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I Just. Don't. Get. Bedtime. It's long. Because I am tired, and clearly very thick.

(20 Posts)
ClearlyVeryThick Tue 21-Jun-11 14:09:02

We do, and always have done, the routine: dinner. poo. bath. lotions, jammies. books. cuddles. attempted attachment object. a story. a song. nightlights.

But it doesn't matter, because all 4.2ds wants, all he has ever wanted, is his mama to stay with him as he goes to sleep.

I have tried gentle withdrawal. Want to know how that went? Well, when I moved from lying down with (then 22m) ds to sitting up on his bed, he flipped so he could have his head in my lap, and I could either accept that or fight him off. That should give you a clue.

Nevertheless, I persisted, and for a while, we did actually get it so he could settle himself to a classical radio station.

Then came kindy, six months ago. Instant regression 2 and a half years. The night routine (and oh so much else) escalated. Now ds's routine is so long and convoluted you would think I was mad, doing it. It makes me mad, doing it. In both senses.

And some nights, like tonight? With dh away, and ds doing a long (3 days) week at kindy? After waking up early? Well it's long and convoluted with a whole pile of extra crazy on top.

Because here are some of the things I don't get:

1. How we're meant to have a consistent routine, if dh goes away periodically. Either he is never involved in bedtime (so fair on all of us!), or sometimes the routine is messed up for a day or ten.

2. How to be consistent about the shouting. I will not put up with being shouted at in the same room. During the day, ds gets removed to another room to shout til he cools down - it doesn't usually take too long. Because IME, mostly shouting means, I'm hurt. I'm losing what little face I've got. I'm scared we're not on the same side here. Help me, please. A hug and a chat will usually solve it, once he's calmed down enough to accept it.

During the night, if I get up and walk out, I leave him to go berserk (and he will go berserk, if it's come to that) in the room adjoining dd's and I'm sorry, but I just don't see that as feasible. I did have a parenting counsellor advise me to do exactly this "for as long as it took, possibly a whole fortnight" (like either of my two pig-heads would learn a new trick in a mere fortnight! lol!), but honest to god I can't see how anyone (me, ds, or bound-to-be-woken dd) would cope with that.

3. The counsellor's advice was to ignore it all (even, she said, if he's thumping me - in which case, am I supposed to ignore that during the daytime too, with dd watching on? Because that's always been a removal offence for us. So where's the consistency? Or is this yet another thing I'm doing wrong?)

4. And anyway, the fastest way to send ds round the twist is to throw him an ultimatum and then ignore him until he capitulates. Games work. Distraction often works. Humor (when I can muster it) works brilliantly. A line in the sand? Red rag to a bull. The cold shoulder? Why not just pour kerosene on them thar flames and fan 'em? And truth be told, I don't blame him. If I was desperately trying to communicate my needs to you, and you stonewalled me, then yeah, I would go a little mental too.

5. Because here's the thing - I don't think ds is resisting bedtime. I don't think he is trying to manipulate me, or take control of the situation - except inasmuch as he is trying to get his needs met. And right now what he needs, my very bright, very sensitive, slightly immature son, is a long bed routine that lets him get out of his head all that stuff he's been carrying around all day and reassures him that I'm still here for him.

It's hard for me, sometimes, but who am I to say, you don't need me? Or, you shouldn't need me so much? Or, during the day you can have as much love and support as I can give, but when it's dark and you're exhausted, you're on your own?

Yes, it's immature. Yes, kids need boundaries. Yes, it's my job to teach him how to function independently. Yes, if I got hit by a bus tomorrow, he'd find new ways of getting to sleep. (But not, I put it to you, without being seriously screwed up first.)

We will get there. I may have evenings where I'm mad enough to ring the stupid parenting hotline, even though they always make me feel worse. (Free tip to any counsellors out there: If you've just spent 45 minutes pointing out how your client is letting her child manipulate her and advising on the correct way to manage things, finishing the call with "I think you're doing a really good job" is not only unconvincing, it's not even consistent.) And since my kids inherited their pig-headedness from their mother, no doubt I will keep trying, however fruitlessly, to encourage ds to find some way, any way that doesn't involve me, to get himself off to sleep.

But deep down? Deep down, I honestly believe that regardless of what I do, he will outgrow this when he's damn good and ready and not one minute before. So until then, I guess I will continue to not 'get' bedtime.

wonderfultykes Tue 21-Jun-11 14:30:36

Aah bless him. DD was same ish age and had a big chair in her room - when i'd put her top bed and given her night night kiss etc I would say to her (who wanted me there forever) 'I'll sit on your chair for 2 minutes, then i'll leave' and i'd sit there reading or just being. Then on way out I'd not go over to her again, but whisper 'night night darling' and go.
It went really well

BUT really, deep down i think you're spot on right. He'll stop when he's good and ready

DD's having a 'needy' spell again (age 6.4) and really, for goodness' sake, I think if I can possibly spare the time, then I will. How otherwise do I know if there's something I need to sort out for her or help her work through?

