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Sunday, February 17, 2008  


M. Small is 99.9% potty-trained now. It was kind of a drawn-out process, and worth any number of blog entries if I wanted to get into that kind of material, but I hope you'll forgive me for not having fully gotten my fingers into that rich, thick, fertile, brown soil, so to speak.

We knew that his first few weeks out of diapers would be more messy, not less. No surprises there. What did surprise us was how long it suddenly started taking us to get him to bed at night.

The procedure is normally pretty simple, and has been in place for quite some time, whichever one of us is putting him down that particular night. After he's gotten his teeth brushed and his pajamas on and he's settled down in his race car bed, the first thing we do is read him some of his storybooks, generally around five. The books themselves rotate in and out of his favor, with some books only getting read once a month and others being demanded more than once every night for weeks in a row. Then the lamp goes off and we tell him a story we make up, often featuring M. Small as the protagonist, having conversations and adventures with talking versions of our cats and the cast of Cars. Then there's a lullaby or two, a brief snuggle, and he goes to sleep while Trash and I get on with our lives.

But he is nothing if not a scammer, and as soon as he realized how invested we were in getting him potty-trained -- which is to say not as much "invested" as "dangerously leveraged" -- he started using it to his advantage.

Like, during every stage of the going-to-bed process, he'd announce, "I have to go to the bathroom." Or, I know what you're thinking: he's bluffing. Fine. You change his underwear and pajamas and bedding if he's not. And he wasn't, for the longest time. I remember one night in particular when Trash started putting him to bed a bit before eight while I went down to weecap The Apprentice. When I came upstairs at 9:30, they were on their fifth trip to the bathroom, representing the fifth time M. Small insisted, "I'm starving!"

(Tangent here: M. Small, for reasons none of us can fathom, thinks that "starving" means the exact opposite of what it actually means, in the sense of "I've got a poo coming on.")

Trash was frustrated that it was taking over an hour and a half to get the kid to bed, but she couldn't exactly get mad at him, since he was producing the goods every time she helped him up onto the throne.

And on this and every other night, every time he got back to his bedroom, no matter where in the bedtime process we left off, no matter how tired he'd been at the time, he was wide awake again and had to start all over.

Before long, it was taking up to two and a half hours of concentrated effort just to get him to bed every night. This was an untenable situation, because Trash and I count on the hours between his bedtime and ours to get all manner of stuff done: housework, recaps, research, each other, what have you. We tried everything to get the evening-eating process back down to a manageable length. We tried keeping him up late so he'd crash right away, but that just meant it was even later when he finally fell asleep. We tried taking advantage of the fact that he hasn't learned how to lie yet, asking him when he claimed to be starving, "are you just pretending?" Sometimes he'd say yes, but he'd already woken himself up by then. And we tried dosing him with black tar heroin, but it's hard to find in the neighborhood.

Then Trash hit on the counterintuitive idea of putting him to bed earlier. I confess that I was like, "Great, now I can spend four hours getting him to sleep tonight instead of three." But it turned out I was wrong, because his falling-asleep "sweet spot" turns out to be right at eight o'clock, which was about when we had previously just been starting to put him to bed. After an hour and only one fake bathroom trip that night, he was sound asleep.

So that's the new pattern. Last night I got him down in a record 45 minutes, and thus had two and a half hours free to play Guitar Hero III. Parenting is easy!

Now if we could just get him to sleep through the night again.

posted by M. Giant 12:28 PM 4 comments


Want to trade kids for a while? I'll send you my 3-year-old for potty and sleep training administered by experts with recent experience and I'll take your adorable wonderful child and teach him about the wonderful world of Wallace and Gromit obsession. It's a fair trade. Really.

I'll even pay the shipping charges for both kids both ways!

By Blogger Bunny, at February 17, 2008 at 4:02 PM  

Our youngest is 7, and although he's well past the potty training stage, he still knows how to stretch out the going-to-bed process as long as is humanly possible. So we adopted your strategy of starting earlier and backtiming from his ideal fall-asleep time.

I love moments like this. As crazy as they can seem on the outside, I love watching his brain work as he fights to spend more time out of bed. We did it to our parents, so our kids now do it to us. I love the generational symmetry of it all.

Thanks for sharing this.

By Blogger carmilevy, at February 17, 2008 at 6:54 PM  

We start around 8 pm and if we're lucky our 2-year-old asleep by 9:30. Problem is, we want to be in bed by 9 pm if we can manage it (I'm pregnant and tired; my husband gets up at 4:15 am for work). I truly can't imagine taking even longer for her bedtime. She's potty trained for solids already... I wonder, would it be so terrible to let her sleep in diapers until she potty trains herself for liquids?

By Anonymous Anonymous, at February 18, 2008 at 7:34 AM  

Oh, Bunny.... so, your kid also spouts things like "Porridge today, Gromit! Chuesday!" and "Cracking toast, Gromit!", eh? Thank GOD I'm not alone.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at February 18, 2008 at 7:46 AM  

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