She wouldn’t sleep. But…
She had been recently night time potty trained… she was sick with strep and I let her sleep in my bed… we had guests… I was sick… The list could go on and on. I sat wracking my brain about what the reason could be. Is it something she watched? Something she was eating? Too much water before bed? We had been up 10-12 times a night for two weeks now! That’s less sleep than when I had a newborn. I was grumpy, my husband was grumpy, she was grumpy.
Every night we put her to bed and talked about staying in bed. “If you stay in bed and let mommy sleep, we get to do way more fun things tomorrow!” We tried everything… reward charts, Super Nanny’s three times out of bed trick, more attention/mommy time. Everything! She was still up 10-12 times a night asking us to put her covers back on her. I would lovingly oblige most of the time. I mean, after all, she’s only three, she doesn’t get it, she needs help. I would put the covers on her, leave her room and watch her immediately take them off, come out of her room and ask me to do it again.
Then it happened. It all hit the fan.
We had one night of weeping and gnashing of teeth. We told her that if she got up, she would have to do the covers herself and we weren’t going to do it. She immediately got out of bed to test this new theory. My husband went back in her room with her to tell her that she had to do it herself. I knew that things had gone terribly wrong when my husband (who never gets mad about anything) came out carrying all of her covers in his hand and Caroline following closely behind crying “no, no, no.”
After two weeks of no sleep and a million conversations trying to get to the underlying reason, I figured it out. It was really ALL about the covers. She wanted them perfectly straight and if she put them on herself they wouldn’t be. I’ve been around A LOT of children in my day and I know that this is pretty typical three-year-old behavior. It was time for some tough love.
We took her covers and dressed her in footie pajamas. I felt really bad about sending her to bed with no covers. My husband said, “We don’t live in North Dakota and our house is pretty warm.” That made me feel a little better (read: still pretty miserable). We both felt pretty miserable. Neither one of us like for our kids to go to sleep sad. We explained to her that if she could stay in bed for two nights in a row, she could have her covers back, but she would still have to put her own covers on if she got up. The good news is that she stayed in her bed and slept all night (which means I got to sleep all the way through two nights). She earned her covers back on her bed and assured me that she could put them on herself. So we went back to “normal”. We put her to bed, sang songs, hugged and kissed her and put her covers on her…one time.
At 2 in the morning, I felt little fingers tapping on my face. Spoiler alert…it was Caroline, asking me to put her covers on her. At 2 a.m. I made a tough decision (on a side note: 2 in the morning is not a great time to be deciding things. Night wakings are rough for everyone since no one is in their right mind). I calmly told the three year-old that I wasn’t getting up, she had to do her own covers and if I had to come in there, I was going to take them away again.
For the next 20 minutes, I listened to her crying (loudly) in her bed. She had left her door open and was wailing. In her mind, if she’s super loud, she knows that I’ll come in there so that she won’t wake up the baby. She knows I’ll be mad, but she doesn’t care as long as I fix the covers. After 20 minutes, most of which I spent thinking, “If I’m going to be awake anyway shouldn’t I just go fix her covers and get it over with?”, she got up, closed her door, laid down, and PUT THE COVERS ON HERSELF!
There really isn’t any point to this story or underlying moral. I don’t have any tips for you if you’re dealing with the same thing. I felt like the meanest person in the world; I’m still not sure that it was the best way to handle the situation. But I do know that she is sleeping all night now which is better for her and better for all of us really. Sometimes being a mom is tough in every sense of the word.