Racing to Sleep

Most parents look forward to the quieting down of their children at night.  Let’s face it, parents are busy and the only “Me-time” or even “We-time” we get is after the kids are asleep.  For me, though, bedtime is the most stressful time of day.  The whole day seems like a race to get from one moment to the next, with the finish line being bedtime.  My girl looks at bedtime as a starting line for a whole new set of delays and challenges.

Her problems with sleep are deep-rooted.  It’s not her fault; she was never trained to sleep.  She spent the first fifteen weeks of her life being held-by my husband and I and nurses in the hospital.  When we brought her home, we were told not to let her cry for too long due to her lung disease.  The problem was, no one ever told us when that restriction was up, so we never let her “cry it out.” 

Every night, I would rock her in my arms until she fell asleep, then I gently her in her crib.  When she woke up during the night, I would race into her room and repeat the process. Rock and place.  Rock and place. (Unless I just gave in and brought her to bed with me.) This dance continued for the first two years.  We had missed our window of sleep training it seemed.  I did try to let her cry it out at one point.  When I went to check on her after she finally fell asleep, I found her curled up in the corner of her crib.  The entire mattress, except the spot she was in, was covered in vomit.  She cried so hard that she barfed all over her crib!  I was horrified.  I tried one more time (with the same results-blech!) after resuming our tried and true method.  Rock and place. Rock and place.

This could have been me...
This could have been me…

When she got her big girl bed, I thought this was it: my her sleep solution.  She would be so in love with her bed that she would want to sleep in it, all by herself!  (It’s ok, you can stop laughing now.)  In reality, we now have a habit of me snuggling in bed with her, reading three stories, then lights out.  I obey her “Rub my back!” and “Rub ‘tween my toes!” commands until she falls asleep. (What? Your kid doesn’t make you rub between her toes?)

Usually this is the time when her mouth brain goes into overdrive.  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree-my girl has the gift of gab.  She asks me questions from the time the lights go out until she passes out mid-sentence!  Lately she has been super wound up, not falling asleep until 9:30 on some nights.  There have been many times when she wakes ME up, as she has out lasted me in that nice, quiet dark room.

Her sense of wonder, curiosity and memory are astounding to me.   She goes back into the archives of her mind to bring up topics that happened years ago but must be discussed RIGHT NOW!  “Why did the dog climb the ladder? Tell me that story Mommy”  “Why did you crash your car?” “Why your hair not red anymore?” “Why that boy doesn’t love Taylor Swift, Mommy?” “Why did Mrs. Gulch take Toto?”  “Why was Dorothy sad?”  “Why?” “WHY?” “I’m hot.” “I’m cold.” “Can I have a drink of water?”  All these things are pressing on her mind, worrying her every night.

I try to keep my answers as short as I can.  I don’t even try to tell her I don’t know-that just pisses her off and delays sleep even longer.  I try not go get frustrated that she’s still awake.  I try not to reflect how I feel about this bombardment of questions…again.  I try not to worry.  Will she ever sleep on her own?  Will I ever be able to help her sleep on her own?  (Is that wrong?)  Eventually, she gives in to sleep.  Someday I will miss this.  

Every night, I sneak out of her room and rush into the living room to start being a grown up again.  What will it be, scintillating conversation or mindless TV with lots of swears?  Usually, I find that my husband is barely awake on the couch.  I roust him and the dog and corral them to the bedroom.  There’s always time for meaningful conversation tomorrow, right?  We snuggle in and get some shut-eye before our little creeper wakes up and tries to sneak under our covers with more toe rubbing demands.

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15 thoughts on “Racing to Sleep

  1. Wow! Based off the comments this piece really struck people. On the issue of sleep stuff in general, we did “cry it out” with Lillian but the crying was only like 10 minutes at most. Sometimes I wish she would sleep with me, like for naps on the weekends, because I miss her during the workday and I love to snuggle (who doesn’t?!) but then I remind myself that I should be happy she sleeps pretty well…

    1. Sometimes I am glad she wanders into our bed in the middle of the night. We all sleep better! Sometimes she’s stealth and I have no idea she’s there next to me until my alarm goes off in the morning. Every kid is so different. I wish the cry it out worked for us.