Good luck

nethunsreject Tue 21-Jun-11 14:34:25

I enjoyed your post, op!

Yep, I think you are right tbh.

smile

Bubandbump Tue 21-Jun-11 14:47:03

Stubborn = persistent
Pig headed = strong minded
Flipping head = innovative
Clear idea of his objectives and single mindedness to achieve them

Things you will be very proud of him for at some point! In the meantime..

mumblebum Tue 21-Jun-11 14:59:57

I know that in these situations "Have you tried..." suggestions can make you feel like tearing your hair out because you've tried everything, so sorry if this is one of those moments but...

Have you tried just popping out of the room for a minute to do X? I used to do this with DD. "Wait there a minute DD, I'm just going to pop into the bathroom and hang the towels up." And literally do just that. And be back. So you aren't lying to them. Then the popping out tasks can be increased in length. It only works if you can convince them to wait calmly for you though because the point is that while you are popping in and out of their room, so that they are reassured that you are around and not abandoning them, they are slowly settling themselves down for the night. Even if you are back in time for them to drift off. We managed to escalate it through popping in and out of the room, pottering around upstairs doing stuff, nipping downstairs to do something. All the time being busy and not just ignoring her.

Admittedly her issues were much more short lived than it sounds like things are with your DS so perhaps easier to resolve.

I think with regards routine, the point is that the routine should be the same i.e. bath, bed, book and not necessarily involving the same people. So it shouldn't matter if it's you or DH that is doing it.

YogaMummy2B Tue 21-Jun-11 15:02:18

Aaah Bub you just made me cry and its not even my son!! When my DD grows up a little will you translate her traits for me!
OP, great post, brilliantly dry and humorous writing style. Lucky little DS to have such a cool mum!

thumbwitch Tue 21-Jun-11 15:14:56

C N VT at all - what a wonderful post.
Although I do understand your frustration, not least because I have similar (albeit lesser) problems with my own DS.
He doesn't self-settle in bed. He will go to sleep quite happily if I am there. Or if he is on the sofa with me. However, if I put him in the bed and leave him, it is a fullscale trauma (he's 3.7).
When he was a baby, we co-slept (not in my pre-birth game plan but hey!) until he was 5.5mo, when it became disruptive for both of us, so he moved out to his cot. He was mostly fed to sleep then. I tried letting him "cry it out" a few times, but every time I did that, I would go in to check and he would be hanging over the bars of his cot sad. Moving him would wake him but he obviously couldn't be left like that!
Eventually got him to a point where he would go to sleep, be put in the cot, stay asleep. <phew>

Then we emigrated and things were awkward in terms of sleeping arrangements - and DS ended up back co-sleeping with me. He still is. But, by letting him go to sleep with me there, I can escape most nights and do my own thing. He will ALWAYS wake up if I am not there. I wish he wouldn't. But he inevitably does, and he cries for me - if I don't go to him, he comes to me.

Am I a sap? Probably - but it works well enough. One day he will grow out of it - I won't still be sharing his bed for much longer - but until then I am happy to give him the security he needs to keep him being the happy little boy he is during the day (NOT saying that it's all down to my sappy mothering - he's a happy little boy ANYway - he just wouldn't be so happy if he was crying half the night because I wasn't there for him when he needed me, I believe).

Mostlytoasty Tue 21-Jun-11 15:38:30

Aww I feel for you! My dd is very much a 'need mummy' girl at night time. Feels very much like I'm being held ransom by a 2 year old. Sometimes It would just be nice to have one night off....just one!

I think what makes it harder is that it feels as though everyone else has children who self settle and sleep all night by themselves. I'm trying to remember that all children are different and if my dd is sensitive and has a busy mind with no off-switch then she will simply need more winding down time and comfort in the night and she's not doing anything wrong by asking for it.

No advice from me, sorry! I'm a bit of a novice anyway as she's only 2. Going to try mumblebum's 'popping out' trick. Glad to know I'm not the only one though.

doodledaisy Tue 21-Jun-11 15:45:02

I second the popping out trick. I stand outside the bedroom door and hang up laundry in alcove opposite. If dd2 comes to the door she sees me and goes to bed. I think it gives her security that I'm there. Usually she's quiet by the time I'm finished. Obviously it helps if you have an alcove and no tumble dryer.

CharlotteBronteSaurus Tue 21-Jun-11 15:47:21

just one thing - re: DH being involved.
my DH works weird shifts, so we have a one-man bedtime routine for the girls, but either of us can do it.
on the nights he is here, one of us gets the wild luxury of slowly cleaning the kitchen, while listening to something good on the iplayer, and scoffing some contraband chocolate that the dc know nothing about, while the other does solo bedtime.

Trillian42 Tue 21-Jun-11 17:37:00

grin at CharlotteBronteSaurus - I actually have gotten to the point where I enjoy the 'wild luxury' of housework that I can't do while DD is around too!

