I really appreciated the informative and supportive comments of my readers regarding my toddler’s sleep situation. Thank you, all!
Last night I tried an earlier bedtime. V was showing signs of being tired (rubbing her eyes, being less coordinated, arguing with me at a pitch slightly closer to hysteria), so we started our bedtime ritual earlier. A cup of milk, brushing teeth and washing hands, reading books in bed together, then the night-night CD, lights out and me lying beside her. It was going very well.
Until it wasn’t. She just wasn’t going to sleep. She was lying there quietly, but her eyes were open. Eventually, she started standing on her head and giving me the “aren’t I mischievous?” grin. I decided to take someone’s advice and take advantage of V’s advanced language skills. I told her that it was time to sleep. I told her that if she wanted Mommy to lie down with her (always careful to use the correct verb), she had to go to sleep. Finally, I explained that if she didn’t go to sleep, Mommy was going to go in the other room and not lie down with her.
And my obstinate little child told me to “Go away. I want you to leave.”
I wasn’t even out the door when the tears started. I walked down the hall to where Odie was enjoying what I hope someday will be “our” evening and informed him, “In a minute, she’s going to come crying down the hall.” I implored him. “Please don’t greet her. Don’t say anything to her. Just pick her up and carry her back to bed. I’ll come in to talk to her in five minutes.”
One thing about Odie, he is always ready to help. Love that about him. He scooped her right up and took her down the hall.
I watched the clock for what seemed like an eternity listening to my daughter wailing, “I want my mommy!” I was tired enough to be pretty tough about it, but when she cried, “Mommy, come back, pleeeeeaaaaaassssse!” I almost lost my shit. It’s usually amazingly fun that V talks so much and so well, but when she uses that talent as a weapon to break my heart: less fun.
After five minutes, I calmly returned to the bedroom. V had cried the whole time. I told her that I would lie down with her if she would go to sleep. Are you ready to go to sleep now, I inquired.
“Yes,” she lied.
We tried the whole routine again fifteen minutes later. This time, I stayed away for ten minutes instead of five. After I came back, she sniffled and hiccupped and fell asleep after about fifteen minutes of me lying with her.
Victory. A small one. It was 8:4o p.m. instead of 9:20 p.m., so I got a little time to watch some TV and read my Nook.
She whined more than usual in the night, but overall, we slept okay. When I stopped breastfeeding her in the middle of the night, she cried so hard for one night. She begged and pleaded and grabbed at me and threw herself on the mattress in despair. But the next night, she was over it. She’s dramatic, yet adaptable. I’m hoping this ends up being the case with sleep training as well.
One of my friends related a story about someone who still snuggles her second-grader to sleep every night. I don’t want that to be me, but I can see how it happens. What it comes down to is this: if everyone is happy with the arrangement, then have at it. Cuddle them until they leave for college if that’s what brings you all joy. It isn’t for me. I miss cuddling my husband. I miss having more than 4 inches of mattress between me and a tumble to the floor. I want my child to learn to fall asleep by herself in her own bed. For selfish reasons? You bet. For unselfish reasons? Affirmative there too. When it comes to parenting, one thing I’ve learned is that if what you’re doing is making you resent your child, it needs to change.
I love my daughter more than words can express. And I consider myself skilled with words. A writer can describe what it feels like to be a mother, but nothing quite gets it right. The only thing more baffling than the love I feel is the frustration and helplessness I often feel. Even though she’s my first of two children, she isn’t pancake batter. I can’t have a practice one and then get the next one right. The responsibility is enormous. Her personality is set at age three. I’ve got one year to make sure I don’t turn her into a sociopath.
I’m pretty sure 5 minutes of crying isn’t going to do it. Okay, ten, but we’re still good.