  2. The never ending debate about sleep – in the twin mom’s group that I am a part of, there are moms who judge other moms based on what type of sleepers the kids are. The reality of it is that some kids are just naturally better sleepers than others – they fall asleep easily and they stay asleep no matter what’s going on around them. Maybe sleep training has something nominally to do with that, but I truly believe that a person’s ability to fall and stay asleep has more to do with their physiology than the sleep training method that was used.

    Having twins gives you the benefit of seeing where your parenting methods really make a difference (or not). My son is cranky when he goes down for bed, constantly asking for {fill in the blank}. But once he is down, he is DOWN…he sleeps through (unless teething), and gets super annoyed when something wakes him up prematurely – he is the carbon copy of my husband. My daughter is very calm when she goes to sleep – she snuggles her lovie, curls up in her blanket and sings herself to sleep. But she, like me, is a super light sleeper. She wakes up when the dog sneezes or when the wind blows too forcefully, and when she wakes, she wants Mommy to be there to hold her hand. She is my mini-me. My kids sleep in the same bedroom, and I have never treated or trained them differently. They are just different little people with different personalities.

    Look at it this way, there aren’t many 20 year old kids that still need to be rocked to sleep by Mommy…so embrace and enjoy it while you can because these years will fly by quickly, and pretty soon you will be having this same conversation with the very child that you rocked to sleep, only this time, they’re the ones doing the rocking.

    1. Great advice Vivian! We had a saying when Zo was a baby for all her quirks, “That’s just Zoey being Zoey!” It still applies. Good luck with the twins!

  3. We also didn’t do CIO – and I’m so glad. My son actually sleeps so well now, so I think that’s luck combined with him feeling comfortable in his crib (because he never was left to cry in it) – and we did use the No Cry Sleep Solution for some tips. I rocked and nursed him to sleep until 18 months (just a few weeks ago), and now we’ve transitioned to rocking and singing. When he’s ready to go into his crib, he’ll say ‘bye-bye’ to get me to stop singing. I put him down in the crib, wrap him up, turn on his sleep sheep and we say bye bye and love you and I leave. I think it’s hilarious that he wants me out of the room so he can fall asleep.

    1. Thanks Kate! I started to read the Baby Whisperer book when my girl was born and I really liked it. I was just so tired I couldn’t finish the book! My advice to moms-to-be: Do the sleep research before the babe is born and pick your method then so you’re prepared! I love that your son kicks you out of the room.

  4. I’m another in the “we didn’t let them cry” camp over here. Have I wanted to pull my hair out? Yep. But already I’m seeing how fast they grow up, and so for that reason, I wouldn’t have done it any differently if I had it to do over. I also lay with my 4.5 year old each night for 15 minutes or so until he’s sleeping or close (or until he kicks me out! this has happened a few times recently…), and I know I will miss this someday in the not-so-distant future!

    1. Sarah I can’t believe he kicks you out! You’re lucky! But I know you’ll miss the snuggle time. I think it’s frustrating for me 4 years later that she only wants me to lay with her, usually not dad. I know I’ll look back at that when she’s a teenager and pine for these days…

  5. We never could let ours cry it out either, so many nights of rocking her in my arms. Even though mine is only three, I miss those nights of rocking already. Soon enough, she will grow up and won’t want us right there with her. And we will miss those dark nights crowed in a bed full of toys and lovies:)

  6. My son was a warrior of sleep. As an infant I rocked, walked, sang, etc. until he fell asleep. Then he would lay on my chest until he was asleep and I could extricate myself! He’s 15 now, and I long for the days when we had our nighttime routine that consisted of time in the “Nana chair” until he fell asleep or until it was bedtime.

    1. I love that you call him a warrior of sleep! I go through some serious acrobatics to disentangle myself from my girl’s bed and arms too. Thanks!

  7. We’re not much of a sleep-training family ourselves…there are days when the sleep battle brought me to the brink of insanity, but really? This time is so fleeting. I have years ahead of me to watch my reality TV shows…not so many to rock my babies.

    1. Some people swear by the sleep training-whatever method they choose. I just could never toe the line and enforce it. We had happier mornings when my girl slept well. If that meant I had to hold her while she slept then so be it. Thanks for your perspective Elise!

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