Sunday, April 05, 2009

the step too far

Tonight we put the pumpkin to bed with his candle still lit. This was a mistake.

I mean, he looked tired, he acted tired, he was all flickery and vague and asking for his favourite books but when it came to lights out well... he guttered, he sputtered and he burst back into life.

The trouble is that a couple of times recently we let him cross that invisible line between 'enough' and 'too far' and allowed him to experience the dubious luxury of falling asleep on the sofa, in the livingroom, while the TV is on and so now, of course, he knows that this is within the realms of the possible.

We have a several-stage night time plan. Our beloved routine, the praises of which I have loudly sung limps bravely on into the ever-lightening evenings however with a few changes. Firstly, we stand by the 3 'B's of bedtime - bath, books, bottle. Yes yes yes, I know, he'll never talk properly or grow up big and strong or leave home if we don't confiscate his bottle right now but that's how it is, he likes to fall asleep clutching it the way some children clutch their blankies and hey, that's OK with me. So anyway, bath, books and bottle and then, one hopes, bed. Sometimes this works, however if he's not sufficiently tired, we have some playing about that ends with him asking to sleep on the nursery sofa.

This is all very cute, he has his pillow and his blanket and his tigger and his bottle and sometimes his nightlight and he cosies down on what is anyway a futon and sinks blissfully to... well first we have to read ''Duck in the Truck'' several times so that he can chant 'Duck! Truck! Track! Back! Rock! Muck! Feet!" etc. Then I have to lie down beside him until he falls asleep. If, however, when I get up and leave, there is still the tiniest flicker of awareness left awake... the itsiest, titchiest smidgen of flame still wavering, he can turn that into a firestorm of energy and we all know where that goes.

Sadly it happened again tonight and it happens because we are too exhausted to stop it. We just want to sit and eat our dinner and not have it go cold while we do shifts getting him to sleep. We don't want to have to listen to him sob himself to sleep while we sleep train him - firstly the flat is too small and he is too loud, secondly we are too soft and finally he just gets up and walks up to us, presenting us with his sobs like Salome with John the Baptist's head: 'Here is my sorrow, try and enjoy your dinner NOW you rotten sods'. So, like some sort of lame political party, we are trying to find the third way, the path between firm and floppy parenting, the path that will, on average, get us a hot dinner but will also, sometimes, leave us white and exhausted while Salome dances on the sofa beside us, pointing wildly at the cat, flames burning brightly.


Michelle said...

What an analogy, Sparx! I agree that bedtime is terribly difficult! Because of my own exhaustion at that point in the day, I too struggle!

Anonymous said...

Ah, I know so well this: between firm and floppy...:-)
Well, hell with the bottle! Dante is almost four and still has a pacifier stuck in his gob every night, despite warnings of his teeth shifting outwards to what Danes laconically call "flying teeth". 'Tis our paradigm, flying teeth or no. Enjoy your dinner, says I.

Sparx said...

Michelle - and you have two of them as well; I guess we just have to struggle on, hey?

Jennie - oops! Firm and floppy... bit of Freud at work there hey? :) :). Flying teeth, I love it. Well, these things are correctable.

Mary T said...

Ah yes, I am very familiar with this scenario. My boys are often still found cavorting about the house long past bedtime. The more annoyed we get the more amusing they find it. I sympathise.

Anonymous said...

I still have a comfort blanket in my bed (although I can deal without it now).
I'm 18.

Oh dear.

Maternal Tales said...

Oh that doesn't sound like much fun :-((
I hate bedtimes when the children don't feel like going to sleep. It's the one time my patience is really stretched...
I say let him cry and buy some earplugs. Harsh, but better for you (and him) in the long run.


Jonny's Mommy said...

I am so relieved to read this post. It means Hubby and I are not alone in being tired, soft saps and simply too exhausted to deal with the crying and screaming and flailing. I love the way you told this. Great entertainment.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, I think I could have written the exact same post! I went floppy a long time ago, and am in the midst of fixing it . . . which so far only means that both the kids and I go to bed at 7:30. I suspect when the next creature is born and I no longer require a full 12-hours of sleep a night (which I will not be getting anyway), I will be forced to use a firm hand. As always, so entertaining to read - you have such a wonderful way with words!

jaguarish said...

My firstborn had the very knack of getting extra minutes and hours out of us at bedtime, so I completely sympathise. I'd like to encourage you to try one of the experts' techniques though -- not just for your own sanity, but for the spud's health as well in having proper bedtimes. Sure, you're tired, but if you invest about a week of effort, you will save yourself another year of terrible bedtimes! I found the Baby Whisperer to be excellent and Nanny 911 also have some good suggestions.

cactus petunia said...

Long ago, when my son was little (and "Supernanny" was probably still in grade school) we accidentally stumbled upon a pretty useful method of keeping him in his bed: every time he got up, we'd quietly escort him back to bed and say "good night". (and not a word more than that) It lets them know you're listening, you love them, and you'll always be there, but they have to sleep in their own bed.

I think he got it after about five or six nights (and about 25 times per night!) Then, bedtime was a snap for about a month, when my daughter was born and we had to do it all over again...

And I'm pretty sure (25 years later) both of them manage to sleep through the night these days, all on their own!

Good luck!

DJ Kirkby said...

Do you frustrating as times like this must be for you and Frog...your literary depiction of it is incredible beautiful and made my chest feel tight when I read it.

Etta said...

One of my friends has the 'family bed' because she cannot get past this scenario. And she loves to be surrounded by her little ones. I have to have that time alone to recharge. And to have that time with my husband :) I agree with the quiet escort back to bed without any soothing. It really does work- but you have to make sure that you are not making it warm and fuzzy (snuggling, etc) for him to keep getting back up. You can do it!

Sparx said...

Mary T - yes, it's the laughing at our exasperation which is also difficult!

Raz - ooh, confession! Mind you - special blanket: not a bad idea

Maternal Tales - you are probably right... I am probably too soft tho...

Jonny's Mommy - oh no, you are NOT alone!!

Fishsticks - yes, and you're going to have THREE of them to get to bed soon! I'm glad I'm reading that one from afar...

Jaguarish... you're right and we do have the baby whisperer... we know what to do, we just haven't managed to do it yet... sad, hey?

Cactus - I like that one, I tried it tonight and it sort of worked... took a while though...

DJ - you're SO LOVELY! thanks so much.

Etta - yes I think it's the best way... the family bed is a slippery slope; we have a part time slippery slope of our own there...

Potty Mummy said...

Just been catching up Sparx - it's a tricky time, I don't envy you. And as for the bottle, well Boy #2 won't give his up either. And he's over 3. So shoot me; he can talk - too much, sometimes - and drink from a cup as well. It's just that stubborn little devil that he is, when it's milk, he chooses not to...

Good luck, is all I can say!

SAHM-I-AM said...

I could have sworn you were talking about my 1st born a few months ago when I read this. He's now able to put himself to sleep but still wakes up 2-4 times a night crying for mommy or daddy while his younger brother sleeps through it all. I offer you sympathy but no answers coz, frankly, I don't know what went wrong with no.1 and what went right with no.2. You have a way with words. Nice blog.

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