Thursday, September 10, 2009

Night Time Dilemma

The Boy goes to sleep at 8:00pm He doesn't actually fall asleep until at least 9:00 but he always goes in his room, lights out, at 8:00pm.

My routine for the last 4 1/2 months has been to have the baby awake during The Boy's night time routine. She now reads books with us and brushes teeth with us and hangs out until we say good night to The Boy. Then I take her out in the living room, turn off all the lights, nurse her and rock her in the rocking chair for 10-15 minutes and then put her in bed and she goes to sleep. Both kids are in bed by around 8:30pm. And both kids sleep until at least 6:30am. This has worked really well until lately.

It seems as though The Girl is wanting to go to bed earlier than 8:30pm now. She gets tired and fussy and I am usually bouncing her and rushing through the end of The Boy's routine so that I can get him to bed and therefore put her to bed. Why don't I just put her to bed first, you ask? It isn't that easy.

The Girl will not go to sleep unless it is completely dark in the room and there is no one around except for me. If there are people around, or if something is going on, then she wants to be a part of the action. She isn't horrible and screaming, but she won't go to sleep. And then we pass the point of no return and things get rough and I am desperately nursing a baby for the fourth time at 11:00pm with no milk left in the boobs. I have realized this on the rare occasion that I entertain and people are here later than 8:30. I am not too worried about her at this point because she is only 4 months old and I am not going to be all strict on a bed time routine at this point. She will figure it out. But for right now, this is what she needs to wind down, get relaxed and be able to go to sleep.

Which brings me to the answer to the question about why I don't just put her to bed first. If The Boy is still awake he is running all around us and kissing on her and asking why the lights are off (I have tried this before which is why I know the outcome) and generally making a ruckus. The Girl will NOT go to sleep if her brother is all up in her business. So he has to go to sleep first so that I can get it quiet and focus on her and get her to sleep. (Plus if I'm being honest, I love my end-of-the-day time with my baby girl...she is so sweet and cuddly and...I am digressing).

So that brings me to my dilemma. If The Girl needs to go to sleep before 8:30pm AND The Boy has to be in bed first and his bed time is the hell do I make it happen? I either put The Boy to bed WAY early (which really isn't all that fair to him) or I figure out some way to trick him into staying quietly in his room while I go through the process of putting The Girl to sleep and then after that we do his routine. But he won't stay in his room. If he knows she is up and he doesn't HAVE to be in bed then he isn't going to sit quietly in his room. He just isn't. And I can understand that. I can also understand that a 4 month old baby may need to go to sleep for the evening closer to 7:30pm than 8:30pm. But as a single mother, there isn't anyone else in the house that could perhaps read to The Boy while I dealt with The Girl. It is all me and only me. I can't clone myself, so I am at a loss as to how to handle this. Internet, do you have any words of wisdom for me? Any ideas? Assvice? Anything?


Carlycat said...

OK, this is just my advice based on my experience with my own quirky kids, but I certainly know the difference in bedtimes and sleep hours needed by all those different ages.

My gut feeling tells me Girl needs more sleep than the Boy, PLUS she is at an excellent age for learning to go to sleep in a brief but loving way. This does sacrifice the quiet, cuddly nursing times that occur after the Boy is dozing, but in the long run, this would be my advice. She is so young and she does need more sleep. Think of it as giving the BOY his special Mommy time w/o the rush you require to tend to her. Either way you are getting to have one-on-one time with one of your children, and in this way, you are honoring their biological needs as well.

Just my quick two cents after reading this. I often had someone to read to another child when one was going to sleep, but sometimes not so I know how tricky it can be. If you must know, tonight I put all three to bed at the same time (at 5, 7 and 9 years old!) and still I was a little thrown when one needed an extra cuddle, the other had a complaint and the third keeps coming up with incredibly pontificating questions (like "what happens when we die?" or "why is Special Needs Brother different than other kids?"..... the important stuff that never seems to come up during the proper daytime hours, but in the dark at bedtime surfaces, and I can't bear not to have those conversations, regardless of the hour.

The details change, but the challenges evolve with a resemblance to those early stages. Not with the same energy-wrenching style though. You just have to use the regained energy to stay more clever than them, later. (Which, I have found, is harder than I thought it would be at times!)

As always, your mileage may vary. :)

Hugs.... Peepie (do you remember that?)

Jenny said...

It seems to me like a much younger kid should perhaps be going to bed sooner than their older siblings in order to get the greater quantity of sleep that she needs.

Over the next two months is when the Girl might start being able to develop a more self-soothing-type bedtime routine.

I know you said you're not in too much of a rush to establish a strict bedtime ritual with the Girl, but it actually sounds like you have one already: if you don't provide quiet alone-time lights-out nursing and rocking with you, then she can't go to sleep. If this is not something that you think is sustainable in the long term, you could start removing one element at a time, incrementally, to try to wean her off it being an integral part of her going to sleep. E.g. increase lights slowly, or play tapes of people talking quietly and then not so quietly. Maybe have a friend over for dinner and ask them to help by tagging along for the bedtime routine but a more controllable other presence in the room than the Boy might be, to help her get used to the idea that it doesn't have to be you and only you, in the dark, rocking and nursing her.

Could you be reading the Boy a story while nursing the Girl? Reading aloud from our own chapter books seems to lull our little guy to sleep pretty regularly, often unintentionally.. but then again, he has recently zonked out in the middle of a karaoke party, too. Anyway, if your reading aloud is not too much activity for her, you could use one of those clipon lamps to illuminate the book and preserve the dark in the room, and perhaps keep the boy entranced enough to keep from running around. You could try to make the dark and non-activity a part of his bedtime routine via a game of some sort.

Alternately, can he do something like listen to a cassette recording of a favorite story while he's hanging out in his own bed/bedroom and waiting for the girl to get to sleep so you can start his bedtime ritual? After all, 10 minutes really isn't a huge chunk of time. (This was a favorite bedtime activity for me when I was little and I'm just now realising that it might have been my parents' way of getting some relief to deal with other siblings.)

Again, I don't know your kids so some of these suggestions probably won't work for you... but I thought it might be worth a shot. Good luck!!