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Wednesday, June 13, 2007  

Sleep Study, Part II

When we transferred M. Small from his crib to his toddler bed a few weeks ago, we were almost certain that there was no way he was going to stay in it. He's an energetic kid, and doesn't do well with non-physical borders. We're fairly certain that the only thing that kept him in the crib most nights was the bars around it, and then the large drop beyond the bars if he were to climb over.

The first night he asked to sleep in "my race car bed," I very earnestly explained the rules to him: just because there weren't walls, it didn't mean he could be getting up and running around. He had to stay in bed until it was time to get up, or until one of us said he could. And he's been doing great at that. Even though the walls were gone, I don't think it actually occurred to him that he could get up.

The other night, it occurred to him.

He had had an unusually long afternoon nap that day -- three and a half hours, to be precise -- so I wasn't expecting him to go down with his usual ease. I didn't know the half of it. Trash was trying to get him to bed while I was watching Big Love, although I heard him talking on the monitor through most of the show. Some time after it was over, I paid a brief visit to the two of them upstairs, and he was still awake. When I finally knocked off recapping for the evening and came up to bed around eleven, things were quiet.

At least until I came up the stairs. One of the most precious aspects of Dr. Jellyfinger's enduring legacy is that he once literally ripped out the bedroom stairs so he could get a king-sized mattress up there, and then cobbled together new ones out of scrap lumber, using nails, screws, staples, glue, chewing gum, and God knows what else. Not even kidding here. I've repaired them several times, but it's still impossible to go up and down those stairs quietly, no matter how careful you are. So at eleven o'clock on Monday, when I reached the top of the stairs and heard M. Small say in an alert voice, "Daddy, is that you?" I cursed myself for not having waited longer. In a attempt at damage control, I sneaked right past his open bedroom door, knowing that if he saw me he'd be awake for another half hour. But I still kept hearing, "Daddy, is that you? Daddy, is that you?" Right up until I reached our own bedroom door. Inside our room, Trash was sitting at the computer, looking at our Flickr photos. And M. Small was sitting in Trash's lap, looking at me and asking, "Is that you, Daddy?"

"Why yes," I said. "But that can't possibly be you, because it's three hours past your bedtime and you're asleep right now."

Trash looked at me guiltily. "I just sensed someone in the doorway, and I thought it was one of the cats, but then when I looked up he was just standing there, and he asked, 'Can I see if it's dark outside your window, too?'"

M. Small knows we always try to reward his curiosity. Cynical little cuss.

She had brought him back to his bed a few times since then, but he kept returning. The last time before I had come up, he had declared, "I want to look at pictures of me and hot air balloons on the computer because I touched the peppers."

She also showed him some pictures from when he was still in the NICU, and I think he may have actually been a bit alarmed at seeing himself so tiny and incompletely formed. "What happened to me?" he kept asking.

We put him back to bed several hundred more times that night, and every time he would come bopping back up the hall, announcing "I need one more kiss" or "I need one more squeeze." And we're going to say no? Even closing his bedroom door didn't work, because he figured out how to open it. Finally Trash hit on the idea of positioning a baby gate across his open doorway, and he only squirmed under it once before we figured out that we had to lower it.

I don't know what time he finally got to sleep, but I could still hear a bit of movement in there when Trash and I finally turned out our light after midnight.

"You know he's in there quietly trashing his room," I remarked.

He was pretty reluctant to get up the next morning. We may have to go over the rules again soon.

posted by M. Giant 10:45 AM 6 comments


My 28 month old has a toddler bed in her room now (due to a nasty fall trying to escape the crib back in March). But she usually falls asleep at nap time and bed time on the floor (on pillows, usually). Attempting to keep her in the bed was a lost cause from the beginning. We do have a baby gate installed to keep her in her room. But now she's figured out that if she tells us she needs to use the potty, we will let her out for a few brief moments of freedom. Mind you, she is not potty trained and never asks to use the potty during the day time. But how can we refuse at night, thus giving her a negative view of potty training? She's definitely won this battle. The first of many, I'm sure.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 13, 2007 at 11:47 AM  

My 5 and 7 year olds still get up 2 - 3 times after we tuck them in at night - they need water, they're hungry, they need to tell us something. I hope you have better luck, but putting the boys to bed lasts about an hour at our house (and that's AFTER we've read our books).

By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 13, 2007 at 12:32 PM  

The most ingenious baby gate alternative I've ever seen was a screened door. Whoever installed it (clearly the parent of a toddler) took a new wooden screen door, painted it white (to match the woodwork in the room) and installed it in the doorway of the child's bedroom. There was a simple hook latch on the outside (which would possibly be a fire code violation, but a double deadbolt positioned high enough that a child couldn't reach might work...). Anyway, it amused me. I always figured that an engineer lived there.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 13, 2007 at 1:36 PM  

This is totally a damned-if-they-do, damned-if-they-don't situation, you know... Our kiddo vacillates between the getting up when she's supposed to be in bed (though these days she doesn't usually leave her room - she just plays in there in the dark with her flashlight, as she's discovered turning on the light tips us off more quickly to her covert activities) and then the REFUSAL to get up out of bed for things like a drink of water, which she is perfectly capable of wrangling for herself. Nothing like the 2am yell for room service, forcing whichever parent can no longer pretend to be sleeping through it to get up, get the water, and give it to her just so we can get back to sleep!

Oh, and we found that putting a childproof doorknob cover on the inside of her bedroom door enabled us to keep the door closed (for sound and light minimizing purposes) and kept her from wandering around the house after bedtime. This was our strategy for back in the early days of "No more crib sides to contain her" and was discontinued after a couple of months when she figured out how to break the doorknob cover by hanging on it juuuust so.

By Blogger Heather, at June 13, 2007 at 1:54 PM  

That is exactly why my son, who is only 1.5 months away from turning 3, is still in his crib. He climbed out once about a year ago but never has again. So far, he hasn't yet grasped that other kids his age have big boy/girl beds, even though his younger cousin already has a toddler bed. I love that I can put him in his crib and he lies in there talking, playing, and singing to his heart's content and doesn't bother me until morning. If he ever caught us watching t.v. and eating ice cream without him he would never go to sleep!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 13, 2007 at 3:05 PM  

I like that he's pinged onto the high value you place on curiosity. For my daughter, she knows that if she asks her father for anything Swedish (a film or a book or computer game), he will NEVER EVER say no. She has managed to push her bedtime back on several occasions using this trick. (BTW, she's 10, and it still works.)

By Blogger Nee S., at June 14, 2007 at 5:01 AM  

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