We've all heard the adage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." But....when something breaks, fixing it sometimes just doesn't cut the mustard. Sometimes you have to completely scrap everything you know and start all over.
One of the easiest things about parenthood for me has always been bedtimes. Mari has always been a rockstar sleeper. Other than occasionally whining because she would rather play than take a nap or that she wanted to stay up longer, she has always gone to nap and bed without a fuss, without getting up, and would sleep all night. Sure, she is a super early riser and there have been episodes throughout the last 3 years (usually when she was making some big developmental leaps) where she would have trouble with sleeping the whole night. But, honestly, we have absolutely coasted by. Until now.
I'm not even sure when it happened. I really began feeling the stress of it between Thanksgiving and Christmas but I think it was well before that when it started. Probably back around September, maybe? I remember dealing with some behavior issues after our beach trip but between that throwing our schedule all off and the fact that she moved into a new, more advanced class at school, I took this lapse in stride.
Back around Thanksgiving, we were really revving it up with fighting going to bed and getting up in the middle of the night (usually multiple times) and really fighting about going back to bed.
One thing that Mari really enjoyed was being able to stay up and read for a little while. So I moved her bookcase and lamp next to her bed and she would get 10 minutes of reading time after I read her stories. I also gave her permission to turn her lamp back on and read in the middle of the night if she woke up and couldn't go back to sleep (this was my mom's suggestion). It worked, she stopped getting out of bed in the middle of the night shortly after Thanksgiving and I don't think she ever actually took advantage of the middle-of-the-night reading session. Unfortunately, the novelty of being able to read in bed by herself wore off very quickly too.
I started toying with the idea to move Mari up to a bigger bed around Christmastime (as you can see, her bed was a little crowded). The only time the guest bed is used is for company maybe 1-2 times a year....and the guest bed is used by me as I usually give my guests the master bed/bath. So I figured, I could move the full bed into her room and then just bunk with her when we had guests. When I offered her a bigger bed, I was super surprised when she flat out refused, saying she didn't want a new bed cause hers "was a perfect fit."
Bedtimes started getting harder and harder. We tried rewards, we tried threats, we tried the old "put the kid back to bed but completely ignore her because she just wants attention" method, Santa Claus sent her messages to stay in bed, she got some of her Christmas toys taken away, she had TV taken away. It became a huge battle. Most nights she ended up finally crashing at around 9:30-10:00 when, before, she could never make it past 8:30.
#1. We were no longer reading before bedtime - Mari has just gotten too big for sitting with me in the rocking chair to read and it was not relaxing to sit on the floor by her bed and read. So we'd pretty much stopped.
#2. Our bedtime routine of "I Love You"s and kisses/hugs was nonexistent because she started throwing a fit as soon as we headed to her room.
#3. It had become a big game for her to try to "sneak" out of her room as many times as she could.
So we needed something new. After some discussion with some of the greatest friends in the world (have I ever mentioned how much I love the people that adoption has brought into my life? WOW!), I came up with a new game plan. I decided not to give Mari a choice about moving up to a big bed. I'm trying to reorganize the house and a huge part of that plan was giving her the guest room bed. It was suggested that, if this was going to be a definite change in the future, then I should go ahead and do it - no point in fixing bedtime and then trying to throw in a new bed. When I re-proposed the idea to Mari, it turns out that she was only worried about keeping her favorite blankets, NO PROBLEM!
Operation Save Bedtime
We moved out Mari's toddler bed and moved the big bed into her room. She loved "helping" me and was really excited to get to pick a set of "Mommy's sheets" to put on her bed. I explained what a big girl she was and how exciting it was going to be to have a big bed.
The first night, I was able to crawl up next to her and read her a bunch of books right there in bed. Then we also worked to fix problem #2 (the hugs/kisses) by taking another mom's suggestion of instituting a snuggle time. I set a timer for 5 minutes and laid with Mari and we talked & talked & talked & talked. (Turns out 5 minutes is not long enough for her to wind down and relax, so we upped it to 10 minutes after that!)
Since it is still dark out when we get up (6am), she really can't tell whether it is morning or not when she wakes up. So I found her "OK to Wake" alarm clock that we had bought awhile ago and set it for her. It glows a soft green when it's okay for her to be up. It never worked before but I guess now she's old enough to "get it" - she has not gotten up once before the green glow appeared since we started this. She will often come in my room at 6:00 to tell me that her light "finally" turned green!
She was pretty happy with the results! So was I!
The best part of it...instead of dreading bedtime, I now look forward to it. I've always loved reading to her and now I can do it comfortably. And the snuggle time is the best. It's our favorite part of the day and after Mari talks my ear off for a couple minutes, she settles down and it's usually a struggle for her to stay awake until Mommy leaves the room.