Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A confession. Then a small victory. I think.

I have posted about a lot of the stupid ways that motherhood makes me hate life, but this is one that I feel somewhat ashamed of.  Because I know better. Not that it's been reason enough for me to knock this shit off until now. 

Here's my confession.  I lay down every night with my kid to make her go to sleep.  This is insane, I know.  But wait until I tell you how this evolved, because my kid NEVER slept in our bed.  It's ridiculous and even more insane. 

When Lila was an infant, she was evil and colicky (or just pure evil, if I remember correctly).  There were a lot of nights where I would get up so often that I would finally just bring a pillow and lie on her floor so that I didn't have to walk as far.  I never brought her into our bed because her room had great dark curtains that blocked out the light and in the summer in AZ the sun comes up at like 4:30 in the morning and there was NO WAY I was starting my day that early.  So she needed to be in her room so that she would sleep until a still absurd 6am.  To bring her into my bed just meant I would have to get up again to move her back and I am sure that would have been the ONE NIGHT where she slept for 8 hours straight and I would have had to get up anyways. 

I also rocked her to bed every night for a long time.  Too long by most standards. We tried the cry-it-out method and learned that the kid could literally cry for 3 to 4 hours easily.  For at least 3 nights in a row (and this was when I still gave her a bottle at bedtime).  All the "experts" swore that they wouldn't cry for more than an hour or two AT THE MOST and that they would finally tire themselves out and that by the third night the crying would substantially decrease.  Not so much with this one.  Our kid had super-human stamina.  She would scream and scream and scream and scream.  She was able to out-cry our patience and I am sure would have cried until morning had we not intervened around the 3 and a half hour mark.  Even after crying for 3 hours, half the time she still refused to go to sleep.  And so after the fourth night of traumatizing our kid by allowing her to cry for longer than she would likely even sleep, we decided that we just wouldn't do that method.  But I decided that I would not rock her to sleep anymore.  I started to put her into her bed but stayed in the room with her.

At first I simply sat in the rocking chair.  I would talk to her a little and sing to her a little and she would eventually doze off.  But honestly, it wasn't very comfortable and I began bringing my own pillow in and laying on the floor next to her crib.  Ben did it on his nights too.  It was just how we got our kid to sleep. 

When Lila got her big girl bed I really thought that it would come with a "big girl" attitude and that when I told her I was not going to sleep in there with her that she would somehow be all "mature" about it (I know how stupid that sounds...she was 2).  But instead she thought it was great because I could just get into bed with her.

(There's more to this story.  You can read the post from back then here)

First off, if you have ever seen a toddler bed, you know how stupid this was.  Here I am, a grown woman, a little overweight, in a bed that is about 4 feet by 2 and a half feet.  Here is a helpful illustration as to how that looked for those of you with poor imaginations:

I looked like this in her bed, but not as cute.
I would lie there with my whole ass hanging off the side of the bed and we would do our story that way and talk for a few minutes and then I would tell her she needs to be very still and shut her eyes and go to sleep.  About half the time, she would be tired enough to do this.  But the other half of the time I would have to tell her repeatedly and get pissed off because I had other things to do (Lost was on back then). This was also when we got rid of the bottle and tToo complicate the issue, there was an infant sleeping in the bedroom directly below Lila's.  And since HIS parents would tend to him as soon as he cried so as not to wake Lila, I couldn't be the asshole who lets her kid scream uncontrollably all night.

When we moved into our new house last October, Lila was upgraded to a twin bed.  Mostly because she was constantly flinging herself out of the toddler bed since it was nowhere near big enough to accomodate the amount of interpretive-dance style movements she seems to enjoy acting out when she's dreaming. 

It also meant that I could now COMFORTABLY do bed time and lay there and talk with her.  I thought that I would LOVE doing bedtime now because we could talk in the dark and cuddle and tell secrets.  And that truly is what it's like some nights  - for the first 15 or so minutes.  But it always seems to degenerate into me telling her it's time to be quiet and close her eyes, and her "remembering" that she needs to get a different pillow or that she didn't have a drink of water or that she suddenly had to take a crap.  And I always yell at her and say the word "NOW!" a lot. 

And she HATES going to sleep.  She fights and fights and fights it.  She will start to doze and suddenly shoot up straight to tell me "something really really important that she forgot today" but now she can't remember.  And as soon as I make her lie back down and cover her up, I try to tell her that we can talk about it tomorrow but I am interrupted by snoring because she fell asleep in the 6 seconds it took to get her to put her head back onto the pillow. 

Every night now, I find that I am yelling at her and threatening to go downstairs.  And this is shitty.  Every night I have to tell her to be still, be quiet, close her eyes, over and over and over.  And I don't want to be this parent.  It's super, overly control-freakish to me.  It feels mean for me to tell her she isn't allowed to move again or "I am going to leave her alone".  I try to explain that if I go downstairs she can stay awake as long as she wants as long as she stays in her bed but she swears she's going to be quiet.  Then about a minute later she starts singing some song or talking to her stuffed cat. 

