Snuggle Time

We’ve been on a a mission to get Caitlin to go to sleep by herself without me staying with her until she falls asleep. I can’t complain because the crib to “big-girl bed” transition two years ago was relatively painless (we skipped the toddler bed phase and went straight to a twin bed and now she sleeps in my childhood full-size bed with an Elmo safety rail…yep, just can’t get enough of Elmo around here). Shortly before her second birthday two summers ago she started rebelling against the crib. She never tried to climb out of it, but she would throw a hissy fit, as we say in the South, whenever I put her in her crib and she wanted to lie down on the couch at naptime. It hit me like a ton of bricks one day that perhaps she just didn’t want to sleep in her crib any more. Doubting my theory could really be that sublimely simple, but hopeful with the prospect of her transitioning from the crib well before Amelia’s arrival last spring, I talked up the move to a big girl bed like it was the greatest thing since PopTarts. There’s been no looking back.

Around the time of Amelia’s birth last March, however, Caitlin started throwing a fit if I started to leave her after I tucked her in at bedtime. Super Nanny is wagging her finger at us in disappointment, but after Amelia arrived I would DO ANYTHING to not disturb her slumber. Amelia has always been a great sleeper, and now typically sleeps 10 to 11 hours at night. Twisting my arm for a prolonged snuggle session may have been Caitlin’s blatant attempt for extra attention after Amelia arrived but I fell for it because I wanted to avoid a bedtime meltdown. Now Caitlin will be 4 in June and it’s just getting old. If I’m “lucky” she falls asleep while I’m reading to her, but usually I end up falling asleep in bed alongside her and then I then wake up at 2 a.m. in a sea of pink and green sheets and realize I’m still wearing my work clothes. The hubby put his foot down a few weeks ago and proposed a very advanced bribery system whereby we reward her after so many nights of going to sleep alone “like a big girl.” The first reward after a week of bedtime solidarity was an outing to see Ice Age 2. The second reward, after an impressive run of 10 nights of going to sleep on her own, was a trip to the children’s science museum.

This week she’s still hanging on to snuggle time with all her might and I’m not thrilled. Stubborn runs through this girl’s veins. Tonight she caught a glimpse of a string of Christmas lights in her “miscellaneous stuff” dresser drawer and she asked me to hang them on her headboard, as I had done during the holidays. I told her I would, but only if she went to sleep by herself like a big girl. I stuck to our two-story bedtime routine, closed the book, and told her I’d be back to check on her in five minutes. “No mommy! Take the lights down!,” she pleaded. “I want you to snuggle me!” I told her she was too big for mommy to stay with her every night and that even baby sister goes to sleep on her own. She sighed and pulled my arm around her. “Mommy, you’re the sweetest mommy. I love you.” And that sealed the deal. I was suckered in once again and I snuggled with her. In a few years I fear she’ll be too “cool” for me to lie down with her and inhale the smell of her freshly shampooed hair and talk about the World According to Caitlin. I stayed with her for about 20 minutes until I could feel her relax and hear her breath signal deep sleep. I turned the light out and glimpsed back at our little girl in the middle of that great big bed and my heart melted a little.

12 comments

  1. mama_tulip says:

    Julia’s always been a good sleeper, and a good faller-to-sleeper, LOL, but Oliver? I think I’m gonna have a hard time with him. Julia’s hit the age where she will try *anything* to keep me in her room with her. It’s hard to say no. I often go back and snuggle with her after she’s fallen asleep…it’s my guilty pleasure.

  2. Trisha says:

    Uhhgg! That is a toss up. A friend of mine who has older kids told me one time to never think that I had won the sleep thing. He said that every time you think you won they throw a curve ball. He said when they are little you are trying to get them to bed and sleeping on their own. As they get older you are worried sick until they are home and in bed.

    As a full time working mom I have this mommy-guilt (that’s what I call it). I would totally be in that bed with her. The hard part is then the hubby. If they don’t go to bed you get no alone time with him.

