The amount of space on this site I have dedicated to lamenting my lack of sleep and the non-sleeping practices of Small Z would write the novel that I will never get around to finishing. This is not a lament post [cue: boggling eyes]. This is a VICTORY post.
Obviously I have to include a teeny lament bit in order to emphasis my win, so… For the past few months, OK, let’s just say this year, Small Z’s bedtime has become more and more haphazard. This was in line with her equally haphazard daytime nap. Sometimes the nap would be at midday, sometimes at 2pm. If it was the latter, she would not then sleep at night until after 9pm. That would inevitably mean she would wake after 8am, which in turn would mean she would have a late nap and etcetera etcetera.
On reflection I’m surprised that at some point she didn’t travel around the clock in it’s entirety and become completely nocturnal for a few weeks. A month or so ago I was really reaching the end of the line. I would spend ages getting her to sleep in the day, catnap then myself, and that was it. I would have to go to bed at night when she went to bed, because I’d be too exhausted to stay up any later than 9.30pm myself.
I started to worry about what was going to happen when Pikelet was born. How the hell was I going to dedicate the fucking endless endless swathes of time to getting Small Z to sleep while juggling a newborn (a newborn that will be a fantastic sleeper…right? RIGHT? …but still). My small Brain worked on this slowly. I posted to the forum I lurk on and was told that by that time she might not be having a daytime nap anymore (quelle horreur!) – to sit her in front of Play School instead – and (most useful of all) – to CHILL THE HELL OUT, because how could I possibly anticipate the un-anticipatable? Ah.
I ceased wasting my time agonising about what might happen and just focused on trying to gain some sanity. I tried to set a bedtime each night in the hope that regardless of the nap-factor, getting put in bed at the same time every night might finally kick her bodyclock into sleep time. To do this, I gave her an old-school alarm clock and it became her job to turn the alarm off every night at 7pm – and this signified getting-ready-for-bed-time.
For a week we tried this. It didn’t really work. She was very happy to turn off the alarm, but then it was all, “Make one last card with me Mama!” “No! It’s TIME FOR BED.” “Make one last card with me Dadda.” “This is the last card, Small Z. Then it’s bed.” The last card would be made. She would then start sc-reeeeming for the next ‘last’ card. [Bangs head hard on wall.]
In conjunction with this lack of progress I began to find that on the days of nap-drought, I could get her to bed early. Mostly. And with this realisation came that I might save myself a lot of time in the day trying to get her to nap. And with this realisation came the really important one – that when the alarm clock went off, it should not just be ‘time to get ready for bed’, it should be a series of steps in the same order, that happen Every. Single. Night. Right?
(Belatedly, of course, I realise that my parents spent my childhood chanting Hands – face – teeth – wee’s – BED for probably precisely this reason. Sigh. Whatever.) So I sat down Small Z at a time when she was amenable and started drawing a Bedtime Map. We drew the alarm clock at seven o’clock with a red alarm button, we drew TEETH and a toothbrush – we drew the potty with WEE in it – we drew the PYJAMAS – we drew TWO BOOKS and then we drew EYES THAT WERE SHUT, CLOSED and DREAMING.
I emphasised the order to her. That night I carried the map with us and she had great fun following each picture. She was in bed with EYES THAT WERE SHUT, CLOSED AND (presumably) DREAMING before 7pm. I had no witnesses, but it truly happened. I was worried that it might not happen on the days when she did take a daytime nap, but now, a week on – I’m not so worried, as there have been no daytime naps. This is not the torture I thought it would be.
Yes, she is a skankfest by about 4pm, but as long as I can go outside, if we’ve been inside, or go inside if we’ve been out – or just generally change her environment to give her a boost through to 5pm, which is now dinner time – I can get her down before 7pm and have – OH MY GOD – two or so hours to MYSELF!!!
Yes, she has tried to diverge from the Bedtime Map routine. No, I have not let her do it in another order or procrastinate. Yes, I have sat with her and given her a bottle of milk after the alarm has gone off when she was particularly cranky. The key factor is that she is so tired by 6pm (which is actually the time I now have to set the alarm to go off) that the awful, elongated getting-her-to-sleep torture is no longer. It’s two books, lights out and then she listens to a few audiobook short stories as she conks out.
I feel like I have such a short gap before being thrown back into new-baby-land that this is just an oasis. I’m more than sure it won’t last, but while it does? It’s HEAVEN.
Up the top left hand corner is the alarm clock with a big number 7 to the right to emphasise the bed TIME. Then there is TEETH and a toothbrush next to it. Then there is the potty (ours is duck-shaped) with yellow WEE in it (we like realism) and a nappy. To the right of the potty is Small Z’s striped sleep sack PYJAMAS and in the bottom left hand corner are TWO BOOKS… and last of all CLOSED SLEEPY EYES…
(Yes, Small Z’s contribution was drawing liberally all over everything, which is why I have decoded it, both for you and for the future me…)