The first night that he really kicked up a fuss, my wife simply relocated the baby monitor (which has a built in nightlight) from the little girl’s room to her big brother’s, as the baby was long-since sound asleep and wouldn’t miss the light, while her mother and I were about to go to bed in the room next door ourselves and didn’t need the electronic audio feed. After that we tried a strand of colored Christmas lights in the little guy’s room, but those ultimately proved to be too much of a distraction in and of themselves, and a couple of nights of being able to hear him thumping his heels on the walls and talking loudly too himself led us inevitably to asking him if we could trust him, as a big boy, to go to sleep even with the colored lights or if we needed to take them away. Bless him, the little guy is generally pretty honest, so he agreed that the colored lights were keeping him awake and we should take them away. Thus, the next trip to the store included purchase of a much more standard and subtler nightlight, which so far is doing the trick.
Although, I suppose having the children not wake up and/or freak out in the dead of night is one thing, but not the entire trick. Another crucial component would be getting the children to sleep in long enough that we parental types don’t have our own cycles interrupted by them at all. My wife and I don’t stay up very late at all (we used to watch The Daily Show semi-regularly; now, hardly ever and never all the way through) and tend to rise pretty early, too. Is it so much to ask that our kids be asleep before we go to bed, and that they don’t wake up until after us? Apparently, it is, at least recently, with little guy and little girl both rising to greet the dawn, sometimes with time to spare. And neither of them is exactly at an age yet where we can just tell them to go back to bed for a little while without bringing forth major crying and screaming that renders the whole point moot.
They say that the sleep deprivation is one of the hardest ordeals of adjustment new parents go through when baby makes three and changes everything. My wife and I have been “new parents” for almost four years now and I for one can attest to that (while at the same time fully acknowledging that the amount of sleep I’ve lost along the way is astronomically dwarfed by my wife’s unsleeping tours of duty in the same span). And I know the circumstances of the moment aren’t going to last forever. The little girl has been teething almost constantly for months and months, but there’s only so many teeth left to come in. The little guy is getting bigger and bigger with energy levels to match, but at the moment he can only blow them off by running around outside under close supervision which isn’t always feasible, but he will eventually get big enough to play on his own. They’ll both settle into something resembling normal sleep-wake cycles and before we know it, they’ll be teenagers fundamentally incapable of ever getting enough sleep but nagged out of bed around lunchtime on the weekends anyway. And that will be all well and good in its bittersweet passage-of-time way, but (and I know I invite the universe to prove me wrong when I say this, but so be it) I really don’t think I will miss the middle-of-the-night and too-early-in-the-morning wake-ups. At all.