To Sleep.

March 30, 2011 at 11:44 am | Posted in Battles (aka: toddlerhood), milestones, motherhood, My life | 13 Comments

O’s transition into his big boy bed has gone pretty well.

And by “pretty well,” I mean that once he’s asleep he’s pretty good about staying in his bed.

(Though, truthfully, I can’t be certain because this weekend we trashed the monitor, as it was starting to have random heart-stopping static episodes. I am convinced that my latest bout of insomnia is directly related to that.)

Okay, so once we’ve gotten him to sleep he’s good about staying in his room, anyway.

(We THINK. And for now, of course. I’m sure, like with all things kid-related, it’s going to change.)

However. The GETTING him to sleep part has gotten to be the REAL challenge.

When we transitioned to the toddler bed, O required us to be in his room with him until he fell asleep. We’d rock and read stories, then he’d get into his bed and we’d sit right next to him, waiting until he fell asleep.

I’d say, more often than not, he was asleep within a half hour of climbing into his bed.

By the very end of the Toddler Bed Era, though, he had stretched it out to 45 minutes. Some nights it took an hour. And I assumed that it was related to the bed, either he was cold or uncomfortable or whatever.

But J wasn’t really into it, and started to get more vocal about getting him to sleep in his bed on his own.

I was resistant to the idea.

Mostly because O would sob, really SOB, when we left the room early.

And I hate the idea of my kid NEEDS me and I’m not there to give him that comfort.

And plus. He’s THREE. I mean, if he were seven and doing this, yes, I’d have reason to be concerned. But he’s working on being independent in SO many things during the day that I don’t see the harm in being there when he actually needs me to be.

And, selfishly, I love the night time with O. It’s my favorite time with him, where we snuggle and hug and I can read him and kiss the top of his head and keep him warm and protected and loved. And I’m loathe to let that go.

However. We have noticed lately that his bedtimes are getting later and later. On the weekends, if we don’t limit his nap to an hour and a half, he’s up until 10pm.

And an hour in GOING to sleep is a LOOOOONNNNNG time to devote to being there for your kid. Because on a weeknight, when you’re a full time working parent, you try and cram a LOT of other things in that time every night. Dishes from dinner. The random load of laundry here and there. Lunches for the following day. Making coffee, recording receipts. Paying bills.

And THEN, maybe, just maybe, you can sit and actually, you know, TALK with your spouse before it’s bedtime.

So with the advent of the new bed, J thought it would be a good idea to try techniques for getting O to go to sleep without us. And though I confess I had reservations (and a pang of bittersweet “Hey! He CAN’T grow up and not NEED ME!”), I was game to try.


Initially we stayed there for a few minutes, then said we’d check on him. When I went in to check on him, he grabbed my hand and begged for me to stay. I stayed another 10 minutes, and when I left and closed the door, he followed me.

Thus began the hour of bringing him back into his room every 5 or 10 minutes or so until he was nearly comatose with sleep.

And the next night? He begged me to stay. And when I didn’t, he got up and looked for me. Then begged again.

Rinse, repeat.

And the night after that. And that. And that.

And, well, you get the picture.

So last night, after talking with J and deciding that okay, the whole Fall Asleep On His Own Like a Big Boy plan wasn’t working, I told O last night that I’d stay there as long as he needed me to.

And initially, I thought he was going to settle down and I’d be out of there in 15 or 20 minutes, tops.

Because he was TIRED.

Not so much, though.

Half hour later, he was still moving around.

It was like water torture. He’d be silent, unmoving, his breathing slowed and deepened, for two or three minutes. THEN all of a sudden, he’d move. And open his eyes.

It’s like he is TRYING to stay awake, I thought.

An HOUR later, when he was finally ASLEEP, I went and kissed his forehead.

He murmured to me, Mommy. Sit in the chair.

I told him it was okay, I was here. And he quieted down.

Two minutes later, he was fully asleep. And I could slip out of his room.

So apparently?

We’ve managed to give our kid a COMPLEX about falling asleep now.

Pretty awesome.

And okay, he’ll figure it out, and we’ll get through it.

But for me? It really underscores the significance this fact: How we parent right now?

It really MATTERS.



