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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Louis’s room might have been too dark, as toddlers might be starting to be afraid in their rooms alone.
- 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.
- 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.”
- Louis eats dinner with Mommy and Daddy
- Louis takes his bath (this is our best time to talk and interact after the day)
- Louis goes upstairs to put his PJs on, read bedtime stories, and/or play with his blocks or puzzles for about 20 minutes
- 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.