The Trials of Putting Your 3 Year Old To Sleep
Shh! (This is me tiptoeing away from my daughter’s door because she’s asleep!) You wouldn’t believe the hassles we’ve had putting our precocious 3 1/2 year old to sleep. But tonight, she’s finally down after some soul searching and a little dose of ‘good night baby bear.’
First, the ‘good night baby bear.’ I know there is a book by the same name and, no, I’ve never read it. Have you? It’s supposed to be a great bedtime story about how a momma bear can’t get her baby to sleep and all the hoops she has to jump through to get the little guy snoozing. That’s me in a nutshell, so you’d think I’d be all over that book.
Honestly, I would if I had time, but I don’t, I’m too damn tired. So, on the advice of a friend of mine, I played this little ‘goodnight’ game with my girl. I tucked her in as usual and when I was walking out, I turned around and quietly whispered ‘goodnight baby bear’ to which she whispered back, ‘goodnight mama bear.’ We’d gone over the game, so she knew her cue. Yet, my girl being my girl, she quickly changed the rules so that I said ‘goodnight dancer’ and she said ‘goodnight queen.’ Whatever works, right?
So we said this as I walked out. Then I stayed right by the door and listened if she rustled and when she did, I stuck my head in and said it again. I think you’re really supposed to time it or something, but to be honest, once my girl gets herself all riled up she’s hard to calm back down, so I figured it’d be best if I caught her if I heard her even thinking about getting out of bed.
And I did.
This went on, the first night, for – no joke – 1 1/2 hours. It was exhausting! Also, soul destroying. I dreaded doing it again, but to be fair, she got to sleep about an hour before usual, which was good. And the results were definitely noticeable the next day. On this alone, I was inspired to continue.
Hell, if you have non-sleepers, you know of the dance between determination and defeat I speak of. Something happens to my soul when I feel myself forcing my baby to sleep, which of course you cannot do and I know this. But I need sleep, therefore my daughter needs sleep. And I become a mama I’m not proud of, a mama I don’t want to be, getting upset and trying in vain to keep my cool until I can’t keep it any more. That’s why the whole ‘baby bear/mama bear’ thing works for me.
The next night it was all, ‘ballerina’ this and ‘dancer’ that but still, sleep came within the hour, I think, soâ€¦progress?
Well, tonight it was make or break for me. Being utterly exhausted and non-too happy about the thought of an hour of monitoring her every movement, I tried something that my husband literally thought I was crazy for trying. In fact, right before bedtime he literally said to me maybe we should just shut her in her room with a few books and ignore her till she decides to fall asleep anyway. Couldn’t be any more exhausting.
But I’m stubborn – about as stubborn as my daughter is. So I moved her bedtime UP by an hour. Yes. Earlier. Earlier? Earlier. Why? Because I heard some mumbo jumbo about glucose or some such and sleep patterns and associations blah blah blah. But, what stuck with me was the ‘second wind’ argument that even if your body is tired, if you miss your sleep window your body somehow finds/makes the energy to keep awake until another window opens. I know this to be true in my own self. Fact, pure and simple.
I figured, maybe I’m fighting a losing battle and NOT the losing battle that I thought I was. Maybe it’s just my girl’s window that I’m missing.
I started the whole bedtime routine at 5pm. Yes – 5pm. For a three and a half year old. Which means that I started watching the clock at, like, 4 so as to not miss the opening of the window. So, literally 2 hours before we usually start in earnest to get her down. Funny, too because I noticed while we were ending our play time that she started pretending to put herself to sleep along with the toys. Interesting, no?
Tonight, It WORKED! WOOOOOT! In bed, asleep by 7:30. A miracle. I tell you. A-SLEEP!
Still with the game – and a few threats to not let her sleep with her tutu nightgown on if she got out of bed – and SHE IS DOWN!
Score one for mama!
If you have a little one who refuses to sleep until double digits, seriously, try doing the whole bedtime ritual thing insanely early. And if you have any questions about it, speak up and I can give you a blow by blow.
photo credit: allspice1