When I do leave the room she cries like I am leaving forever.  And I usually come back.  I will come back because I think that she BELIEVES I am abandoning her.

The last couple of weeks with her have been especially challenging.  I am having a pretty bad relapse into depression regardless of the fact that I am medicated and she has been sick on and off and is totally acting up.  I blame my lack of attention and short temper for her behavior and feel guilty that I am not being the best mother I can be and I think I project a lot of my childhood insecurities onto her (like the abandonong thing above). 

And then today, I read a post by a fellow blogger (Pampers and Pinot) that suddenly made me understand WHY I feel so frustrated with the way she's acting lately.  She's manipulating me. 

Any of you who have known a kid from the time they started talking will probably know that they are expert manipulators.  I am pretty sure that I could send my kid to the CIA and they could learn some fantastic new tactics for emotionally destroying the detainees at Gitmo.  She knows EXACTLY the right buttons to push.  And although I am SURE she really hates it when I yell and scream, I also know that somehow she is purposely eliciting that exact reaction from me.  Because when I don't do it, she gets confused and has to change tactics.

A friend recommended I watch Supernanny (which I hate) and I was all negative about that suggestion at first.  Until I remembered some of the dumb parents I have seen on that show and realized how many times that womansays things like  (start cockney accent here) "Yo' chi-old is run-ning this house!  You'oo ahhh the pah-rents."

My kid is sadly mistaken to believe that she wears the pants in this family.  And I do realize that it is perfectly normal for them to try to do this.  But I will be damned if I am going to raise a kid who is a total asshole! 

So today I sat her little ass down, and said, "Mommy is going to make a deal with you.  From now on, if you are good, I will not yell at you.  And if you are bad, I will not yell at you, but I will put you in the corner for a time out.  And I am only going to warn you once.  Do you understand me?"  She nodded. 

I knew that I would need to remind her throughout the day but I was determined not to lose my cool today.

She was actually pretty good.  There were about 3 different times where I had to say, "you remember the deal, don't you?  Are you being good?" and that made her behave. 

And then at lunchtime when she threw a fit because I asked her if she wanted chicken soup and she said yes, but then changed her mind as soon as the bowl was put in front of her, I reminded her of our deal.  She crossed her arms and refused to eat and DEMANDED macaroni and cheese.  So I got down on her level and insisted she look at me.  And I said, "you are not getting macaroni and cheese...LISTEN TO ME...stop being a brat and eat your lunch or you will go in the corner for a time out."  She stomped her feet telling me she hated chicken soup.  So I picked her up and stuck her in the corner. 

She refused to stand up so I sat her on the floor.  I told her I was setting the timer for 3 minutes and she continued to scream as I walked away.  I told her that she could come out when she heard the beep, and that she should stop screaming so she didn't miss it.  She kept screaming.

She did this horrible hyperventalating-type cry that is usually reserved for real-true awful things (like when balloon pops or something) and as I scrubbed the toilet (yes, this is what I did to distract myself so that I didn't go back to get her) I realized that she has learned that it's okay to be an asshole to me.  Further, she has learned (partially from my mother never letting her cry even slightly without giving in) that the more she wants something, the bigger the dramatics.  

When the timer went off, I went over to her, crouched down and asked if she was ready to eat her lunch yet.  She said she really wasn't hungry and I told her that she only needs to eat 5 spoonfuls.  I told her that if she didn't want to do this, she could simply stay in the corner until she was ready.  Crying and sobbing she reached up to hug me (this is the hardest part for me because I DO NOT ever want her to think I am withholding affection) but I insisted that she eat her lunch.  She said ok and I asked her to say sorry for yelling at me.  She did.  Then I hugged her.  I brought her to her seat and she kept crying and wanted me to hold her (this really bothers me because I cannot tell if she is playing me or if she really desperately wants me to just love her).   I sat down with her and told her I am not mad at her, but that it is not acceptable for her to throw fits about what I make her for lunch.  EVER.   She ate exactly 5 spoonfuls.

She was good for the rest of the day.  Until bedtime.  There is no good way to do a time out at bedtime.  Bedtime IS the time out.  I am not going to get her OUT of bed to teach her a lesson so this one is more complicated.

I intended to start the "you're going to sleep on your own" thing on Friday so that she would have the weekend and then Monday night to figure out how to not be up all night.  I was planning to stay there with her tonight.  We did our regular bedtime routine and talked for a few minutes, then I told her it was time to be quiet now.