Zoidberg Tue 21-Jun-11 20:41:31

Great post OP and I do feel for you. DD is only 2.2 but basically the same, I don't even try to do anything different though sometimes I sit there gurning inside with a desperate desire to be somewhere else.

You sound fab and you're so right about meeting his needs and it really will pass. I bet when he's older you'll look back and he'll seem even younger in hindsight, you'll be even more glad you stuck with it.

And you can be like my Mum, who has spent 35 years jovially telling me how I didn't sleep for 2 years and she had to come in x number of times a night and then after that she had to sit with me at bedtime and it was always an hour later than she intended by the time she got downstairs.

Oh and DP is here for some bedtimes, not others, I don't think of it as part of the routine, which plods along the same regardless (if DD will let him read a story or if she will not shout "Don't sit on Mummy's chair...)

mollythetortoise Tue 21-Jun-11 20:51:33

i agree, you are right, he will grow out of it when he is good and ready and until then I would just lie with him or whatever until he has gone to sleep and then sneak downstairs if you can.
Stop half of the routine you currently have (or make it v quick) so you do have some of the evening to yourself.

I also do this with my ds also 4.2 - it is better for both of us. I bring up my iphone or a newspaper/book so I can lie next to him but be reading something so I don;t feel my evening is entirely wasted

ClearlyVeryThick Wed 22-Jun-11 05:12:19

well, I'm bloody impressed anyone read that. smile I really just wrote it because I needed to think it through, after the hogwash that counsellor gave me.

but since you did - thank goodness for the Other Mums, I say.

not just you lot - and I do appreciate your replies - it's so heartening to find you're not alone, when your mother and your sister and your MiL all act as though they can't believe a word of it - but also those of us hanging round in the sunshine outside the kindy this morning (the coven who will totally be dominating that place when our 2yos are there wink) - one of whom rolled her eyes and said yep, she still lies down to sleep with her 4.2 ds (my ds's best friend - coincidence? I think not!) otherwise it's not worth the hassle.

as it happened, writing this out cleared my head, so that this morning when ds and I were having an early morning cuddle in his bed, I told him I felt had sad and bad about what happened last night, and from now on I was just going to lie with him until he was ready to go; how did he feel about that? He nodded vigorously, I felt a tension go out of his body, and he popped his fingers out of his mouth to say, "thank you, mama". So I guess I did that right, at least.

But I really, really appreciate the support from others of you who have been there. un-MNy "mwah's" for the lot of youse.

TheRealMBJ Wed 22-Jun-11 05:44:53

Aw, OP. It does sound like you are doing a good job! It is understandable that you get frustrated and upset sometimes but you seem to be dealing with his (and your DD's) needs sensitively.

And I so totally get the feeling of the tension leaving his body. Admittedly DScis only 18 months old but he is very 'high-needs' and whenever I've tried any of the 'firmer' methods of getting him to sleep on his own (and stay there!) the amount of stress he physically experiences is immense and as soon as I go meet his needs I can feel the relief.

Good luck (and here's hoping your DS grows out if it sooner rather than later)

trifling Wed 22-Jun-11 06:57:36

Quickest way to resolve a need? Meet it.

juuule Wed 22-Jun-11 07:17:05

Great op, Clearlyverythick (who, by going off op, is clearly not very thick but is very wisesmile ).

monkeysmama Mon 27-Jun-11 11:16:30

This has made me feel better. Dd is 3.2 and the past week or 2 have been so hard sleep wise. I bfed her until she was 2 so it's always been me doing bedtime - dp does bath and I do going sleep. She finds it very hard to sleep without stroking my hair. Even now she has a bottle of milk and my hair until she sleeps. Last two weeks she's started kicking off at bedtime, refusing to get in bed/on chair to sleep, throwing things, hitting eventually. I know it's a phase, I know it's to do with separation issues, being 3 and feeling torn between wanting cuddles and wanting to break away (she lives this out at bedtime) I am so tired though. Anyway, reading this made me feel less alone - especially jn rejecting some of the "helpful" advice.

NightLark Mon 27-Jun-11 11:32:05

Chipping in late, but I recognize a lot of this. FWIW, my sensitive, bright and emotionally 'brittle' DS still wants me around, sitting with him, as he falls asleep. I do pop out, sometimes he even falls asleep while I have popped out, but he would interpret my not sitting with him as rejection. No doubt about it.

He is five now.

His little sister (age 2) prefers me or her dad there, but doesn't NEED us in the same way.

Quickest way to resolve a need is to meet it - I agree.

For some children this is a NEED. Not a want, not a manipulationhmm, a need.

Mollymax Mon 27-Jun-11 12:32:13

I love this thread.
Either me or dh has stayed with all three of our children until they have fallen asleep.
Do not need to now for the ten and twelve year olds !!
Youngest is just four and we do still sit with her. I love the quiet time we have together after a busy day. I am sure she too will "grow" out of it, but until then, we are happy.

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