It seems like it should be straightforward. Simple. Easy, even.
Child is tired. Child goes to bed. Child sleeps for a reasonable amount of time, while parent does the same. Both wake up refreshed and ready to face the day.
Somehow, this simple formula for generalized happiness and feelings of well-being has been seriously derailed in our house over the past 6 months.
And no – I’m not exaggerating – 6 months have we been dealing with sleep issues.
First, it was BIT. Daylight savings time – waaaaay back last October or November – threw us for a serious loop and she started waking up for the day at 4:00 am. Now, I’m a morning person. I love the early morning and often prefer to get up at an hour that seems unreasonable to anyone but me. But 4:00 is just entirely too early to start the day. For months we tried different things to help BIT sleep until at least 5:30. Earlier bedtime, later bedtime, telling her it wasn’t time to wake up, ignoring her – nothing helped. Like clockwork, 4:00 would roll around and she would start her nonstop litany from her crib.
“Mommy get me. Mommy open door. Mommy I go downstairs!!!!”
And as we learned that nothing we did made a difference and that we may as well just lie in bed and doze through it as best we could, BIT’s vocabulary got more advanced and she would start expanding her demands.
“Mommy come get me. Daddy come get me. Ethan come get me! I go downstairs with Mommy! Get me out of crib!”
We harbored a secret hope that when daylight savings time rolled around again, it would magically fix the problem it started oh so long ago. We both knew, however, that that was probably a slim chance. And sure enough – no improvement. Well, BIT slept in marginally later for about two days before she was back to the usual routine. The DreadBrewer and I had all but resigned ourselves to never actually sleeping past 4:00 again – ever – when the magical happened and BIT suddenly started sleeping later, all on her own. Now don’t misunderstand me and think that I’m talking about sleeping until 7:00 or some other amazing hour. Any day that BIT sleeps until 5:30 is a magical day that deserves a gold star, but I consider that a totally reasonable hour for us all to get up since we have to be out the door for preschool and work by 6:30.
Alas sleep had just resumed it’s easy, straightforward routine in our house when disaster struck again. This time, disaster came in the form of our the Littlest Brewster’s first very bad dream and the subsequent fall out thereof.
One night, LB woke up shrieking blood curdling screams and shaking like a leaf in her bed, having had her very first, very bad dream. We let her get in bed with us for a little bit but, as she sleeps like a starfish with a violent tic, we soon had to transfer her back to her bed. And of course, within an hour, she was awake and shrieking again, needing reassurance that everything was all right and we were just across the hall.
And nearly every night since then, she has woken up at least once a night shrieking for us to come in and reassure her about some stupid (to us), totally legitimate (to her) problem.
“I can’t find my Gidhra doll!” (It’s touching your back, kid. Roll over.)
“I heard a noise in the hallway!” (It’s Ethan, scratching the carpet.)
“I don’t like it when my window is half light and half dark!” (It’s the street light, there’s nothing we can do about it.)
Well, last night took the cake. Seriously. I don’t think that I have passed as miserable a night – EVER – in my entire history of parenting. Even as babies, my kids slept better than the Littlest Brewster did last night. And naturally, this is when the DreadBrewer happens to be out of town and I am flying solo.
It actually started yesterday morning, when LB started hollering around 4:00 to come get in bed and cuddle. The rule is you don’t get in Mommy and Daddy’s bed until at least 5:00 for cuddles, because we all know no one sleeps with a squirmy toddler in the bed. I told her she had to wait, which prompted crying, which woke up BIT and prompted her to start crying, so everyone was up by 4:30ish.
So last night, I took the digital clock in LB’s room and we talked – at length – about how you don’t get to come in Mommy’s bed for cuddles until the first number is a 5. It doesn’t matter what the other numbers are, the first number had to be a 5. And LB understood. She told me what the number was then, what it needed to be, what could happen when it became a 5. All was well. Or so I thought.
The longest that the Littlest Brewster slept – all night – without waking up and shrieking “Is it time for cuddles yet!??!?!?!?!?!?” was an hour and fifteen minutes. The shortest interval between outbursts was 7 minutes. From 10:00 until 4:45 when I finally just gave in out of desperation and let her get in bed with me because I didn’t want her to wake up BIT yet.
I am so tired. And so grumpy. And so disheartened.
Because what kind of parent storms into their child’s room in the middle of the night and tells them to stop shrieking because I am done with this nonsense and I don’t care what happens I am not coming back in? What kind of parent wishes that it were possible for a 4 year old to understand the nuances of grudge holding so that she could understand just how seriously pissed off I am?
I don’t know what the heck is going on with LB right now. Her middle of the night separation anxiety is so completely unlike her and so new that neither DB nor I has any clue how to handle it. I know that I can’t keep going into her room every hour or two to calm her down. I can’t. DB can’t.
But ignoring it makes me feel like an even shittier parent than stomping in there and being angry.
And those are crappy choices to have to make. Keep going in – over and over – until I completely lose my schmidt and say something awful that I will regret forever (even if she doesn’t remember it 5 minutes from now) or ignore it and let her freak out until she realizes that she needs to figure out another way to handle waking up during the night.
Seriously, though – why is sleep so hard?