Childrearing

Night Terrors: My Once Glorious Bedtime Routine Has Become A Three-Hour Ordeal

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All I know is this: ever since we switched our little one to a big-boy bed, he refuses to stay in it. And the more we tell him sternly, “Get back to bed,” the more he laughs. I wouldn’t even mind so much if his wandering the halls didn’t keep my older one awake. But it does. The older one will scream and yell, “GET OUT OF MY ROOM!” and the little one will just stand there laughing (no, seriously, he finds it hilarious). The first few times this happens, I’ll urge them both to calm down and I’ll place my 3-year-old back into bed. I’ll gently explain to him that he needs to go to sleep and that he’s not to come out.

By the third time, I’ll lose patience and shout, “INTO YOUR ROOM – NOW!” at which point he’ll run back into his bed, fast. That’s when I feel like I’ve got it together and that we’re all good. Until 10 minutes later, that is, when the whole process begins again. On and on it goes – my husband and I taking turns disciplining our child until 10 at night. We even dropped his much-needed daytime nap to ensure he’d be good and tired by bedtime, which he is, but that hasn’t helped matters.

The worst is that we devote a good hour to each child before the craziness begins. We ensure there’s enough quality reading/talking/cuddling time to make for a good night’s sleep. But, lately, there’s a lot of, “Just one more minute, Mommy,” and, “I need to go to the bathroom” (for the fourth time in 40 minutes) and, “I’m so thirsty I’m going to DIE.”

And, just when I think they’re both asleep, I’ll hear my older one shouting down, “Mommy, can I just give you one more hug?” He’s doing what he knows will work – I get zero affection from him during daylight hours – and I feel like an unloving jerk saying no, but I also know that to say yes is just buying into his whole shtick.

I’ve tried being zen, I’ve tried being stern, I’ve tried a combo of the two – but nothing works. Even my husband, who I’ll admit asserts more authority than I do when it comes to parenting, is having no luck whatsoever. Recently, when our little one came out of his room for the umpteenth time that night, I shouted down to my husband, “Pressure gate! Get the fucking pressure gate!” We threw it on my child’s bedroom door, and it totally freaked him out.

That’s when I felt like a terrible, abusive mom – locking my child in his room! But, like everything else, it became a game to him. He kind of gets a kick out of it. We’ll often find him sitting in front of the gate, cross-legged, sticking his little doggie’s head through it at 10 at night and smiling sweetly at us as we quietly tiptoe up the stairs to check on him.

At that point we’ll ignore him and, usually by 11, we’ll find him asleep in his bed. That’s when I’ll unlock the gate, kiss him softly on the forehead, and wonder how someone so peaceful – so absolutely perfect – and be such a little devil.

(Photo: Losevsky Pavel/Shutterstock)

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