We've always had the same bed time routine with her and now with Nora, too. We start to wind down around 8pm, change into jammies, turn on her sound machine and night light and lay in bed to read a book or two. Most times, she would fall asleep during a book or we could give her a kiss goodnight, walk out the door and she would fall asleep fine on her own. But somewhere between daddy attachment (I'm still chopped liver!!!) and new fears she started fighting us at bed time.
Whenever we got up to leave the room, she would sit straight up and tap on the pillow beside her. Josh, being the complete SUCKER that he is, would always lay back down and snuggle with her until she fell asleep. I can't blame him.. it was freaking adorable and is still really hard to resist!!! But this started to become a "our two year old has us whipped like some shit" sort of a problem.
We started to lose our routine. More and more nights, one of us would lay with her until she fell asleep and sneak out like freakin' 007 style. Or we would be lazy about it and just let her fall asleep in bed with us and move her to her bed after. I seriously can't tell you how many times I've analyzed how asleep she is versus how squeaky the bed is like it's some sort of NASA mission. Can I silently barrel roll out? Where the fuck is that singing toy coming from? Shit, she fluttered her eyes! FREEZE, FREEZE!!!!!!
SHE'S TWO FOR GODS SAKE AND SHE'S ALREADY GOT ME ACTIN A FOOL!!!!!
Touché Hadley, touché.
But this wasn't really the bad part. We love to snuggle and would do it all the time if she slept all night in her bed. But she didn't. She started waking up every couple of hours crying. And the crying usually turned into screaming. We would go into her room and lay with her or rock her until she calmed down but she kept doing it night after night after night after night.
One night I rocked her for a solid 45 minutes at 2 in the morning. I was so exhausted and just wanted some uninterrupted sleep so I could find my sanity again. I laid her down, convinced she was out for the count, and she sat straight up and tapped on that pillow. Like, no. Uh huh girlfriend, mommy has had it with your adorable little sad face!!!!!!!! I'ma freak out!!!!!!
She even did it when we let her sleep with us in our bed. She would start squirming and grabbing at her legs like she was trying to scratch them to pieces. Then, she would start screaming. A few times she would completely lose it and pull her hair, ball up her fists and I was convinced she was going to pop a blood vessel or shit herself. So much anger in that little body, my goodness!!!! I read up on night terrors and while some of it seemed consistent with her inconsolable behavior, some of it didn't.
We still have no idea whether she was having nightmares, became afraid of the dark or what, but we did know we needed to get some sense of a routine back to help her feel good about bed time again. And Josh and I desperately needed a joint plan of attack before we got into a full on brawl in the middle of the night over who would tackle the beast this time.
So we talked it over and came up with a plan of action that worked for us. We went back to the 8pm bed time, in her bed always. We gave her a bigger night light that stays on all night in case she wakes up scared. We lay with her to read two books and then we kiss her goodnight and leave.
NO MATTER WHAT FACE SHE MAKES.
We switched her door handle around after she moved up to the big girl bed so we can lock it from the outside. The first night (and like most times in the weeks before this) she screamed bloody murder and tore her room to pieces like a scorned woman. She's gotten really smart and destroys things with purpose. She unplugs her night light, sound machine and when she's feeling really fiesty, the baby monitor, too. I used to always go in to plug everything back in for her but now I'm too smart for your trickery Mad Hadders!
Next, she dumps every toy and blanket basket in the room. One time I was watching her on the monitor as she picked up her large toy basket and dumped its contents over her head like the hulk getting doused with gatorade at a football game. It was INSANE. And really funny.
Then she hits the bookshelf and throws each to the floor with a thud. Then throws open the curtains. In between most of these things she goes back to the door to knock and stare and cry some more, hoping that last thing did the trick. It's a twisted experiment, I tell you. Then she pulls out her big moves. She takes her comforter and pillows off the bed so all that's left is the fitted sheet (she hasn't figured out that bad boy yet). Then she rips off her pants and diaper. She's figured out that the diaper is really the end-all-be-all. Because once she's naked she only has two options... either mama is coming upstairs to put my diaper back on and avoid a mess OR mama is so over it she's gonna let me pee the bed.
So, yeah. This is what it has come to.
The first night of our new found routine, Hadley cried and tore her room apart for about 30 minutes before she finally tucked her bare ass into bed and fell asleep. She woke up one time that night and cried for another 15 minutes or so and then went back to bed. She did pee so we've been going through a lot of sheets and laundry. That morning we picked up all the destruction together.
The second night she cried and again, destroyed her room, for about 15 minutes and woke up briefly a few hours later.
The third night she cried for 2 minutes without tearing her room apart. She grabbed a book and laid in bed with her diaper on (!!!!!) and then fell asleep. She didn't wake up that night. The next night she cried for only 30 seconds and again left her diaper on and her room intact. When I heard it go quiet in her room so quickly I had to check the monitor to make sure I wasn't hallucinating.
SHUT THE FRONT DOOR, SHE'S IN BED!!!!!
Josh and I feel like new humans. Not only are we getting so much more sleep but we're also getting so much more time together now that we have our evenings back. Hallelujah!!!!
Nap time is definitely still a struggle. We have days where she tears her room up and ends up ass naked passed out on a bed with no covers or pillows, like a drunken college student. Since our errands and activities make it hard to have a strict nap time schedule, I usually play it by ear depending on the day. If she seems okay I'll let her go without a nap and we usually do an earlier bed time. Some days she's completely wiped from running around and it's easy to lay her down. Some days she's obviously tired but fights me. But usually, I can deal with a screaming toddler during the daylight way more maturely than one at 4am.
On days when we are home and doing a regular nap time schedule, I've found that sticking to our routine as much as possible like bed time works best. Some days that's easy if Nora is cooperating.. we all read books together and then leave the room. Other days are not so pretty, but I guess I can't blame a 2-year old for wanting to play so hard all day! I feel you girlfriend!
It's been over a few weeks since we started the bed time boot camp and I'm really happy to say it's still going well. Tonight we practiced our colors and read Are You My Mother? by PD Eastman. She was still awake when I kissed her goodnight and got up to leave. She looked at me with a sad face but I still left and closed the door behind me (heartless, this parenting thing!!!). I was sure she would cry but when I looked at the monitor she had gotten up to grab the book and was back in bed reading by herself. She was asleep 2 minutes later.
This strategy of ours is by no means a cookie cutter solution for everyone. I went back and forth on what I thought was best when it comes to comforting them versus letting them cry it out and there is definitely a lot of literature out there on both the subjects. You can read up all you want but it really comes down to what is best for your family and your child.
I know for me, being a good parent has a lot to do with how much sleep I'm getting at night so I wish all of you deprived rents some serious SHUT EYE and some cooperative babes ;)
And Hadley.. way to go girl!!!!!!!! Mommy and daddy are so proud of your independence and I'll never forget the look in your eye when you hulk-dumped that basket over your head. It is forever burned in my brain. In both fear and humor.
GOODNIGHT ALL and SWEET DREAMS!