For about 4 minutes she was good.  Then she started the fidgeting.  Fingers, hands, rubbing the wall, making noises with her mouth.  I told her that I was only going to tell her one time that she needed to be still, OR she could stay awake for a while and I would just go downstairs. Not a big deal. She didn't want me to leave.  I told her that I do not want to have to yell at her, and that it is time for her to go to sleep.  I told her that she needed to be quiet with her eyes closed and that if I had to tell her again, I would simply get up because she is can stay awake without me there, but must go to sleep if I am there.  She kept "remembering" things that she needed to tell me. 

I told her once that we will talk in the morning.  She kept going.  So rather than yell at her, I got up and walked out.  It was heart-wrenching.  She kept begging me, "Mommy please come back.  I'll be a good girl.  I won't move at all!"  And I felt SOOOOO fucking guilty, not so much for walking out but for setting up this dynamic in the first place.  I DON'T WANT HER TO THINK SHE'S BAD BECAUSE SHE CAN'T FALL RIGHT TO SLEEP!  I sometimes don't fall asleep that easily.  And here I have created this awful situation where I lay in bed with her (to provide love and security) only to yell at her and make her think she's being bad when she has trouble doing something that everyone struggles with sometimes. 

This made me feel like a failure. 

I went to her room and sat on her bed and explained to her how it isn't good for her or for me for me to yell at her to go to sleep.  And since she is really big now, she can learn to sleep like big kids do, without their parents yelling at them to go to sleep all the time.  I told her that I would leave her door open and we would be right downstairs.  I told her I would come back in thirty minutes (I told her what numbers the clock would say) and check on her.  Then I kissed her and walked out. 

She cried for about 5 minutes, then stopped.  I assumed she got up to play but when I went up (as promised) she was fast asleep. 

So now tomorrow I will make a big deal about how proud I am of her and we will try this again tomorrow night, but without the option of me sleeping with her.  She has school the next morning so the stakes are higher but I am determined to stop this now.  Because I seriously cannot allow her to control my emotions or my evenings like this forever. 

(In the interest of whatever laws apply, I stole that cat pic from the Cheezburger site.  It isn't actually mine.)


  1. Wow. I think you did a great job. It is so hard to stay on top of bad behavior because it changes all the time. But you handled that well. I am glad you are sharing your story with the internet. I love being a mom but I suffer from severe depression and PPD and It is so hard to remember to not yell and to reason with them. And to not project my issues. I understand every thing in this post. That was a total victory

  2. Isn't it amazing how much emotional and mental energy these things take with our kids?! I'm so glad things are looking up for you in the bedtime department finally. It just was not working for either of you before, so I'm happy to hear that you're over a bump in the road! My boy had colic and evilness as a baby too. I think anyone that visits a mommy blog with firing flames in the background should instantly know that that mother's baby had colic. JUST IN CASE you need a couple of other ideas up your sleeve, here are a couple of other things that have helped in our situation. This is going to sound crazy corny but here goes. I put a picture next to his bed on his bedside table of me and him together. I put a sweater of mine in his bed, and he holds that at night. Sometimes, he picks something of mine that he wants to keep for the night with him. A hair clip usually. He takes it off my head just before bedtime and then he returns it to me in the morning. It's cute. But, we still have been enjoying the stress free bedtimes now after a few nights of sheer hell. Good luck to you!!! :) Pampers and Pinot

  3. I agree with Kristy. Does she have some sort of security object? I think my second child was much easier in the bedtime department because I got her attached to a blanky really early on. Maybe a night light would help too?

  4. Great job Selena! I have been in your shoes and I know how difficult it was for the both of you. Keep up the great work, and you will both be better for it. *hugs*

  5. I don't have a 3 yr old yet (as you know) so I can't give you any personal advice. But I DO watch a lot of Supernanny (and Nanny 911 before that, which I thought was WAY better, but I digress). I think you're definitely doing the right thing, but I CAN tell you what Supernanny would say about the time-out.

    However, you didn't ASK for my advice so I'm going to keep it to myself unless you want it. And I won't be offended if you don't.

  6. You did a great job! Bedtime issues are so tough. Good for you for trying something new and sticking with it. I hope each night has gotten easier.

  7. goodness! I googled "is it ok to yell at your toddler if it makes him go to sleep" and came across you! I don't know which to do more, laugh or cry as I read what you wrote! :) :'( omg thank you thank you, there are soooo many days i think i am losing my mind and want to develop a bad case of tourette's just to feel better. I love your blog entry and your language and thank you for helping me! these feelings were driving me mad too and now i feel like maybe i am half-normal at least.
    mine is 18 months old. he bounced so much in his crib tonight not wanting to fall asleep that he split open his eyelid and got a black eye - no idea how, just heard the scream right after. in any case, exasperated, i finally yelled at him SIT DOWN and GO TO SLEEP.. and he sat down and went to sleep, believe it or not :( they do figure out how to play you... motherhood sucks but it's the best thing in the world.
    Thank you from Canada!!!!!!


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