Bad Mama Confession: Until recently, there hasn’t been a night in recent memory where Ellie has fallen asleep on her own. And by that, I mean one of us always had to cuddle with her until she fell asleep. It’s something we started when she was a baby and just never stopped. Yeah, I know–not a great habit, but until Gwen was born it wasn’t an issue. The way I saw it, 20-30 minutes of snuggle time in the evening was a fair trade for a full night’s sleep in my own bed.
But since Gwen arrived, our nighttime routine has become… hectic. Newborns don’t care about their older sister’s routines–when they want to be fed, they want to be fed, routine be damned. For the last three weeks we’ve made do, but it became obvious our old habits weren’t serving us well. Ellie was staying up until well past her bedtime, then it would take forever for her to fall asleep (meaning one of us was stuck in bed until she passed out)… and then she stopped sleeping through the night.
As someone who’s been spoiled by a good sleeper, this was NOT COOL. Being awake with a newborn is a given–it’s not always pleasant, but I expect it. Being awake with a pre-schooler who’s become accustomed to snuggling with you to get to sleep, on the other hand, is infuriating–especially when sleep is already a precious commodity.
So after a particularly rough night, I made one of those Difficult Parenting Decisions–we needed to change the bedtime routine. The kiddo needed to learn to fall asleep in her own bed, sans over-tired parents. It wouldn’t be pleasant, but it was necessary.
I decided to put my plan into effect on Friday night when Tim was out at a movie–that way I wouldn’t be tempted to hand Gwen to Tim in the thick of a tantrum and go back to our old ways. Leading up to bedtime, I made a point of telling Ellie several times, “You’re going to sleep in your own bed tonight, by yourself!” I tried to make it sound EXCITING and FUN! YAY, SLEEPING ALONE! Mama loves it, why don’t you?
She wasn’t buying it, but when bedtime came, she crawled into her bed and pulled her blankie up to her chin in between sniffles. I thought to myself, “This might not be so bad after all!”
Here’s how the evening went down:
2 minutes in: She’s fussing a little on and off, but it’s nothing. I predict she’ll be sound asleep in ten minutes, tops. Thinking to self, “I’m a parenting genius. I should write a sleep training book!” My arm hurts from all that patting myself on the back.
10 minutes in: Fussing has escalated to crying, but still nothing major. Obviously she just needs to get it out of her system. What’s a little crying? I’m a parenting pro, after all, nothing I can’t handle.
20 minutes in: Hooboy. Crying is reaching uncomfortable decibels. Realizing this is going to be harder than I’d thought. Doubts about genius status are setting in.
30 minutes in: Seriously, kid? Seriously? At this point I go up to check on her. She’s looking at me with doe eyes and making these godawful hurt hiccuping noises, interspersed with woeful cries of “Mamaaaaaaaa.” Oh, man, kid, you know how to pull those heartstrings. I give her another hug and a kiss and calmly reassure her that I’m right downstairs. This is an unacceptable compromise in her mind and is met with louder screaming.
40 minutes in: *furiously Googling “toddler sleep training” and “cry it out severe permanent damage”*
50 minutes in: If we had one, I’d be adding $20 to Ellie’s therapy jar to cover a future co-pay. Also considering burning sweet grass and taking up prayer, because my child has been replaced by an angry demon.
60 minutes in: She stands at the gate and (in between dramatic, hiccuping sobs) speaks her piece in a perfectly normal tone of voice: “Mama, I want to come downstairs now, please. Mama? Mama. Mamaaaa?” This is when I realize she’s been faking me out, the stinker.
70 minutes in: I hear the patter of little feet and the sounds of Ellie crawling into her bed. One last muffled sob, then silence. I creep up the stairs, peek around the corner, and she’s sound asleep.
Mission accomplished, bitches.
Now I tuck her into her own bed all by herself with no more than a whimper. Last night she even blew me a kiss before I went downstairs. I WIN!