For anyone who has suffered with a child who refuses to stay in bed at night or naps, this is going to sound crazy, but until two nights ago Ada had NEVER gotten out of bed on her own. She has let us know when she wants to get up, mostly by yelling out or kicking the wall, but until this week she never, ever got up out of bed without Chris or me coming in to her room first. Even when she went diaper-free last year and she was regularly wetting the bed in the morning, she would just lie there until we came to get here. I don't think this was so much a sign of her compliance as it has been a weird way for her to control us.
I mention this, of course, because two nights ago Ada came into our room in the middle of the night. She'd had a nightmare, and as we'd never considered what to do when our eldest appeared at our bedside, we brought her into bed with us. It wasn't perfect, but we all slept reasonably well for the next few hours. The next night, Ada woke up at 2:30 with a wet bed. Chris got up to help her, but then she refused to go back to bed. I woke up to them arguing, and by the time I collected myself enough to engage, Chris had brought her into our room saying that she could sleep with me and he would sleep in her bed. Not perfect, but Chris decided that: (a) he wasn't going to convince Ada to sleep in her bed; (b) he needed to do something so that he could get back to sleep; and (c) three in our bed was not a great solution two nights in a row.
In the morning Chris and I agreed that we needed to talk to Ada about the fact that she would not be sleeping with us again, and the talk needed to happen before bedtime (when such a chat would be clouded by fatigue on her part and a desire to get her to sleep on ours). We talked to Ada about the bed situation during dinner, without a lot of receptivity on her part. At bedtime we got through the bath and books, and then Ada declared she was not going to sleep. I declared that she would be. She said she could not, as when she went to bed there were monsters in her bed. After first trying the "there are no monsters in your bed" gambit, I decided to follow a different course. I asked her if she wanted some anti-monster spray that we could shpritz around her room. I held my breath, waiting for her to call bullshit on the idea of monster repellant. Amazingly, she agreed to get some spray.
We headed downstairs, where I grabbed some clove oil and searched briefly for our spray bottle. When I could not find the bottle, I grabbed a clean cloth diaper and we headed back upstairs. I put some oil on the cloth and started to wipe the side of her bedframe.
"No, the monsters don't come on the bed there."
"Where do they come on?"
"They are just on the bed."
I wiped the sheets, pillow and comforter with the clove-doused cloth. Then, with Ada's approval, I rubbed the cloth on the head and foot boards. Ada thought we should also wipe my bed, saying "when I was in your bed I saw a monster there too." I wiped my comforter, pillow and sheets, focusing on the top of the bed where Ada said she'd seen the monster.
We returned to her room, where I told her she should take the cloth. That way, if she saw a monster she could put the cloth on her chest to keep the monster away. Ada asked "why don't monsters like this?"
"I'm not sure. Maybe it smells too strong for them. I kind of like it, though."
And then Ada got into her bed, I told her a woodchuck story, and left her with my usual "I love you" and other soothing words. Now I am crossing my fingers. I hope that the smell of the clove oil helps, that it is strong enough to make her feel it is working. I love my little girl and I hate for her to be scared. And yes, I hate to wake up at 2:30 on a night the babies actually sleep through.
I wrote this on Friday night. Ada slept through the night and was not eaten by monsters. Now it is Saturday night, and Chris and I have been talking to, arguing with and practically wrestling Ada. She says she needs us to sleep. She is refusing to go to bed, and wants to sleep in our bed. She says that the monsters will eat her. (I tried the logic of "if the monsters had eaten you last night, you wouldn't be here now." This worked not at all.) I finally left the room, figuring that my presence was making things worse. After a full 40 minutes of arguments with Ada, Chris finally told her he was done and walked out.
What do you do when a child refuses to go to sleep? What should we do?