helps to be able to even out some rough spots without feeling like a pretzel an hour later.

Xdm said...

You know, my sister Deirdre has three. I asked her, what did you do? She said, "Figure out what they cherish the most and threaten to take it away." The night before last, after multiple placements back in bed, I grabbed Dude's blankies, gave them a tug and said, "If you get out of bed more time I am going to take these away!." I might has well have said, "I'll cut off each of your toes and feed them to the monster that we keep in the basement," his look of fear and horror was that great. I have to say, though, after I got over feeling like a total bitch, man! Does that work!
(From one siobhan to another. :-)

toyfoto said...

I would advise you use that little number sparingly. My suspicion is that it will backfire once they realize your heartlessness extends only to threats. If they dare you and you're not capable of taking it away (which I'm sure I wouldn't be able to do) you're toast.

Whirlwind said...

Moe has been waking at 4 am, on the hour every night for the last week. I tried lettign her sleep wiht me, but like Ittybit, she likes to try and hold a conversation in the wee hours. If I ignore her, she comencies with the poking and prodding and then moves onto lifting my eyelids up. I finally have to bring her back to her room and leave her there, crying usually. Hopefully I find somehting that works for us both. But I do also repmember her sisters going through a phase like this around the same age. This too will pass!

BlogWhore said...

IttyBitty is so sweet. I just love the way you capture her.

Have you considered an alias for the upcoming sister?

toyfoto said...

I've done nothing but think about that since changing the name of this blog a year ago (when I realized we wanted another child) from "Bringing up Baby" to "Ittybits and Pieces."

I doubt I'll be calling Thing 2 Pieces ... but I would happily entertain suggestions.

Jenny said...

You give me hope. My La just turned 3 and there is no eating ~sigh~ I'm not sure how she continues to subsist on 4 gold fish and a grape.

Christine said...

"Ittybits and Pieces." Doesn't that mean that the new baby's name is Pieces? :-D