    With all my mommy-guilt I would tell him to meet me at the house for “lunch” but that’s me. 🙂 Did I say that out loud?

  3. Blonde Mom says:

    Mama_Tulip: It is a guilty pleasure. She’ll do anything to prolong the entire bedtime routine, too. The other night she wanted to “clean” her toothbrush!

    Trisha: I have a case of the working mommy guilt, too. And the lunch thing. That’s a great idea. 😉

  4. Renee says:

    We’ve been back and forth with this so many times since the girls were toddlers. I still like to lay down with them sometimes and they’re 10 and 8! It gives us time to chat a little and watch TV together. It’ll all work out in the end; don’t stress about it too much.

  5. Anne says:

    your story is exactly the same as mine. no toddler bed, no sleeping after the new baby, etc ecetc…until the snuggling, we don’t really do that. In fact, somedays we’ll read a book and she’ll fall asleep but more often than not the girls sit with us in the living room until they conk out. Lame. I know. lamelamelame…I think there are only a few parents that get their kids to sleep the ‘right’ way.

  6. Kristen says:

    We got into a big nighttime ordeal with our oldest when our younger one came along, too. Just keep working at it – it will eventually pass. Bryce does the manipulation thing, too, and sometimes it’s definitely hard to know where to the draw the line.

  7. Kristin says:

    Stubborn runs through every kid’s veins. Every time you give in to her for whatever reason, it prolongs the process by at least another week. It’s the same way a slot machine works. If you know it’s going to pay off eventually, you’ll keep putting quarters in. Would you keep putting quarters in a Coke machine that says “out of order”? No, because you KNOW it isn’t going to give you a Coke regardless of how much you yell at it and kick it. You need to have an invisible “out of order” sign on at bedtime. Bribing doesn’t work, either, because rewards like movies are not not closely connected enough to the task of going to bed by herself, as she should be doing now. If you got a new routine and held a firm line, I’d bet you’d stop this madness within a week. Even if the baby’s sleep is interrupted, everyone would settle down, probably within just 3 days. Just tell her that’s the rule and then FOLLOW THROUGH. Encourage her to read by herself in bed. Bath, short reading time, bed. Maybe you can put in a CD player that shuts itself off to play quietly while she falls asleep. If you read to her, limit it to one book. Try to find snuggle time in the daylight hours. Bedtime should be bedtime, not a time for already-haggard moms to reflect on all the things they think they did wrong during the day.

  8. Blonde Mom says:

    I am a sucker. And she’s quite the manipulatress! 😉

    We got her a nightlight last week and that doesn’t really help. She goes to sleep with a flashlight at my mom’s just great and we’ve tried that. We just need to be consistent, but uh…that is easier said than done! I know she can do it.

  9. Jennifer says:

    Yes, check her pinky for your indentation.

    Have you thought of moving cuddle time to somewhere else? Can you maybe turn off the TV and have snuggle and book time on the couch? The bed is to be reserved for sleeping, not toys or cuddling. Otherwise stall tactics ensue, at least in my three year olds world LOL!

    The FIL got into the trap of laying down with his first two, and it wasnt until they were in grade school (like grade 3) that he could break them of it.

  10. Jill Butler says:

    Kirsten moved out of her crib around two years old, because she did climb out of her crib a couple of times. She is now 3 1/2 and she tries and tries every night to keep me in her room. My husband said I’m spoiling her and she needs to go to sleep on her own, which I know is true. When she does fall asleep though I find myself going in her room just to snuggle with her. I love the innocence of a sleeping child, even after having a rough day with her everything is forgotten after seeing her sweet little sleeping face.

  11. nancy says:

    We have a little bit of a tough time getting Mimi to bed too. She will talk, cajole, plead, fake illness, etc. She knows we are wise to her tricks, but sometimes it’s just easier to lay down with her for a few minutes. So I’ve spent many late nights awakening in confusion after a few minutes of snuggling myself. I figure she will outgrow it soon — and luckily Rosie usually goes down by herself without incident.

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