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.