TODDLER BEDTIME: When Enough is Enough, When Do You Pass the Torch and Let Go?

It’s 10:15pm and my husband and I just finished managing what must be one of the biggest toddler meltdowns of history.  My 18 month old daughter is being weaned from her bottle and while the last two nights (and days for that matter) have been successful, tonight was a full on stand-off between she and us.  And man…I’ve never met a more stubborn toddler until tonight.  And I mean S-T-U-B-B-O-R-N.

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The night time ritual was as it always is after dinner.   She and I start the routine by taking our showers, brushing our teeth and getting her into her crib with a book.  Then it’s my son’s turn while I feed the baby.  It’s usually around this time that my husband steps in to help with our daughter while I finish the evening with dental duties, assigned reading and checking of homework with my eldest.  My daughter usually puts up some kind of a fuss, but is always quickly soothed with a “shh shh shh” and a bottle from daddy.  Well, since she had been so great about lying down and going to bed without one these past two nights, we thought tonight would be no different.  We were DEAD WRONG.

She went into full on meltdown mode.  After about 20 minutes of screaming at the top of her lungs, I walk out from putting the baby back down to sleep to find my husband walking toward her nursery with a full bottle in hand.  Like a traffic cop, I stopped him dead in his tracks and said “Nuh Uh.  We’re not doing this.  Not anymore.  She has to learn!”  As you can imagine a short argument ensued and I walked away to tend to our now crying newborn.  Closing the door behind me, I hear a short break in her vehement protest to a few suckles of a bottle, and then SLAM!  There goes the bottle…followed by not just screaming.  Blood curdling screaming and the sound of my husband walking away.

Okay, so we’re going to do the ignore her behavior thing.  I can do this.  I finally am able to finish soothing my newborn back to sleep while the screaming continues and I begin to hear banging sounds coming from her crib.  After each bang, shrieks ensue.  So, I come out of the bedroom yet again, to find her doing her best WWE impression, running from one end of her crib and banging her head into the other.  Seeing this, I immediately swoop her up to try to comfort her.  She throws her self around in my arms giving me more of a core workout than I’ve ever given myself causing me to have to sit down to gently lie her to the floor.  What happened next could’ve won her an academy award.  She’s now crying so hard that she’s growling and kicking the floor with both feed simultaneously.  The harder she cries, the harder she kicks.  Then she starts log rolling across the floor…Back and forth.  After this, she decides perhaps she could do the inch worm on her back across the living room.  Once she makes it to the dining room, she slowly flipped over and buried her head in her arms in child’s pose.   I think, “perhaps if I just sit here, she’ll fall asleep on the floor and I can move her to her crib?”  NOPE.

As I sit quietly sit next to her, she continues to grizzle and dramatically pull herself across the floor, slowly crawling with her head hung low, like a scorned puppy.  She crawls like this throughout the house until she makes it to the refrigerator door where she proceeds to lie down in the fetal position and look at me with the most pathetic look a child could give.  The crying stops.  And in that moment of silence, I hear the baby cry.  And I want to cry.  But I don’t.  I just look at her and ask in the cheeriest of voices, “Want to come help me with the baby?”  She immediately perks up, smiles ear to ear, and yells, “YEAH!” and tippy toe runs down the hall.  What are the odds?  I’ve been played by a toddler.

So, I follow her to my bedroom and pick the baby up.  I invite her to sit with us on the bed and after a moment ask, “Would you like to sleep in mommy’s bed?”  She sweetly smiles and nods her little head ‘yes’.  So I pull the covers back, and she snuggles in and curls up.  Then she starts playing with the zipper on the pillow.  Then she tries to take the pillow apart.  Then she wants to hug and kiss the baby.  And it goes on…I look at the clock.  It’s 8:30.  We started this an hour ago.  AND WHERE THE HELL IS MY HUSBAND??

Next, I try turning off the night lamp thinking perhaps it’s distracting her from sleeping.  No such luck.  She starts log rolling again only this time, giggling all the way.  One log roll away from falling off the bed, I catch her by the ankle and say to myself.  THAT’S IT!  So, I put the newborn to bed (he somehow slept through this) and coaxed her into the idea of reading a book.  I choose a Dr. Suess book, and carry her to her crib.  Reading every last page of ABC’S with Dr Suess, I say, “Ok, all done!  Would you like me to scratch your back to sleep?”  She whimpers but then says ‘yes’ with a nod and lies on her tummy.  “Relief at last!” I think to myself.  Just when I think she’s dozed off, I start to tip toe away.  I make it 1/4 step before I hear those blood curdling shrieks again.  The baby has started to cry again too.  W…T…F.

I bet you’re wondering what I did.  Here’s what I did.

I WALKED AWAY…

I MARCHED DOWN TO THE BASEMENT…

PULLED MY HUSBAND BACK UPSTAIRS TO HELP…

STRAPPED THE BABY IN THE ERGO AND STARTED TO MAKE MY SON’S LUNCH AND SNACK.

Within the next 15 minutes my husband had no luck either so when I heard him approaching the kitchen, I figured he was calling it quits.  What he actually did was walk in, place her bottle in the fridge, sit calmly at the table for a moment, stand back up, go to the fridge, take out the bottle and say, “I’m going to try something”.  Then, he walks back to her nursery, and just like that…there’s silence.  I hear a few “shh shh’s” and that’s it.  After 5 minutes I hear him walking back to the kitchen, bottle in hand and place the bottle back in the fridge.  Then he just walks away like nothing happened.  I immediately think, “WTF JUST HAPPENED…AND WHAT DID YOU JUST DO?”

At this point, I’m not asking questions.  All I’m saying is that the next time this happens, I’m passing the torch 2 hours earlier and letting go of the situation.  Ridiculousness.  Pure ridiculousness.