Thursday, February 12, 2015

The sleepy-time shuffle

I was looking back over my intermittent posts so far this year, which unsurprisingly are almost entirely about my kids, who constantly rank among my top priorities and occupy most of my waking thoughts no matter what else is going on, keeping me busy, stressing me, &c. (Point of fact, they are often what's keeping me busy and stressing me &c.) And sure enough I feel the need to update what the latest developments for them are as of now, and I see in my review of recent posts that the last time I mentioned the bino it was in passing because he was home sick with his mother, and the time before that I made passing reference to him sleeping in his crib, which is no longer the case at all.

The bino has been waging all-out war against bedtime lately, and given that he shares a room with his sister and they're both supposed to go to bed at the same time, this is a bit of a challenge. If we let the bino stay up an extra 45 minutes to an hour, which seems to be his pattern, then the little girl would no doubt mutiny if she had to go to bed before him, and the little guy of course would insist he get to stay up the latest (even if only by five or ten minutes; it's the primogeniture principle of the thing) and then instead of my wife and I having a couple of peaceful hours to ourselves every night we'd only have an hour, tops, and ... no. Just no. So we tuck everybody in at 8 and if the bino screams about it a bit, so be it. If he screams about it a lot (and boy howdy, does he) then we take parental turns going in and settling him down until he finally loses the battle with his own fatigue. My wife and I are both well aware of the fact that, according to child-rearing experts and books and teh interwebs and whatnot we are probably sabotaging him, ourselves, and everything in the world with that approach. We need to either let him fuss and fuss without anyone ever coming to him, so that he learns that the fussing is fruitless and gives it up on his own, or we need to not be so rigid and find a way to accommodate the needs he's communicating, or some other holistic approach that we just need to be consistent about, dangit, instead of "well let's see how tonight goes". We know. But as I've said before, he's our third and we are kind of exhausted on a fundamental level and the whole concerted, strategic, journal-aided all-hands-on-deck approach is really too much. So we just keep banging our heads against the wall and hoping for the best and telling ourselves that toddlers develop rapidly and a lot of problem behaviors are phases that will sort themselves out eventually (which is actually true).

So one night, a few weeks ago (though it seems like longer) we put the bino in his crib and he proceeded to freak out. We ignored him for a little while and then, since my wife was the one who had initially put him down, I went in to check on him. I picked him up and brought him out of his room and into ours, mostly to spare his sister. (To be fair, and give credit where it's due, my wife and I worry way more about the bino disrupting the little girl's sleep than the situation probably merits. It's been known to happen, but exceedingly rarely. By bedtime, she is tired, she knows it, and she usually falls asleep quickly and stays zonked no matter how much clamor her baby brother raises.) I told my wife that I hadn't realized he'd made it so hard to wrestle him into the crib that she'd left him on the floor, though I could certainly understand. To which of course she answered "I didn't leave him on the floor," to which I replied "well that's where I found him!"

Thus were we able to finally cross off our lifetime parenting checklist the coveted "allowed a child to climb out of a crib and crash to the floor" item. The bino got a little rugburn on his cheek for his troubles but was basically fine. Still, that was the end of him sleeping in the crib. We took his mattress out of the crib and put it in the middle of the bedroom floor, and ordered a new mattress and bedframe for the little girl, since she had been occupying the toddler bed that was the next logical destination for the bino, and we had already deemed her ready to move up to a real nominally adult-sized bed. When her new bedding arrived I broke down the crib (which will soon, as in this coming weekend, be delivered to my wife's brother and his wife in anticipation of their bundle of joy due early next month) and assembled the new bed in its place, and transferred all my daughter's stuffed animals to that bed and made up the toddler bed for the bino. The little girl loves her new sleeping arrangements, and the bino has taken pretty well to the toddler bed, but of course he still objects to his bedtime. Fortunately now he can get up out of bed and throw himself on the floor (right in front of the bedroom door) in a controlled fashion, without risking brain injuries or broken bones. So there's that.

The next step (meaning "the remainder of the original plan which we have now perforce started implementing piecemeal") is the re-paint the two bedrooms, rendering the little guy's beige room purple and the little girl's and bino's pink room blue, and then swapping the little girl and little guy. Our intention was to have that done by the little girl's birthday in mid-April, with her very own private room as an implied gift in and of itself, and I'm still reasonably optimistic we can hit that deadline. In a sense that new roommate set-up won't solve the bino's bedtime tantrum problem, it will just shift the burden of dealing with it from the four year old to the six and a half year old. But having the boys in one room together is something we need to get everyone used to sooner or later (for as long as we stay in the current house).

Plus, my wife hit upon the idea not too long ago of trying to circumvent the demoralizing bedtime struggles by letting the boys sleep together, not just in the same room but in the same bed. The little guy really, truly adores his baby brother. The little girl loves her sibs, as well, but she's an independent introvert who needs her own space, too, and she's never been as obsessed with cuddling and physical affections as the little guy. The little girl and the bino sharing a bed would never work, that's not even a gender-appropriate considerations thing, it's just a personality and temperament thing. But the bino and the little guy can do it. Which is not to say that by placing them in close physical proximity, under the same blankets, they both are so content that they calmly and quickly drift off to sleep. They do in fact stay up talking (one-sidedly, with babble on the other side) but it is a lot less nerve-wracking than crying and screaming. My wife and I can have an adult conversation (or, let's be honest here, watch an episode of Constantine on the DVR) downstairs while vaguely aware that the boys are fighting sleep together, much more readily than we can do the same while unable to drown out the wailing of a furious toddler a floor above us. One night we went in after an hour or so and found the boys awake, and told them it was time to separate, but at least by then they were both so tired that deprived of each other's company they were quickly sawing logs. Another night the boys actually did manage to fall asleep next to each other, and they looked so cute and peaceful that we just left them that way all night. We've only tried this experiment on weekends so far, because having the boys in one bed could play havoc with the morning schedule on a school day. But when the boys share a room, and we can't monitor them constantly to make sure they stay in separate beds, we will see what happens. Honestly at this point, anything that allows everyone in the house to get their requisite amounts of uninterrupted sleep is unimpeachably a victory for the greater good.

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