Toddling Along

Bedtime is a time that I cherish, that I look forward to, that I plan for and daydream about.  However, the love and appreciation of bedtime is wisdom that comes with age.  Louis does not feel the same way.  Bedtime is a time that Louis dreads, avoids, plans to evade, and probably has nightmares about – for he is a toddler, and he is convinced that going to bed means missing something exciting and fun.  After a week or so of the nightly routine of Louis yelling, screaming, and tantruming I decided to consult Miss Cathy – his teacher.  I needed reassurance that I was not, indeed, torturing my child by wanting him to go to bed.  Here are the pointers I picked up:

  1. Louis’s bedtime should be a little earlier – if he is going to scream and tantrum, better to get started sooner so he will still have the chance to get a full night’s rest.  Overtired toddlers are the most difficult toddlers.
  2. Louis should avoid rambunctious games when he gets home from school, even if it is the only week-day time his Daddy has to wrestle with him.
  3. Louis’s room might have been too dark, as toddlers might be starting to be afraid in their rooms alone.
  4. Louis’s Mommy needs to tell Louis it is bedtime and that he is loved, and then walk away – even if he feels upset about that. 

Now I am lucky in my bedtime battle because Louis does not yet know that he can try to climb out of his crib, so half the battle is won.  I am secondarily lucky because when he was in infant I bought him a mobile that, unbeknownst to me, also turns into a projector that now makes a picture show on his ceiling.  So here is our bedtime routine, which has virtually eliminated the night-mare from night-night time.

  1. We come home from school and Louis reads books or plays with his matchbox cars in his high chair while mommy cooks dinner.  Sometimes he can watch “Elmo TV.”
  2. Louis eats dinner with  Mommy and Daddy
  3. Louis takes his bath (this is our best time to talk and interact after the day)
  4. Louis goes upstairs to put his PJs on, read bedtime stories, and/or play with his blocks or puzzles for about 20 minutes
  5. Mommy or Daddy puts Louis in his crib (with his monkey, a book, 2 blankets, etc.) and turns on Louis’s “crib TV” (as he calls his projector/mobile), says goodnight (leaves the door open slightly and the hallway light on) and goes back downstairs.

It took Louis a couple of nights of yelling “Mama!  Mama! Mama!” before he really understood that I wasn’t coming back (unless he was jumping out of his crib or crying enough to make himself sick – but he doesn’t know those tricks….yet) and that it was time to go to bed.  The projector works miracles and helps him drift off to sleep.  Even though I have to sacrifice a lot of my playtime with him in the evening, and for working parents the evening is sometimes all we have, I rest assured knowing he needs his sleep and this is the best plan for us right now.  I am sure, however, that Louis will request, quite forcefully, that we re-negotiate the bedtime peace treaty in a few months.