Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Bedtime and Torn Books

The monsters were a smoke screen, as we'd suspected. I think that Ada subconsciously realized that she'd just lost a very big control lever (the toileting) and found something to replace it. I don't think this was a purposeful decision, but the time proximity between her starting to use the toilet and her belief that she can not sleep alone is just too much to ignore.

She will go to sleep if one of us is lying with her in bed. I refuse to do this, leaving it to Chris to coax her to sleep. But a few nights ago I thought I might give it a try. After ten minutes I was fuming, and got up. Ada immediately freaked out. She followed me downstairs, and Chris took her back up. He spent a good chunk of time trying to get her to stay in her room; she shrieked her opposition. It was horrifying. I sat on the couch not helping at all, but I don't know how I could have helped if I had tried.

I don't know what to do with Ada other than to meet her stubbornness with my own resolve not to let her take over. I was apparently not like this when I was a child. I was, to use my father's phrase, more "go along to get along" when I was Ada's age. When I talked to my parents about Ada's new-found refusal to sleep alone, my father also told me that I might have been taught not to wake up my parents by seeing what my tired, cranky father was like when he got up too early. So where does Ada get this stubbornness, and what makes me respond in kind?  

Compared to me, Chris is generally more practical about Ada-related matters, wanting mostly to get through a given crisis without permanent scars on any of the three of us. On this night he attempted to keep her in her room while she screamed and threw things. Just as I was starting to cry, the screaming stopped and Ada yelled: "I ripped a book." "Daddy, I'm ripping a book! Mommy, Mommy, I'm ripping a book"

Right, she's four. She knows ripping books is bad. In fact, we talked about it earlier this evening. So she does the worst thing she can think to do; she rips up her books.

When Chris let her out of her room, she told him, "Daddy, I ripped books. I was too mad!"

How can it be that I have absolutely no idea what to do with my maddeningly smart and stubborn 4 year old?

* ** *

We moved Ada's bedtime up a half hour based on the idea that if someone Chris has to lie down with her for a half hour until she falls asleep, we should start that process earlier in the evening. Also, it was a way of making things less fun for her in the hopes that she might decide not to do this "I can't sleep alone" crap much longer. Such a thought is, of course, foolishness. This should be clear to anyone who talked to me in the past two years in which Ada refused to have anything to do with a toilet, until she was ready. No amount of negative lifestyle impacts motivated Ada. So telling her that she can't watch movies, can't play with the ipod, can't play as long because she has to go to bed earlier, pretty much none of that is going to change her mind on this issue. And yet. Still I tell her these things. You'd think I would have learned by now.

Big Girl Party Cake
The cake from Ada's "big girl party" - this party was something we suggested to Ada she could have once she started being a kid who peed and pooped on the potty. Our bribe did not actually motivate a behavior change, but once she accepted the toilet she called in this chip nonetheless. 

Chris lay down with Ada to get her to sleep tonight. Over an hour later, he came down, followed by Ada. When she comes down after bedtime we ignore her, and she is not allowed to play or read or to do anything.  We may not have figured out how to keep her in her room without a lock on the door, but we can deny her entertainment after bedtime. Within 10 minutes she'd fallen asleep. On past nights Chris has been able to carry her upstairs and put her in bed once she falls asleep like this. Cross your fingers that he can do it again.

couch sleeper


  1. any chance you want to get a drink soon? any evening after the kids are asleep?

  2. Ever since we removed the doorknob covers off the inside of the boys' rooms for potty training, we've had to continually change our tactics to keep Nate in his room. Right now our strategy is that we set a timer where someone lays down with him for 10 minutes at bedtime and talks about his day. Lately I think he craves the time on his own.

    When the timer beeps, the parent leaves and then we use 1 2 3 Magic. If he gets to three, then we lock him in his room and/or tell him we won't snuggle with him the following bedtime. He does not want to be locked in his room at all, so this always works. Obviously he can come out to use the bathroom (and we did have some days where he purposefully peed in bed just to not come out). We also found he needs to go to bed later than we had been putting him to bed.

