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:
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 ...
THIS IS THE LAST TIME I'M COMING INTO THIS ROOM
... 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.