Saturday, January 17, 2015

Time for Bed!

snug as a bug in mommy's bed last summer

A good friend asked me, not long after Daniel and Lily came home, "What was my favorite part of being a mother?"

"Bedtime," I answered quickly.

My friend (who doesn't have kids yet) was kind of horrified. I've told this story to many parents, though, and they all nod their heads in agreement.

Bedtime is the best time of the day. Or, to be specific, the best moment is right AFTER they have all fallen asleep, and the house has finally gone quiet, and their sweet little faces nestled in their blankets makes you forget all the drama and turmoil and ridiculousness that might have just happened, or the fact that they have been driving you crazy all day and you are so grateful they are finally, finally, quiet and peaceful. That moment is very sweet.

Because then you know, you've done it. You have kept these precious children alive and relatively happy and hopefully relatively healthy for one more day. They are sleeping, and hopefully they will remain blissfully asleep for many more hours while you get on with doing all the things you need to do or like to do when your children aren't underfoot.

Like the dishes.

Or watching grown up TV.

Or reading.

Or sleeping.

Or pretty much anything that requires quiet, privacy, concentration, or all three of those things. Yes, that is what I'm thinking about too. *

A successful bedtime is cause for celebration. I'll never forget the first night we spent with our children in our own home. Jet lag helped us get everyone to sleep very early and very quickly.  Andrew and I cracked up beers and toasted each other. Hooray! We did it! And then we fell asleep because, jet lag.

Which is why, when you have a child who is bad sleeper, life can get so very very hard so very very quickly.

You might get them to go to sleep, but then you wait, anxiously. Will they sleep all night? Will they wake up screaming? Will we be able to get them back to sleep quickly? How many times will they wake? Do I dare try to (watch a movie, pay bills, try to reconnect with a friend or email or husband?) or should we just go to sleep right now because we are going to be woken up 5 times before dawn?

Bedtime becomes a horrible little game of Russian roulette. In our case, this nasty sleepless game lasted about 2 years. Or maybe 18 months. Or maybe longer... honestly it's kind of all a blur. It was a long time, and it was very unpleasant for everyone, that's all I know for sure.

In our case, Lily started having night terrors when she was about 2 1/2 years old. Around the same time, NOT coincidentally, that she started potty training and she moved into her own room, and also into a toddler bed. (The details of this horror show can be read here, here, here, and here.) We made some pretty bad parenting decisions. Also not coincidentally, because we were not getting any sleep and also it was 2AM. Nothing good happens after 2AM, I think that we can all agree on that.

So from around Fall of 2012 until about Fall of 2014, Lily had big sleep struggles. For a long time she slept in our bed. For a long time she needed one of us to rock with her or sit with her until she fell asleep. For a long time bedtime was a 1-2 hour slog. The worst was when you'd get a full night sleep and wake up and think, "Wow, I feel GREAT!"  And then the next night's 3AM (4AM, 5AM) sleep interruptions feel SO MUCH WORSE.

Eventually, though, after weeks and weeks of hard work, and the miracle of her simply getting older, she learned to fall asleep on her own, and for the most part, sleep on her own all night. (Shh! Don't jinx it!)

In fact, the other morning after she'd accidentally wet the bed (a pretty common and normal occurrence) I asked her to come sleep in my bed, as I didn't feel like getting up and changing her wet sheets. And here is this child, who slept in my bed for TWO YEARS yelling at me,

"I want to sleep in my own bed! I don't want to sleep with you!"

So now I'm arguing with her about how she needs to sleep in my bed... oh, the irony.

Here is what I've learned from parenting a child with some sleep challenges:

1. The most important thing is that everyone sleeps.

2. The most important thing is that everyone sleeps. In bed together, on the floor, on their own, IT DOESN'T MATTER. Sleep "training" is for selling books. Do whatever makes sense for your family as long as everyone is sleeping healthily.

3. Do not make any decisions at 2AM. They will be poor ones.

* My mom reads my blog. Hi Mom!

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