Like most toddlers, mine fights bedtime. He comes by it honestly; he’s a night owl like his Momma and Daddy. Granted, some of it is dictated by Mommy and Daddy’s schedule. We go into the office a little later, which means we leave a little later, so dinner isn’t usually until 6:30. Then there’s bath, downtime (hey, I gotta get my snuggles in!), and finally, bedtime. We aim for 8:30, but many nights it’s closer to 9:00. And when we’re not on a school schedule? Fugehddabout it. . .he’s happily awake until after 9:30. Now, don’t worry, he also usually sleeps in. If we don’t have to wake him up for school, he’ll often sleep until 8:30 or 9 in the morning (please don’t throw things at me – I have plenty of Mommy guilt about how late he’s up at night).
Most of the time, his anti-bedtime antics are pretty typical toddler tricks. Whining, dragging his feet (sometimes literally), and asking for stories, hugs, water, you get the idea. But about the time he turned 3, he ratcheted it up about 3,000 notches. We went from typical stall tactics to all-out screaming fits. We’re talking hour plus, sometimes make himself sick screaming. It would usually end in a complete Mommy meltdown – some of my worst Mommy moments to date.
Something had to give.
I don’t know really, how we worked this out, but here’s what works for us right now. After brushing teeth, Sam gets a drink of water. It can be as big or as little as he wants, but that’s it for the night. Once he gets upstairs, there are no more drinks, and for right now, he accepts that. Stories and songs are dependent on bedtime behavior (and admittedly, who takes him to bed – Mommy is more inclined to do stories and sing than Daddy). And finally, and this is the biggie – the bedroom door is key leverage. If Sam cooperates, we agree to leave his door cracked a little (about 6 inches). He doesn’t have to go to sleep right away, but he has to stay in bed, and stay quiet – no crying or calling out for Mommy or Daddy to bring something to him – or the bedroom door gets closed all the way.
While it’s not perfect, most nights it works pretty well. There are many nights I hear things like this on the monitor long after bedtime, but I’ll take it over screaming fits ANY NIGHT.
Julie Daneman is wife to Bryan, Stepmom to Jacob and Caleb, and Mommy to Sam. They are a boisterous, loving, happy interfaith family.