Friday, October 29, 2010

Sleep-time Capers

One Saturday last year right around Halloween we heard a pitter patter of feet above us just after we put Ethan down for a nap. Quickly we realized we had discovered how to get out of his crib. The next few days were hellish as Ethan decided what an exciting time it was to jump out of bed and run around, no matter how many times we put him back in there. Then we quickly discovered a glorious invention called the crib tent, which was well worth every cent of the $60 it cost at Baby Depot. Peace returned to us once again.

Fast forward to this summer, when we realized Ethan was not only outgrowing the crib but had broken a slab (never mind this crib was one of the recalled drop-downs). We knew it had to go, so off we went to buy a toddler bed at Babies R Us. What to do about Ethan's escape tactics was one of the first questions on my mind, but then my brilliant engineering-minded husband somehow finagled a way to get the crib tent over the toddler bed. Success! Yes, Ethan didn't have all that much room, but seemed to genuinely like his "cocoon." Our sleep situation remained lovely...two hour naps in the afternoon, bedtime at 8/8:30ish, up at 6:30, although not technically until I went in to wake both of them up (Anna and Ethan have always shared a room) at 7am.

But alas, we knew it wouldn't last. We knew he would outgrow the tent, we knew it'd break down sooner or later and we'd have to face his shenanigans head on. That time has come. And it ain't pretty.

I'm not sure what is so enticing to Ethan about having freedom in his bed, but I know lots of kids, typical or not-so-much so, have this issue. Basically, we put him in bed after doing our usual routine, and no matter how droopy-eyed tired he is, boing! It's like a switch goes on and the moment we leave the room, he's out of bed. And he won't stay in bed unless someone is physically a few feet away, making sure he doesn't get out. The excitement gets him all excited and keeps him (and us) up for hours.

Everyone has an opinion on this. The "Supernanny" theory is just put him back in bed, again and again, not saying a word. Friends have suggested putting a gate on the door and ignoring him. I've heard about sticker charts, social stories, other types of rewards or taking toys away. Someone said spanking. Or just sitting nearby and rubbing his back. Or a weighted blanket.

I look at all of this and think, "I Just. Don't. Know." And in some ways, I know it's a cop-out, meaning, "I don't really want to try." Because let's be honest, being consistent is difficult, and we also want presto-instant results, and life rarely works that way.

From the beginning, Ethan's bedtime capers have brought out all sorts of ugly things in me. First, memories of being a child, when I shared a room with Andy. I don't remember what his sleep time troubles were, but I remember my parents' frustration with him, yelling at him to go to sleep, not knowing what else to do. Then there is the rage that rises up within me when I'm putting Ethan back in bed for the 50th time. I begin to realize how a parent could snap and harm a child. I hate the clenching of my teeth. I hate thinking if I DO spank him, it would be not out of a parent doing a discipline that needs to be carried out but rather a loss of control on my part. I hate the tears of frustration that spring up when I've only been at it for a half-hour. Can't you be a little more perservering without just breaking down?" I scold myself. I hate second-guessing myself and I hate the pity parties. I've held too many of them over the years.

Last night after bedtime shenanigans that resulted in Ethan not going to bed until 10:30 and Anna falling asleep in our bed, Ethan woke up at 4am. Sometimes I think people assume I overreact about his sleep schedule getting off but there it was, like clockwork: two nights of not getting enough sleep and he was starting with early morning wake-ups again. I end up dealing with these kind of wake-ups because Dan sleeps through just about anything. So I went in there and lay on the floor beside his bed and began to think.

I decided to think about 30 things I was thankful for. Why 30, I don't know...I think it was what a guest speaker at church had recommended during a sermon awhile back. And so while Ethan tried to slither his way off the bed, and I continually put him back on, I started. I'm thankful we have beds. Shelter over our heads. Family and friends. Information and support online. Therapists to answer my questions. A full stomach.

At one point I thought Ethan had fallen asleep. I got up and snuck out of the room only to hear his feet on the floor. It was 5am. Back to his room. I got thinking again, about how much worse it could be. I'm thankful Ethan has been doing so great with toilet training. I'm thankful he doesn't smear poop. And for the most part he's ended that taking off the diaper/jammies habit.

I slipped back into bed about 5:15, still thinking as I drifted off. I'm thankful for God's word. For church and Bible study. For teachers like Joyce Meyer ("don't make decisions based on feelings") was her message the other day.

This is not a story about positive thinking and how everything magically changed. I woke up at 6:45 and was exhausted. I lost my temper because Anna stained her clothes again and ended up in tears in the car. Ethan still woke up early and got right out of bed without waiting for me to get him, the pie in the sky goal. I asked his OT for bedtime advice and got no good answer.

Life and our challenges are not about "magic sprinkles" and finding the perfect formula to make it all change. The cliche stands: sometimes the only way out is through. Sometimes we "go through" more admirably than others. Sometimes we just keep on keeping on. Sometimes we're going to make the wrong decision. Through that I suppose we learn more and grow more than we would if we had gotten it right the first time. Sometimes we fail miserably but have to shake the dust off and keep going.

I keep thinking about the verse again, the one about running the race. No, it ain't always pretty. That doesn't mean we don't keep going, though.

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