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Friday, 20 December 2013 09:43

Dreaming of a Time When My Children Slept

There was a time, that feels like many months ago, when both of my daughters fell asleep shortly after bedtime and slept peacefully in their beds all night long. It was a beautiful time, and I took it for granted...

Yes, I creeped into their room to take these photos. It felt kind of wrong, but they're just so darn cute when they sleep...

If you can catch them sleeping, which it seems as though they never do these days.

How do you get two little girls - aged one and three, who share a room with no real options to separate them - to sleep? 

It started shortly before we took away Clara's soother (so I guess I can't blame her lack of soother, although I still kind of suspect it's related), that we would put the girls to bed and instead of giggling at each other breifly and falling asleep - they began to party for two hours or more. Seriously, two hours or more - we would put them to bed at around 8pm and by 10:30pm they might finally be sleeping. 

It kind of snuck up on us, because at first we thought the giggling together was cute, and that they were bonding as sisters and we didn't want to discourage that. I loved that they enjoyed this time together. But soon 5 minutes became 15 minutes, and suddenly they were becoming so worked up with each other that the giggling - and occasional crying, because I think they just couldn't handle the excitement - began to last an unbelievable amount of time. 

We also noticed - quite suddenly - the effect that not getting enough sleep was having on Clara. We began to see a toddler who was pretty much whiny and tantruming all day long. Ever seen that Gilmore Girls' episode where Chris drops his 3-year-old Gigi off for Lorelai to babysit, and the child is a terror? That was Clara for a few days, except Clara doesn't actively get into stuff as much as she cries, whines, begs and talks back. Then one night - miraculously - Clara slept for a full 12 hours overnight. The next day she became the most beautiful little girl. She played alone happily for long periods of time, and played happily with Audrey and me without grabbing toys or demanding that things go her way.  We had a few minor incidents, sure, but nothing that lasted and she was happy to comply with almost everything all day long. I hadn't realized how much difference a few hours of sleep could make in her life. 

At first we didn't really know what to do about it - and we just dealt with it in the moment, instead of trying to solve the problem. If Audrey wouldn't sleep, we would try to figure out why by giving her more milk, changing her diaper, letting her play longer... and suddenly she was staying up later and sleeping in longer, and keeping her sister awake at night also.  We were frustrated, because we didn't want to start disciplining Audrey for laughing - how do you explain that to a baby?

One night, we decided to just let them be and 'see what happened'.  Thinking, that if we didn't jump in to try to 'fix' the problem, that the girls would find an equilibrium and fall asleep on their own.

Were we ever wrong. 

At 10pm we went into their room and Clara was jumping on the bed - completely naked - and Audrey was hyperactively bouncing in her crib and cackling maniacally. It was a little bit terrifying, and we realized that letting children raise themselves was probably not a good option... unless, of course, we intended them to become wild animals which is the direction they seemed to be going. 

Nanny McPhee... we NEED you!

Now that Clara's behaviour had evolved into what was clearly unacceptable behaviour - she had gone from simply giggling to jumping on the bed and taking her clothes off, and THAT we could discipline her for - we gave her a warning and then stood by her bedroom door until she began to jump on the bed again. As warned, she was disciplined, and then I stood by her door, intermittently entering her room to catch her misbehaviour until she gave up and fell asleep after only about 10 minutes of struggle. 

The next night, we decided to take this approach from the beginning - and start to actively be parents.  

We got out the Scrabble game and sat at the kitchen table (just a few feet from their bedroom door) and quietly played a game while taking turns going into their room to discipline Clara for misbehaviour.  In the process of this, to try to help Audrey learn what is appropriate night-time behaviour also, we would lay her back down in her crib if she was standing, give her back her soother if she had thrown it on the ground, and tell both girls to be quiet, and that it is bedtime.  

On one of the first few times I entered the room and saw Audrey standing, upon saying 'No, Audrey... it's time to sleep', she threw herself down in her crib as though pretending to sleep. ("No really, Mom, I was sleeping the whole time!") And I realized that she understood that she was supposed to remain lying down also.  From this point, I gave her a warning also - I told her to remain lying down, and not to throw her soother on the ground. 

After about an hour of hovering by their bedroom door, both girls had finally given up - Clara much sooner than Audrey - and fallen asleep. 

We are now ready for a few more nights of evening battles - hopefully they will decrease in length over the next few days - and we hope and pray that they will have relearned how to quickly fall asleep at bedtime. 

So now, if someone were to ask me how to get two kids to sleep in the same room - and actually fall asleep at bedtime? My advice would be to NOT ignore the situation, and to be consistent and stubborn - hold out longer than they do.  Our purpose now is to make sure that staying awake at bedtime isn't fun for them anymore (which is sad for me, but necessary for them). 

Do you have any ideas for us, or any other families that might be experiencing this also? 

Read 2379 times Last modified on Friday, 20 December 2013 10:53

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