Bedtime Battles

When N was an infant, we thanked our lucky stars that we had a baby who slept so well. She began sleeping through the night at 3 months and was very regular about taking her naps in the daytime. Hearing other parents talk about their babies’ inconsistent or fussy sleep habits had us breathing a quiet sigh of relief over N’s easy sleeping routine.

But of course, nothing with kids ever stays the same. As N got older, getting her to sleep got a little tricky—especially when she learned to talk and figured out she could summon us to her room with a shout of “Mama! Dada! I need you!” But overall she continued to fall asleep relatively quickly, with a little help from her “bobu” (pacifier). She transitioned from her crib to a toddler bed without much difficulty at all.

Now that N is three, the story is different. Unless she is exhausted, it takes her at least an hour to calm down and go to sleep—sometimes longer. We have an early, regular bedtime and a soothing routine, but she still seems so wound up that nothing seems to truly calm her down.

I read that humans have more energy at age three than they will ever have again in their entire lives. I certainly believe it! I’ve tried teaching her breathing and counting exercises to ease her into sleep, but I will admit that it’s a little hard breathing and counting to 10 at the same time when you can’t always remember what number comes after 6.

Then there are other new developments. N is almost fully potty-trained and now wears underwear to bed. But we have learned that being “potty trained” doesn’t mean that a kid has mastered the art of listening to her body. N always wants to get up and go to the potty after she’s in bed—and since we want to encourage her confidence in her potty skills, we usually let her try to go. We give her a 2-minute time limit to do her business, we don’t allow playing or dilly-dallying—and when no tinkles come out we tell her sternly that going potty is not a game to get out of bed.

Then, over the past couple of weeks, N has developed a new fear of the dark. She says she doesn’t like the shadows. I told her about her magic zapper in her finger, which she can activate by pointing at the thing she doesn’t like and saying “Don’t bother me!” which she thoroughly enjoys.

However, she still wants us to leave the light on at bedtime. We have acquiesced and leave the lamp on when we leave. This certainly isn’t our preferred method, but we are using it for now, at least until we can figure out something else.

I could list dozens of other tactics N uses to delay sleep—getting up out of bed to get toys or books or shoes, calling for a cup of “fresh cold water,” asking for a tissue to blow her nose or a Q-tip to clean out her ear, etc., etc. And tomorrow she’ll come up with a brand-new one that we’ve never heard before.

Or she’ll try to disarm us. The other night I was telling N firmly that I was going to leave the room so she could get some sleep. She responded by putting her hand gently on my cheek and saying sweetly, “Mama, don’t worry, Daddy will do the dishes and clean up the kitchen.”

Did I mention that turning on the charm is another delay tactic?

Did I also mention that it’s past my bedtime right now, and I should be going to sleep?? Sigh…


About A Mom In Brooklyn

A mom in Brooklyn
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