Bedtime Battles

When Elijah was about 9 or 10 months old, and he was still having trouble going to bed, Joe said to me, “He may scream before he goes to bed until he’s two.”


It seemed like such a long time, like by the time he was two he would probably be solving the energy crisis-surely he would be going to sleep quietly and peacefully.

Except now he’s almost 4, and bedtime (or rather any bedtime that doesn’t involve a sleepover in Mommy and Daddy’s room) is still a battle.

We did it all-read the sleep books (Dr.Ferber, Dr. Mindell, the No Cry Sleep Solution lady, a few more that were read during my zombie no-sleep days that I have promptly forgotten). Elijah has had a consistent bedtime routine since he was about 8 weeks old. Of course it’s changed: no more nursing, the books have gotten much longer and Mommy and Daddy are often persuaded to read “Just one more”, and recently a full bedroom scan for monsters and other unwanted visitors has been added to the nightly ritual. Monsters, Inc (a movie I once loved): I curse you for the terror you have put into my son! He hadn’t even thought of monsters yet.

We co-slept, we sleep trained, we gave him a papoo (a paci), we took away the papoo, we gave him lovies and blankies, we bribed, we pleaded, we prayed, we held our breath night after night that Elijah would sleep well and that his entrance into dreamland would be sweet and easy. And there have been patches where he has gone to sleep with just a “Night” or more often, with some elaborate goodnight-saying ritual such as “Happy nappy whiskaboom laila tov have a good sleep”. Sometimes the going-to-sleep blues started after a vacation or when I went to Ethiopia, but most of the time they have turned on for some unknowable reason, like an invisible key in Elijah’s brain.

If only everyone fell asleep so easily...

For a while I wondered, do all kids do this? Do people just not talk about it? But then Remy came home, and after a few weeks of getting settled in her new surrounding, she looked up at me after I put her in her crib, smiled, pulled the blankies closer around her shoulders, and closed her eyes. CLOSED HER EYES AND WENT TO SLEEP! Incroyable! Now she likes to say “Bye” about eighty-four times as we descend the stairs, and then she goes peacefully to dreamland.

People LOVE to give advice on kids and sleeping. I think the only other topic that comes close is kids and eating. I am beyond thankful that the battles around our dinner table or on our snack step are few and far between. I cannot imagine the frustration of trying to get your child to eat (and eat healthy) 5 or 6 times a day.

Our big battle (there are plenty of little battles throughout the day, of course) occurs mainly at night: Elijah willingly takes a nap when he needs/wants one and has more than one occasion said, “You have to give me a nap. NOW! I’m very, very tired”. Bedtime is just once a day, but it’s when we are all tired and want to just relax and Joe and I finally have a moment to sit down and attempt to have a conversation and maybe (let’s not get too crazy here) watch a half an hour of tv or just hang out without fetching food or milk or a raggie or a blankie, etc etc.

I’m sure it’s annoying when I brag about my (usually) fabulous and adventurous eaters, so I try not to talk about it unless asked, and I really try not to offer too much unsolicited advice. I know how frustrating it is when people try to pass judgment on Elijah’s sleep issues. I maintain that sleep training was one of the best parenting decisions I ever made. Especially since had we not done it, I probably would have ended up in a psych ward (I still have flashbacks of the ridiculously exhausting nights before we finally did it, when literally NOTHING could get him to sleep). He went from a child who woke up 4-5 times a night and would sometimes stay awake for one to two hours even after being nursed to sleeping 11 hours straight.

I know some people feel like parenting is never “done” or “over”, that it is a 24 hour/7 day a week job that they are always “on” and prepared for. These people are cheerful despite having 1 hour of sleep.

I am not one of those people.

I truly feel I am a better, happier Mom (not to mention a better, happier person) when I have little bits of time to myself, especially when I have given it my all during the day.

Sometimes no one has the answers for problems involving our children, and that is heartbreaking. I wish he didn’t tear up as we leave the room. I hate that we still haven’t found a good solution, a way for Elijah to find sleep as appealing as Joe or I do: one of us, without fail, will do a little cheer as we pull the covers up, “Yes! I love going to bed!”

Until then, I guess we’ll have to keep hoping and trying, and, yes, holding our breath.

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2 Responses to Bedtime Battles

  1. Clara Flores says:

    Marni, you’re absolutely right. Sometimes, you’re caught in some truly unsolvable parenting issue and everyone seems to have a really good answer for you. You can’t know how it feels and how eluding the solution is until you are IN IT. I’m so sorry that you’re struggling with this after four years. I’m a particularly bad mother at bedtime: I’m tired, I’m angry, I’m done.
    The only thing that I could share with you is my personal mantra (during these trying times): They won’t be (nursing, screaming, hitting, waking up fifty one times a night) when they are 14 years old. They won’t. I promise.
    I’m still sleeping in two-hour intervals, so I hear you.

  2. Jodi Mulroe says:

    We went through the same thing with Colin and I Swear it wasnt until this year that he is in school 5 days a week that he sleeps 12 to 13 hours a night. It was like he hit 4 1/2 and that was it. It will happen I feel your pain! But enjoy the snuggles in your bed b/c now he is too big to snuggle 😦

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