The Bedtime Blues for Wood

We could tell Nana was tired a bit earlier than usual, most likely because we gave her Benadryl to help with her itching. Wood gave her a bath as usual and got her dressed and I helped her brush her teeth.  I told her that Daddy was going to read her a book and then she would say her prayers and go to bed.  I gave her a kiss and hug and left her with Wood.

Wood has not been successful so far in getting Nana to go to bed.  She screams and cries at the top of her lungs for Mommy.  She is really upset and it is hard for me to listen.  Most time he ends up giving up and I come in to get her to settle down and go to bed.

My bedtime routine is focused on getting her to wind down and prepare her mind for going to sleep.  Most people need to relax before falling asleep so a two-year old shouldn’t be any different.  We sit in the chair and rock.  We talk about our day and she usually repeats what I say.  “We woke up and we ate breakfast.”  “Bekfas. ”  “You ate oatmeal and apples.”  “Apple.”  Then I tell her that we can sing a song together and afterwards it’s time for her to get in the bed.  We sing “Rock a Bye Baby” since she knows the song and we can sing it together.  Then I put her on the floor and tell her that its time for her to get in the bed.  If she hasn’t prayed, we will say our prayers.  Sometimes she climbs in herself and sometimes I have to ask her if she wants Mommy to help her (if she is balking against getting in).  I put her on her stomach, put her baby doll next to her and then tuck her and baby doll in.  I kiss her night night.  After that, I don’t speak very much.  I don’t implore her repeatedly to lay down. I don’t shush her.  I don’t really engage.  Most of the time she stays laying down but if she pops up, I lay her back down and tuck her back in.   I really don’t stress over her kicking off the covers or twisting around too much as long as she stays in the bed.  I stay in the room and count to 60 to make sure she gets settled in.  Sleep usually starts to overtake her in less than a minute anyway.  Then I leave.  Sometimes she wails a little bit, but usually no longer than a minute.

Tonight we came to a head.  I tried very hard to stay out of it.  After he reads the book and they say their prayers, the screaming begins.  He really tries, he tells her that Daddy is there, he sings to her, I’m assuming he is rubbing her and trying to sooth her while this is going on.  He left the room but she popped up and left the bed.  He put her back to bed, and she continued to scream.  He started to get frustrated when she got out of the bed a second time.  After putting her to bed, he told me to leave her alone and let her cry.

I couldn’t do it.  I’m not opposed to cry it out but only as a last resort.  After a few minutes, I felt like I had to step in and stop the screaming.

I really don’t like this tension between Wood and I in regards to parenting but I have some thoughts on why bedtime is giving Wood the blues.   First, perhaps they don’t have enough of a bond for her to trust him putting her to sleep and letting her cry it out won’t help with that.  Secondly, Wood feels like this is a discipline issue and I don’t agree.  He feels like she needs to learn to listen to him and just go to bed.  For a two-year old, this seems unreasonable.  Yes, when our parents told us to go to sleep we had better get in that bed or we were in for it, but since I was old enough to remember this, I probably was over 5 more likely to comprehend the request.    Thirdly, this baby is in foster care.  Even things from our own upbringing that we believe worked well should be looked at skeptically when attempting to recreate them with a child who has gone through trauma.  Many children in foster care have sleep and food issues.  She’s young but our actions may still be a trigger and we need to keep that in mind.  Lastly, we need to come up with a routine that works for both of us putting her to bed so that she gets used to him but doesn’t feel like she needs to scream.  Wood wanted to take over bath and bed since he felt like it was a good time to get one-on-one bonding time but perhaps we need to rethink this and find some other one-on-one time for them.

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6 thoughts on “The Bedtime Blues for Wood

  1. I definitely recommend talking and making a game plan with Wood. Even though it appears that a new child is adapting to a new home, bedtime is a very common issue for them. You can’t rush the child feeling safe and secure. Changing homes and caregivers is a huge transition.
    When we got Splash, it took TWO months (that’s about 60 bedtimes!) before we could put her in bed and walk out of the room. For the first 30 bedtimes or so, we struggled to keep her in her bed, and she wouldn’t fall asleep unless one of us was sitting right next to her bed. If we tried to leave too early, she would start bawling and get out of bed. We quickly learned to sit with our backs to her because if we were facing her she would try to engage with us. Over the two months, we had the same bedtime routine every single night, and we slowly started sitting farther and farther from her bed. Eventually we were able to sit outside the bedroom door, and then finally we could just walk away from her room. The day that happened it was such an amazing feeling.
    I agree with you that this isn’t a discipline issue. If she had been with you for the past two years and started doing this now to test limits, that would be a completely different story. This is more to do with a child in a new home who wants to feel safe, and right now she feels safer when you put her to bed. Maybe you could both put her to bed for a while, and when she seems ready, start taking turns with who actually stays in the room with her for a few minutes once she’s in bed. Don’t worry that you’re setting any bad habits. Once she starts feeling safe, you’ll be able to make adjustments to end up with the bedtime routine that you ultimately want. It just takes lots and lots and lots of patience.

    • Jessamy – thanks for the words of experience and encouragement. It’s critical that we remember that we don’t know her history and we should tread lightly, even when outside observers (or our past experiences or parenting examples) may tell us that we are being permissive or passive. I like your idea of both of us putting her to bed and eventually trading off when she feels safe.

      I actually like our bedtime routine and hope that both Wood and I are able to establish a routine that feels safe for her and also gives her good memories as she grows up.

      • Bedtime routines have been hard with two of our placements (the third was a newborn so it wasn’t an issue with him). I’m glad what we learned from suffering through those experiences might help someone else. I’ve actually been meaning to write a post on this topic. I just might finally get to that this weekend.

        Best of luck to you two as you continue working with Nana to get her comfortable with your routine!

    • We talked this morning about putting her to bed jointly. I’m grateful to have a partner that is fully invested in parenting, even through all the not so fun parts so I want him to feel successful. I think this will give him an opportunity to observe what I do to calm her down and for her to get used to seeing him before sleep without a lot of anxiety. Jessamy suggested that we eventually start taking turns and I think that is a great idea – once we see that she settles down with both of us.

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