Thursday, July 21, 2011

Eternal Struggles

Well that didn’t last long. Apparently the bloom is off the rose for the little guy’s toddler bed, as he has increasingly been challenging the very idea of bedtime in head-on manner, climbing out of bed and being escorted back multiple times per evening before finally resigning himself to making an half-hearted attempt at sleep. Gone is the irresistible allure of the Cars-bedecked bedframe and linens which not so long ago had the little guy snuzzling his head into his pillow with a beatific smile on his face. Gone, gone, may it rest in peace (because nobody in my house is going to).

Last night was by far the worst (so far). The little guy was compliant enough as far as getting into bed at the appointed time, but he wasn’t exactly smiling about it. And less than five minutes later he was up and about; when I went back upstairs to guide him back to his bed, he informed me that he was “done sleeping” and wanted me to come and wake him up. When I left his room and closed the door behind me for the second time, he started yelling (not screaming, there is a subtle but important difference) from his bed “Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad!” which went on for about a full minute, ignored by me, until he suddenly remembered he could get out of bed and open the door to his room and stand at the top of the stairs and keep yelling from there. Which he proceeded to do, and that was my cue to head upstairs and silently steer him back to bed. Which simply reset the cycle to the yelling-from-bed point, and this continued for about an hour or so.

It verged on heart-wrenching when, maybe the fifth or sixth time I was escorting him back to bed, the little guy started insisting, “Dad, I couldn’t keep up with you! I tried but I couldn’t keep up!” which of course made me feel extremely guilty about subjecting my child to feelings of abandonment. Maybe he had started to doze off and immediately went into an anxious, unpleasant dream state, one of those running-in-place nightmares, and I wasn’t doing much to comfort him by stonefacedly shoving him back under the covers over and over and over again. Fortunately not long after that he went from yelling “Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad!” to “Mack! Mack! Mack! Mack! Mack!” which clued me in that he was once again just playing out the plot to the first Cars movie, where Lightning McQueen falls off the back of his trusty tractor trailer Mack and can’t catch up again, thus ending up stranded in Radiator Springs. It’s theoretically possible, I suppose, that both interpretations might be true, and the little guy was feeling abandoned in his darkened bedroom and was using the vocabulary of Pixar’s anthropomorphic vehicles to articulate his emotional state, but given the little guy’s penchant for imaginary reenactments I tend to think he really was just bored.

At any rate, the battle of wills went on and on, until finally I remembered a tip my wife had passed along. The little guy may seem underwhelmed by his now-familiar sleeping arrangements, but he truly does love having a big boy pillow after years of a flat crib mattress, and thus the Ultimate Weapon entails threatening to take the pillow away if behavior is unacceptable. For the first hour post-bedtime I hadn’t spoken a word and barely looked at the little guy (which I totally admit is a strategy co-opted from Supernanny which is supposed to simultaneously reinforce that children have to stay in bed at bedtime and also circumvent blatant attention-seeking acting out) but with no end in sight I finally told the little guy that any more jumping out of bed would result in immediate loss of pillow. He fake-cried pretty loudly in protest for a long interval after that, but all from within the confines of the bed itself, and finally he fell asleep. So, score one for the Wave Motion Gun (which, as always, I really should have just busted out at the beginning).

We mu-u-u-ust be strong and bra-a-a-ave/Our ho-o-o-ome we've got to sa-a-a-ave!
I know this is just a phase he’s going through and even now, less than 24 hours later, I find it if not awesomely hilarious at least appreciably farcical. I also know I simply need to hang in there and not buckle or cave, so this isn’t a desperate cry for help or anything, just standard venting.

In other exciting news, this morning the little girl rolled from her stomach to her back for the very first time! I haven’t delved into the pediatric percentile assessments or anything but it seems subjectively like she’s coming along super-fast in the motor skills. Of course that means it’s becoming ever more perilous to set her down someplace and turn my attention elsewhere even for a second … which makes it extremely difficult to constantly, oh, say, run up and down the stairs because I have to keep corralling a toddler who won’t stay in bed. But so it goes.

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