I spend 50% of my nights praying that my toddler will fall asleep gracefully and the other 50% that she will stay in her own bed. She isn’t even the worst sleeper and she can go to bed on her own nicely. I am still getting up in the night with the baby, which is manageable but getting old fast. Right now we are experiencing sleep regresssion and full flown emotional terrorism with a side of sleep deprivation at the hands of our toddler.
This past week I have been on my own with the kids for dinner and bed time almost everyday. Not irregular but now that P is 2.5 it does not go unnoticed when daddy isn’t around. I’m not entirely sure if dad not being around is the catalyst but P has been harder than usual to get down at night an generally agitated in the evening. The thing with P is that she is smart, funny and determined. All wonderful qualities that I want for my daughter – but not during the hours of 6-9pm. Her opinions are strong, her needs many and her ability to change her mind fluid. It’s exhausting and I appreciate her mind-games less and less with each night. As I take a breath I remind my myself that I am not a two year old, but am in fact a strong woman and this tiny dictator’s mother! I will resist! I will be the parent! I will be calm and supportive, yet firm! But between her, the baby, the kitchen, laundry and the damn cats my patience is less and less and the tone of my voice getting higher and higher.
In the fall we contacted a highly recommended sleep consultant, who after viewing our bedtime routine let us know that sleep wasn’t the issue, but that we have a child who will dominate the family if we don’t redirect her. No surprise there. P gets an idea in her mind and will not budge from it. She is also at that age (are they ever not at that age, asking for a friend) where she is testing us more and more. Which to be honest, is directed at me or indirectly at me via her baby sister. Then she will want her daddy but still demand that I do story time with her. Every night. Forever. And ever. And ever. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining that my kid wants to spend time with me, it’s just that by it being on her command it deflates the pleasure that we all have in shared story time and means that we all miss out on family time.
P demands who sits where at the table, who sits where on her bed, and is highly particular of the pyjamas, the stories and the songs at bed time. Even the suggestion of something contrary to what she wants in her mind is an issue. We give her choices between two things and give her the control in that choice, which she likes but it isn’t fool proof. We are firm if she won’t choose by making the choice for her, which she hates. And after the tears have stopped we remind her that she likes to choose so next time she should choose so we don’t have to do it for her. Again, it doesn’t work 100% of the time but it gives us a common language and framework for diffusing a tantrum. And when we can’t and we are standing on the sidewalk, holding the baby and waiting for a screaming fit to end so we can safely get into the car, there is the promise of wine.
We have the tools to get through it and it is a stage, but it is physically and emotionally draining. Not unlike what every other parent goes through at some point or another.
So just for fun let’s just review some of the reasons given to me by my tiny dictator in order to delay bed time:
- I don’t want my water bottle
- I want my water bottle
- I NEED my water bottle
- Not these jammies. THOSE jammies (note, she had already chosen her jammies and we were already done reading stories)
- Another story/song
- I peed
- I need the potty
- I need to get a book to read whislt on the potty
- Is Teagan crying?
- I want a big tuck… the kind where it goes over my head
- I don’t want dad to read to me
- I want dad to say good night
- Can I see the moon?
- Dad misses me
- I’m going to give you a tuck
- My [stuffed] bunny needs his bum changed – had a big poo
- No jammies
- No tuck
- No pillow
- I need heeeeeelp
There are more, but these are her go-tos and will usually roll through all of them or give a variation of them. And if she is feeling especially spunky, once the door is closed and I’ve said goodnight, she is up and about and clawing at the door and yelling for help only to smile seeetly with a “Hi, Mom!” if I’ve ever fallen victim to her cries. I know her game and don’t indulge, but in these moments I silently yell “Go the F&$! to sleep” as I try to embody calm and collected.
If this sounds like your tiny dictator, hit me back with some of their excuses.