Sleep. That bastard has eluded us since day one. Actually, since day negative 40 something, because lord knows you can’t sleep comfortably when you’re pregnant and huge and keep getting leg cramps and have to pee all night long and then you trip over the dog every time you get up.
Max went from being a newborn who didn’t sleep, to being a toddler who didn’t sleep, to being a 2 1/2 year old who….suddenly, miraculously, thankfully SLEPT. Not naps (that would be asking way too much), but nights. Finally, finally finally finally he would sleep from 8:30 ish pm to 7:30 ish am. It would still take him at least an hour to wind down every night. And by “wind down”, I mean somersault/catapult/roll/fly/wiggle across his bed. While singing/laughing/shouting/whispering and carrying on elaborate conversations in the dark with his stuffed animal friends. With either Sean or I in the room,
sitting with him making sure he didn’t break his neck on the tenth time he rolled directly into the wall. But finally, finally finally finally he would fall asleep.
Suddenly we had our nights back. We could watch Modern Family. We could actually talk to each other. We weren’t living on the edge, tiptoeing around the living room, hearts pounding because any.single.given.moment (or every 45 minutes) he was going to wake up. That lasted for about 6 months. Long enough for me to take a deep breath, and decide that the worst was truly over. Long enough for me to tell Sean “It’s totally fine when you take long business trips. Nights are a breeze now!”. Long enough for me to start devoting more time to this blog, and my freelance writing. Long enough for me to feel confident that preschool wasn’t going to chew him up and spit him out at the end of the day, because he was so well-rested. Long enough for us to actually consider trying to have another baby, because we didn’t feel like we wanted to kill ourselves every morning at 5:30 am.
Long enough for me to feel very entitled and very righteous about bragging that “My kid totally sleeps through the night”! Because god damn, I had EARNED that right. It was finally, finally finally finally my turn to look a sleep-deprived parent in the eye and ask sweetly “Well, have you tried a bedtime routine?”
And then it all went to shit.
Big time shit.
Max is waking up again. All night long. And I’m pretty sure, OK I’m mostly sure, that this is not reflux or belly related. Because he’s old enough to talk about it when he wakes up at an ungodly hour, and when he does, he says:
“Mommy, I scared! The ABCD’s! They scare me!”
“What ABCD’s honey? Where do you see them?”
“In my woom! Wight here! They come out of the heater!”
“What?? What do they do when they come out of the heater?”
“They DANCE Mommy!!”
The kid is having nightmares about the fucking alphabet.
At first I was so angry with myself. Why did I let him watch Transformers with his big buddies? Was it the movie that Sean took him to? Until he started telling me that it was the flippin’ “ABCD’S”! I can not protect him from the alphabet. It’s everywhere.
So we tried EVERYTHING. I know that there are two very different philosophies on nightmares. We tried both. First we tried the “ABCD’S aren’t scary, honey. They’re silly. They are not coming out of your heater. You’re thinking about them in your mind, but they’re not real. Scaries don’t exist. They’re not real. Mommy and Daddy are here to keep you safe.” philosophy. Didn’t work. So then we tried the “Let’s look in the heater with our flashlight. See? NO scaries. Let’s put all of your stuffed animals around the heater so that if the ABCD’s try to come out, your stuffies will say GET OUT ABCD’s, and they’ll go away.” philosophy. Didn’t work.
So we bought a nightlight that plays soft music. We let Max choose the music. We told him that it was a “safety light” that helped to keep him safe. “When you wake up in the night time, if the safety light is on, it means it’s time to stay in bed.” He’s not waking up screaming about the ABCD’s any more, but he’s waking up at 11, and 1:45 am, and 3:30 am and whimpering “Mommy, get in my bed!”.
It’s like he used to wake up and realize he was in bed, and go back to sleep. Now he wakes up, and has learned that he needs one of us there with him. I asked him about this yesterday. “What happens when you wake up in the night-night time?”
“I call to my Mommy and I call to my Daddy and you come and get me. Then you go night-night in my bed.” With a
smirk smile. But even when I am sleeping in his room with him (and I’m not against co-sleeping, we’ve done it off and on for the last few years), he still wakes up and can’t settle back down for a while. And I know he CAN do it. He HAS done it, and he HAS been comfortable and confident and perfectly fine in his room by himself, until now.
I’m putting this out into the Internet Yonder because I am desperate, folks. I need some ideas. But keep this in mind before you answer:
1. We practice attachment parenting. Which means that we are totally against leaving him alone if he needs us. We are happy to go to him, but what in hell can we say/do to break this behavior pattern of him jumping out of bed every few hours?
2. We won’t let him cry it out.
3. We already do a proper bedtime routine (bath, snack/drink, books, cuddles, brush teeth, night-night song). He has plenty of activity during the day…..
He’s not too hot or too cold. He has a special lovey in his bed. Ten thousand of them actually. We have a noise/sound machine on.
My mom suggested that we help him to come up with a self-soothing routine at night. Along the lines of “When you wake up and it’s still dark out, you can find your teddy and get snuggly under your blankie again.” I love that idea, and will try it tonight. But I need some back-ups. Have I mentioned I’m exhausted? And that I feel better with a few Plan C’s?
So gimme the goods. What has worked for your toddler?? What keeps your ABCD’s in the heater? And by all means, if they “dance”, please let me know!---here---