We had been accommodating Ellie and her unreasonable night time demands for too long. Aya was exhausted from putting her down, and I was exhausted from handling the middle of the night cry sessions, which always ended with me sleeping with her on the floor. It was time for a change. To reclaim our evenings and get our good night’s sleep back! The plan was to survive through the Holidays, but as soon as Aya went back to work, it was time for me to make a stand. There was no more pretending it was just a “phase.” I have to face this head on. It was to be the biggest challenge of my life. I had to do it, and I had to do it alone.
The night before Aya went back to work, I didn’t want to go to sleep. I knew what the next day would bring and I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have a concrete plan. I had suggestions from some friends and looked up some articles online, but I never formulated my exact plan. And because of that, I was stalling. This battle would be very different from the last time I had to tackle Ellie’s sleeping habits. She is smarter and stronger now. And she can read me and my weaknesses like a book.
Last time I knew it was going to be an all out brawl with a lot of crying. And in preparation, I pumped myself up by listening to the Rocky soundtrack every day. This battle was all mental though. Listening to “Eye of the Tiger” on repeat just wasn’t going to cut it. Also, last time it was just her nap time I fought over. This time, each day would have three bouts; naptime, bed time, and her middle of the night wake up call. It would be all mind games and a power struggle. We’d be like ninjas playing mind tricks on each other. Or is that Jedis? Either way, Ellie already had her mind sharp and her moves precise, but I was lost on finding what my method would be.
In my effort to put off going to bed, I was watching episode after episode of TV shows on Netflix. You’d think I’d be doing Sudoku puzzles to sharpen my mind or something. You know, push-ups for my brain. But no, I was mindlessly watching TV while unproductively worrying. But then my inspiration came to me from an unlikely source. The TV show The Office. I was watching the episode where Will Ferrell’s character hires a barber to give him a shave in his office on his first day of work. This is what I needed to do. I needed a power move! She was not the boss of me, I was! I had to re-establish power and control. I had direction now. Still not having a specific plan but feeling inspired, I finally went to bed.
I had a play date scheduled in the morning in hopes to tire Ellie out making her naptime a little easier. It was my only plan so far. The rest, well, I was just going to have to wing it. I’m guided a lot by what my gut tells me.(not always the best after a full meal, but that’s different) Sometimes the best preparation for me is not preparing. I was hoping that was the case for this scenario.
During the play date my friend was telling me she was having similar problems at naptime and night time with her daughter and said I should report my findings to her. This gave me more motivation to go to work. I wasn’t facing this challenge just for me or Ellie, but for all mankind including moms, dads and two year olds everywhere. (I don’t actually think this, I’m just adding drama to the story)Failure was not an option.
You know that part in the movies when the hero has to go fight the bad guy by myself, but before he does, he turns to his side-kick and says, “You better stay here kid, things could get messy.” That’s where I was. After our friends said goodbye, I set off to begin my epic life changing battle. Only I didn’t have a side-kick waiting on the sidelines to save me just incase.
Things started fierce right from the beginning. She started crying and shouting “noo, noo!” This was it, I had to make my power move. I said, “If you want me to stay, you have to lie down in bed.” And when she didn’t lie down, I left the room and shut the door. She ran over and started pounding on the door, “Dada! Nooo!” I replied firmly with, “Are you going to behave? Are you going to lie down in bed?” She whimpered and said, “Yeaah.” But I’d open the door and she wouldn’t lie down. I repeated this process 5 or 6 more times until she actually did climb into her bed when I opened the door. She was in her bed, not crying, and I was not lying on the floor next to her. I had taken back control. Now I just needed to keep it.
When I started reading to her from the chair, the Jedi mind tricks started. She kept requesting different books and asking me to sit on the floor. I didn’t respond at first. She stared at me, and I stared back. The room was loud with our silence, and that’s when I threatened to leave the room again. But this time she totally called my bluff and said, “Go.” Wait, what? “You want me to leave the room?” I asked. “Yeah, go,” she said. Ummm, okay? So I left.
I sat in the hallway with the door cracked open waiting to see what her next move would be and wondering who was in control. And that’s when I realized that I had just done what she wanted. She tricked me! Wait a minute, this is not cool. So I went back in. Who does she think she is telling me what to do? I sat there in the chair thinking, “Yeah, you want a piece? Bring it! I’m not going anywhere!” But then again, it occurred to me. I was in the room with her. I was exactly where she wanted me to be. Wasn’t I? I know I didn’t want to be there sitting in the chair waiting for her to sleep. Was this her plan all along? I was more confused than I was after watching Inception. Was she bluffing, or was I? Who was really in control? She was more skilled than I anticipated.
While my rusted out mind was taking awhile to catch up to what was happening, she kept sitting up in bed saying, “Go, go, go.” When I decided to leave the room, she’d get out of bed and go play around with her toys. This was not play time! I had to get the upper hand again. So I said, “I’ll go if you lie down.” Yeah, that’s right. Who’s in control now? Lie down lady!
She finally laid down and I left camping it out in the hallway, waiting. When she tried to get out of bed I’d open the door part way and tell her to lie down. She’d smile slyly like, “Oh man, busted… okaaaay.” She rustled around a bit and finally fell asleep, not crying, and with me out of the room. From when I left the room, to when she fell asleep was about a half hour. It’s been taking about an hour lately with me lying on the floor next to her. Not bad for day one.
I wasn’t quite sure what or how it happened, but I considered it a win. Even if it was accidental. Will I get this lucky at bedtime?
The bedtime routine had somehow turned into a two and half hour fiasco. My goal was to streamline it a bit and to not be on the floor when she fell asleep. If she could fall asleep with me in the chair instead, I would consider that progress and be happy.
I started her bath at 8:15pm (a little later than I would have liked) and kept things at a good pace. She let me put her pajamas on, but as soon as I said it was time for books, she flipped. We played the open door closed door game for bit until she agreed to sit. When I left the room, it wasn’t for long at all. It was literally just a few seconds each time. After 3 times, she stopped crying and gladly climbed in my lap to read books.
We read a few books in the chair, and then it was lights out and bed time. Her first move was to be cute. She started smiling while patting her pillow for me to lie down. Then giving me hugs while giggling. She was trying to break down my walls with rainbows and lollipops. I had to stay strong.
Instead of walking out completely and starting another round of door games, I agreed to read to her while sitting in the chair. Her book of choice lately has been One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss, which is a really long book! My move was to read it in my most boring voice possible. And it worked! She was motionless and quiet while I read, but not more than a second went by after I read the last word did she say, “Mooore.” Her heightened ninja senses were still operational even while half asleep!
It was only a few more pages of reading before I snuck out of the room at 9:15pm. Wow, it only took an hour from bath time to when she fell asleep. All-in-all considering this was only day one of our week long battle, I’d consider that a win. Until…
At 4:30am, BANG BANG BANG on the door followed by a very desperate and whiney sounding, “DaaaDaaa… (whines) DaaaDaaa…” It was a midnight zombie attack and she wanted only me! Half asleep and without thinking, the sound of the banging door and her whines carried me out of bed and straight into her room. I wanted to say I was strong, but I was so tired I just gave in. Zombies? Phssh, whatever. Not tonight. I grabbed a pillow and a blanket and laid down next to her bed. And she got out and snuggled next to me and we slept on the floor until the morning.
I was right back to where I started.
She beat me. She beat me good.
But things are just getting started…