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  1. We haven’t done any transitioning to a toddler bed yet – but I do wonder how it going to go. Cam takes at least 30 minutes to fall asleep in his crib now – and god save us when he isn’t confined.

    The best story I ever heard was a family that didn’t turn the wake up into any sort of crisis – but anytime a child got out of bed, one of the parents would get the child, give him a hug, lead him back to bed and say ‘It’s time for bed, I love you very much, and I’ll see you in the morning”. That little phrase told the child he was loved, would see his parents again in the morning, but that it was time to go to bed. They never wavered from this phrase. When their son was 16, the parents went out on a date, came home around 11, and the kids was in the living room watching TV. He saw his parents, laughed and said ” I know, I know. You love me, it’s time for bed, and you’ll see me in the morning’. And he went to bed.

    I love that story – and I think that appoach is what we will take when we get to that point.

  2. With A being somewhat inclined toward “needing” us (and I put that in quotes because usually it’s more of a preference than a need), we’ve tried really hard to find the right balance between encouraging her to be self-reliant, and not leaving her feeling unsupported. Sleep is probably the one area where I’ve been most resistant to giving in to her, simply because I know how much I need my evening time (and also my sleep time.) Interestingly, I have stumbled onto saying essentially the same thing Cece mentioned in her comment, whether it is right at bedtime or during an occasional middle-of-the-night wakeup. Sometimes I have to say it over the request of the billionth hug in a row, and I feel a little badly about that, but in the end I know A knows I love her and that tomorrow is another day for fun and hugs.

    I’m sure you’ll find what works for you. And don’t feel bad, it’s quite possible you haven’t given O any complex. He may just be really good at getting you to do what he wants 🙂

  3. This sleeping thing? Won’t last long. In the grand scheme of things 6 months to a year of this is not that long for a building block of security.

    Also, I highly doubt you traumatized him for life doing the kiss and check approach last week. He’ll be fine. But yeah, this is the age that they start realizing that something didn’t sit well with them. It’s ok. Really.

  4. You are doing great!! I did the whole sitting with my three year old too….and things haven’t changed now that she’s…wait for it….seven!!! I was and still am doing this because she is bonafide SCARED because we’ve never made her do it. I believe she would have anxiety attacks over it (that’s her personality, nervous nelly). She is starting to notice that her friends are going to be by themselves and will do it some nights….Doesn’t last though, she ends up in the room with her 5 year old sister…

    Keep it up, it’ll be fine!!!
    Leslie B.


  5. Our son is four now and as with many things parenting, it is a lot of trial and error. However, there are some things that seem to hold true, tested over generations, that work for most (I did not say all) children. I was resistant to many ideas early on because this was my hard fought baby and I was going to do what I thought was right. But, I learned, relatively early on that sometimes what I thought was right may have been more right for me than for him. And so, even though I wanted to hold on to every last stage before the next, I learned that I just couldn’t if it wasn’t right for him. So, with feeding himself, potty training, transitioning to a big boy bed, and now getting dressed, as much as I wanted to hold on to the sweetness of some of those once shared activities, it was better for him that I let them go and let him grow into the boy he was becoming.
    I wish they would stay small for so much longer…

  6. I love Cece’s story!
    But you sound a lot like me in this post. J is so independent during the day (last night he insisted on playing alone in the bathroom, with the door closed and me outside) that I tend to believe he really *needs* me at night. I like to think I can tell the difference between a manipulative cry and genuine fear/anxiety. And honestly, so often during the day, even when I’m with him I’m trying to get other things done. Bedtime is the only time I really give J my undivided attention. So I think we’re going to keep it that way for awhile.

  7. We put Julia from her crib straight to a full size bed. She got up for a while and we would just walk her back to her room and tell her to get in bed, say I love you, and we would leave the room. She cried a bit here and there, and occasionally there are still days that she cries, but 90% of the time she goes right to sleep. When she cries, instead of thinking “she needs me, she needs me.” I tried to tell myself, “she needs sleep, she needs sleep.”

  8. Trust me, you didn’t give him a complex. At three there are shadows, noises, and spooky things in bedrooms. (Especially for intelligent kids that have wonderful imaginations). We had a really rough time with our oldest. The grandparents scoffed at me for “coddling the boy” (yes, in that ‘we are so disgusted’ voice)but our son had a horrible time falling asleep, and sometimes staying asleep.

