It’s been a while since I’ve written anything on Sleep Training, precisely because not much has changed in three years with respect to our sleeping habits.
The girls still both sleep in our bed.
We still have this whole ritual of “bath, bed and book” before we say our prayers, turn off the lights and turn on the sleepy music. But they still require my presence in the room; specifically in between them both with arms wrapped around them. Yes, I’ve turned into a lovey.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the snuggle time and the late night conversations. I’m well aware they are fleeting but sometimes, I really just need a breather. My focus and all my energy during the day are already dedicated to them and the home: what they need, what they eat, their daily activities, the chores, etc. There’s not much else I do for myself apart from the occasional bathroom breaks.
Also, sometimes I’m just too exhausted that I fall asleep when my head hits the pillow, and so much is left undone. Usually the time I use to work is when they’re all in bed — and that hasn’t been happening very often lately because I turn into
sleeping Snoring Beauty — as my fellow Two Tots Moms like to call it.
But it is also exhausting to have the girls in my bed. My sleep is nowhere near restful, since they both squish up to me and when I wake up I have anywhere from a foot to half of their bodies on different parts of mine. It’s no wonder I wake up tired every morning.
Sam is the one who clings to me when bedtime rolls around, and as the older sibling, she sets the tone for Jamie too. She’s always asking what it is I have to do and why I can’t lie down and sleep with between them just yet. I’ve tried every gentle measure I could think of and every kind of positive reinforcement to get this habit to change. I’m short of bribing her to sleep with toys and chocolates (I haven’t gone that far!).
Luckily enough, I didn’t have to. Thanks to Girl Scouts!
Two weekends ago our Girl Scout troop scheduled an overnight camping at one of their program centers. It was basically a facility with a fenced-in backyard, and our troop leader said if our daughter wanted to go and it was her first time, then we moms had to go too. They didn’t want to have to call us in the middle of the night if our girls came out crying asking for us.
Of course, when it comes to Girl Scouts (and earning a badge), Sam is 200% all in.
I prepped her as best as I could for this day, and that meant trying to fall asleep without me at night. I didn’t want to force her but she really wanted to go camping, and so while it seemed like she was torn about it, every night she would try. She’d definitely succeed, because by the time she’s settled and the questions have stopped, it only takes her a few minutes and then she’s out like a light. She definitely doesn’t do it without a lengthy repeated discussion though.
She was excited about the trip and sleeping with her friends, and we tried to focus on that. I involved her when we packed her overnight bag and chose her sleeping bag. I even taught her to bathe herself, just in case. We kept it as part of our regular conversations with friends and she seemed excited and determined to try.
On the day of the trip the girls set up their own tent and got to choose who they’d sleep with.
Sam seemed fine and it looked like she would be able to do it. The whole day she stayed with her friends and did the activities. Then at night, she said good night to me and walked away with her friends while I stayed inside and prepared my own bed.
My first reaction was relief. FINALLY! Maybe this was the next step we needed. Thoughts about reviving the topic of sleeping in their own room came flooding back. And for a first time attempt for a night out with friends in a strange unfamiliar place, she was doing really well. I was proud; this was a huge, huge deal!
And then of course, the mixed feelings washed over me and I suddenly got sentimental. I missed my big little baby. I don’t remember my parents ever allowing me to sleep away from home and in a tent at that.
I’ve to admit, it’s moments like these when I want to trade in a good night’s sleep and the undone chores and keep them in my bed for longer.
That lasted for a few hours because the fatigue I was accustomed to set in. Sam had trouble falling asleep, and I had to go up to her tent twice to talk to her. We eventually made a deal that if in an hour’s time she wasn’t able to fall asleep, I’d finally take her inside with me to bed so we could both get some rest. At that point, I was more than happy to accept she wasn’t ready to sleep away from me, in a tent or otherwise, and maybe moving into her own room would be more traumatic than beneficial for either of us. But, (And I think it was because there was a badge involved…) Sam asked to try one last time.
Our troop leader came in shortly after and said Sam finally dozed off so I didn’t go back outside. It was a good thing too because my airbed failed me and I ended up on the hard concrete floor (ouch!).
I woke up the next morning and I found her up and playing with her tent mates. I estimated she got a total of 6 hours of sleep at best, half of what she’s used to. She was in good spirits though for having accomplished what she did. Her tent mates did a good job too of helping her through it and gave her the positive reinforcement she needed to stay and not ask for mom.
So we survived, and there was no crying from either of us ;). And ever since then, Sam has gone to bed with less of a fuss. She asks me to stay a while, and eventually she’ll let me leave and will quietly fall asleep with just Jamie beside her. When my evening’s done, I still crawl into bed between them. It’s a happy compromise for now. Some nights still aren’t that restful, but I’ll take the small wins where I can get them. At the very least, we’re making progress, one baby step at a time.
The Moral of the Story: When you need to sleep-train your child, sign them up for Girl Scouts. 😉