    Personally I feel like it pushes my buttons bc by the end of the day I am tired, and closing their bedroom doors is a transition into my time. And I have already spent so much time that day doing stuff for other people that my patience is always worst after they're supposed to be in bed.

    Hope you don't take this super long comment as assvicey! It is meant in a "going through something similar" way. Sometimes I miss the days of closing that door and it being magically no more kid time!

  3. My own strong-willed four year old is going through a clingy phase. She wants "company" when she's peeing and has begun climbing into our bed more often than usual. I feel like she's trying to crawl up my butt.

  4. oh my.


    i just found a paper we made for micah when he was four:

    be still
    close your eyes
    go to sleep

    i don't know how many times we threatened and then did leave the room because he wasn't do those three things.


    eliza still falls asleep with one of us, but i guess we're just used to it.

    but oh, my, she is having a HARD time in many other areas. BAD.


    p.s. forgive me, but i laughed when i read that ada ripped a book. oh, the power.

  5. Lizzie seems to go through stages where she needs us to lie with her when she falls asleep. Last night she wanted Mommy and not Daddy and I won't lie with her as long as Greg so once I done I left and she was still awake. She asked for Daddy and I said I would talk to him about it but thankfully she quickly went to sleep. If Greg stays in the room with her (which is the norm) he quite often will fall asleep himself! *sigh* I just figure it is a stage and it too shall pass. At least she's not waking up in the middle of the night right now.

  6. In the not so distant pre-parenthood past, I actually thought sleep problems were a newborn issue. Ha! Joke's on me...

    I have no idea what to do in this situation, since our bedtime protester is still young and cannot escape the crib. But, I did see a tactic recently on supernanny, and if it's on tv, it must be a good idea, right?

    Anyway, the parents on the show put their son to bed a little later than usual so that time would be on their side in terms of sleepiness. After reading, cuddle time (normal routine) the parent left while son was still awake. Son left the room, parent then carried the son back to his room without talking and engaging at all, son immediately left room, parent carried back, rinse and repeat for a couple hours. At last, son, crying stayed in bed and fell asleep. And the implication was that this would happen less the next night. I thought 1) sounds like total hell, and could produce breakdown for the parents and 2) What if child can keep it up night after night? But on the off chance it might be useful, I thought I'd relate the story.

  7. De-lurking here. I feel for you. We have a very stubborn 2yo who needs someone to sleep with her to fall asleep. I steam just thinking about all the productive things I could be doing during the 1-2 hours(!) of trying to get her to asleep.

    My sister in law used to coat olive oil on the door knob so that her 3yo could not escape during nap/bed time. That could help your no lock situation.

  8. Most helpful book for us was Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.

    My kids are pretty good sleepers, but I think it's partially because they know their mom will go nuts without sleep.

    The stubborn stuff is harder to crack. My daughter has a hair trigger temper in addition to being very stubborn and will actually hold her breath and pass out. My only comfort is that I don't know any adults who pass out when they're mad, so she will just assume it's a phase.

  9. Grace - olive oil is a hilarious solution! I know some people use those plastic door knob covers that make the knobs too big for kids' hands.

    Cloie - I rarely see adults passing out from breath-holding, so I imagine you are right.

  10. I have a similarly defiant and spitefully stubborn child, and no one's advice about her ever works, so I won't even offer any for you. I'll just say I'm standing here in solidarity. You're not alone.

  11. Oh my lord, woman. I have been there. BEEN. THERE.

    In fact, in some ways, I am still there. Our girl (she turns 5 on Tuesday) only just started being able to fall asleep on her own this past summer and the whole thing started when she was two.

    I wish you fortitude and good luck. And maybe a good child shrink, who helped us a lot.

  12. Oh my. My son's room still has a gate on it and now I think I will never remove it.

    I laughed out loud at the olive oil on the doorknob.

    But also? The book ripping thing made me want to come to your house and say, "well then NO MORE BOOKS FOR YOU young lady." There's a button I didn't know about.Hope my kid doesn't read this.

    sympathies and my only advice is to take up your first commenter on that drink offer.