We have finally got our 3 year old and 18 month old daughters to sleep in a room together. Admittedly, it’s a work in progress, but after several disastrous attempts previously it’s a start. We took the plunge after our youngest began to sleep through a few weeks ago (the same time we weaned her from breastfeeding – coincidence?).
Ironically the youngest has now generally become the better sleeper. She’s still not that keen on going to bed, but once down she usually stays like that until around 6am. Our eldest (who has been a good sleeper since 9 months old), has started having nightmares during the night often resulting with her in our bed or waking super early, yelling at the top of her lungs for Daddy. This early morning wakeup call is almost always before 6am. My husband or I, still recovering from the abrupt awakening, jump out of bed and with bleary eyes make a dash for their bedroom in an effort to grab her and avoid her sister waking. This sprint/stumble is more often than not in vain as we are usually greeted by both of them wide awake, one or both crying and ready to start the day.
So, at approximately 6.29pm yesterday I formulated a plan. I use the term ‘plan’ loosely as plan suggests a certain degree of thought and preparation went into it – this wasn’t the case. Aware that the eldest is growing out of her cot and we need to set her up for the transition from cot to bed, I decided it was the perfect time to make the big step of taking the side off the cot.
For the whole of her life to date, she has slept within the safe confinement of a bassinet or cot. I like the words confinement and safe very much when it comes to toddlers. It helps me relax and (when they allow it), sleep. I have been happy in the knowledge that she was not free to naturally roam or perch anywhere except in her own cot. She could not escape, hurt herself, or her sister.
At 6.30pm last night I began pulling the cot apart, much to the delight of the girls who squealed and giggled in excitement. Their happiness at the most banal things always amazes me. I suspect it was more to do with the fact it looked like I was deviating in some way from our normal bedtime routine, thus assisting them with their usual delay tactics.
“And my sister’s cot now Mummy?” the eldest suggested helpfully when I’d finished.
“This is happening to your cot because you are such a big girl now. If you wake up and need Mummy or Daddy, you can just step off the bed and come to our room. No need to scream anymore” I explained to her. Nodding her head purposefully, eyes twinkling like grains of sand in the sunshine, she proudly grinned back at me. She loves believing she’s getting special treatment due to being so grown up and was excited by her ‘new’ bed.
Both girls climbed on top and proceeded to jump up and down in joy. As is often the case, they are always able to find a sudden burst of energy pre-bedtime. Interestingly they didn’t have this energy three hours earlier when I needed them to do the short walk home from the playground. No, I had to carry both of them home as they collapsed in protest on the ground.
Whilst my husband and I try desperately to maintain a sensible and calm bedtime routine consisting of bath, books/quiet time and bed -the reality is very different. They both get easily distracted as we try to read to them preferring to jump off the sofa and dance around the lounge naked hysterically. The words calm and quiet time are wholly inappropriate to use for our house at bedtime. It is clear that our 2 children are completely running the show.
When we initiated project ‘get them in the same room’, we put the youngest down first therefore allowing our eldest to stay up later than usual. Unfortunately this has backfired on us. A few days in, the youngest started to play up often taking us an hour or longer to get down. This meant the eldest going to bed later and later. If we suggested she went to bed first, she refused. A creature of habit, regardless of how exhausted she is, she’d reply with, “But my sister has to go to bed first”.
So we continued to try to get the youngest to sleep first.
This is what happens:
- On approaching her with any items that that indicate it might be bedtime such as pyjamas, dummy or sleeping bag, she runs screeching in the opposite direction. On picking her up the screeching gets louder, she writhes around, arching her back and her latest trick – holding her breath until she turns blue.
- Once she’s finally calm in our arms, the minute she senses the slight drop in elevation suggesting she is being placed into the cot – she squirms, strains and protests.
- If we get past this stage and place her into the cot she proceeds to scream, stamp her feet and shake the sides of the cot. Knowing we are losing the battle but unable to bare her screaming any longer, we pick her up. She points towards the door sobbing.
- We try to keep her in the room, in the dark however her wriggling and screaming starts again, we put her down. She toddles off, towards the door, pulls it open and runs, as though her life depended on it, into the arms of her sister. They both then begin giggling and jumping up and down in joy.
We’ve been played – AGAIN!
It became apparent that what she was actually suffering with was FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). I came up with an anti-FOMO strategy ( I actually did put a modicum of thought into this plan). I pretended to go out with the eldest, waving goodbye to her sister as we left. It worked… for 3 nights.
Time for another new strategy.
I enlisted the help of my 3 year old suggesting we all play sleeping bunnies in their bedroom. She was keen to help out – as long as it was all on her terms.
By this point we are losing the will to live, feeling desperate and prepred to agree to anything.
She needs the two cushions from the sofa.
Mummy must lie there. Not there – THERE!
“Please may I have a cushion” I ask.
“No” she replies.
Daddy must lie there. Not there – THERE!
“Please may he have a cushion?” he asks.
“No” she replies.
Her sister must lie there. Not there – THERE!
The door must be shut (making it as difficult as possible for us to make a sneaky escape)
Her music player/projector light must be on (she then spends the following 20 minutes moving it around the room to find the exact perfect spot for it so the projected image has absolutely nothing obstructing it).
At this point we are all lying on the floor in their bedroom and usually myself and my husband are trying desperately not to fall asleep whilst the girls fidget and move around the room.
Gradually as the girls get sleepier we put them in their respective cots.
When we think they are asleep one of us attempts to leave the room commando style (as in crawling across the floor in total silence not naked). Aware that one wrong move could send us back to the beginning our hearts are racing as we will each other on to make a successful escape.
Usually the first person succeeds however their movement slightly disturbs one of the girls resulting in the other person left stuck in the room indefinitely.
Whilst it’s by no means ideal, actually it’s completely ridiculous. It’s become a strangely uniting and amusing time for all involved.
Last night was yet another family bedtime session. I reminded my eldest several times that now she can get out of bed all by herself, if she woke up and needed us she no longer needed to shout at the top of her lungs. I left a light on in the walk through so she could see. All bases covered! You can imagine my disappointment at 4.30am this morning when I was startled awake by the familiar screams for Daddy. I did my usual sleepy sprint into their room. Not quick enough – I was greeted by 2 crying children. “I heard a noise mummy” my eldest sobbed. I reminded her that she could just have come to us herself, to which she replied, “I don’t like the cot side off”. It seemed her initial excitement at her new bed had disappeared, much like my apparent need to sleep past 4.30am.
Hoping to reignite her enthusiasm for her cot I spent the next few hours reminding her of the freedom she now had at the hands of her sideless cot. Finally she replied, “Ok mum, I’ll do that tomorrow”.
We live in hope!