    We (meaning “I” because husband was in the coddling camp) decided to address the problem with son. He said he saw things in his room if we weren’t there. Since he loved books I told him he could read until he fell asleep, and we would leave the door open a little, BUT he had to stay in his bed. It actually worked like a charm after about three nights. The first two were rough, lots of up and down, but when I calmly walked him back to his room, and got him all snuggled in with his favorite bear and blanket, he pleaded a little, but he finally figured out he would be fine.

    I won’t lie, I think it was harder on me than him. I LOVED the quiet time, snuggling, chatting… was wonderful. As our boys got older I actually started to use that time of night to get them to talk. At the end of the day they were much more open about what they were thinking, what was happening at school etc. Now, even as young adults when they are here they still plop down on my bed and chat. I love it. Guess we have come full circle 🙂

  9. Where do I start… Lyla has never been a good sleeper and still isn’t. She still needs to fall asleep and every night she ends up sleeping with me after 3 am or so. It doesn’t help that we share a room. After the divorce I really downsized and this really makes sleep so complicated. Lately I’ve been telling her that I will not leave if she is not ready but that she is a big girl and can really fall asleep on her own. I ask her to tell me when she thinks she is ready for me to leave. So when she is about to fall asleep she tells me that she is ready and that I can leave. It doesn’t work most of the days but she is slowly getting there. Bedtime can take anywhere from 10 min to 1 hour and it has been a souse of great frustration for me. Thanks for sharing; I was beginning to think that Lyla was the only one who has “issues”. Good luck to us

  10. Sleep has been a big challenge here, too. Bedtimes SUCKED for months on end and went on for hours. As much as you love your kid, you do need some time to yourself to decompress at the end of the night, and by decompressing I don’t mean “feel like a huge failure, argue with your husband, and cry yourself to sleep.”

    I guess I’m the meanie who uses a very tall gate in my kids’ doorway so that they can’t get out. : )

    I was scared of the dark and slept with a nightlight until I was, um, 17 (at which time I graduated to falling asleep with the TV in my bedroom on a sleep timer). And I’m pretty sure that is why I like living in the city, with a streetlight yards away from my bedroom window. LOL. So comforting in the dark is important to me. The girls have two nightlights (small, not lamps) in their room, plus a Baby Einstein lullaby CD, plus other white noise (humidifier, fan, or white noise machine), and about 10 stuffed animals in I’s bed and a half-dozen crayons clutched in N’s hand. They have certain lullabies to which they now sing along. The girls must go to sleep in their own beds (much, MUCH easier now that they stopped napping in the afternoon), but if someone cries in the middle of the night, I go in and bunk with her.

  11. I have zero experience in the sleep department because M was a good an awesome sleeper until about October. We took the pacifier away in September and went to a toddler bed in October. Most night s he doesn’t want me to go downstairs and is satisified if he knows I’m acrros the hall in the computer room. Other nights he wants me in his room. He tries to get me to sit on his bed (which is a toddler bed with a rail so not much room for me), but I really want him to fall asleep on his own. So, I took something that I saw on Super Nanny and motified it for me. I sit on his floor with my back to him and bring a book for myself. He knows I’m there, but I’m not interacting with him and I get a little time to enjoy a book. If he tries to talk to me I will just turn around and say “Good night. I love you.”

    Now, if I could only figure out how to keep him from coming to my room at 2am and crawling into bed which has been a regular occurance for about 2 months I would be much happier! I just don’t have the energy to fight in the middle of the night.

  12. I really should have proofed my last post before I hit send!

  13. Jacob still comes to our bed, he can Be SOUND ASLEEP, snoring slightly and then 1/2 hr later he is next to me , snuggled in. I wish I could tell you how to do it better, but um, I’m I have no advice. LOL

    Gio is like this, sit and talk to me, lay with me, the more I overthink it the more I thing that they are both growing away from me, if they want hugs and love, if us being next to them helps them sleep..then so be it. Soon they won’t want me near them LOL, and those days will be harder than these. 🙂

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