Back when my son was an infant, bedtime was a dream. By 4 weeks old, he was down to one wake up a night. He would suck down a quick bottle, then go back to snoozing. By 8 weeks, we would place him in his crib, all swaddled up like a baby burrito with a full belly and fresh diaper, and he would sleep for a minimum of eight hours. Eight glorious hours where he didn’t make a peep. I went back to work after being home with him for 12 weeks. It was amazing to wake up and ready myself for a full day of work after being allowed an uninterrupted night’s sleep.
My son would wake up as a smiley little dude shortly before I left and cooperate with his father as he readied them both for the day. At one point, he regressed a little, but when we introduced cereal in his bottle (no lectures, please) before bed he started back to nine or ten hours of peaceful slumber.
Then he turned one.
All of a sudden, right around my son’s first birthday, he started to hate sleeping. Like, I mean hate it. All of a sudden he was like an “American Ninja Warrior” contestant, able to scale seemingly impossible heights. My husband and I took extreme measures to keep him in his crib — changing table barrier against a short side. High side facing away from the wall. It worked until it didn’t. One night I found him sitting on his changing table, seemingly really regretting the decisions he made that night.
We 86ed the crib when he was 2 and converted it to a toddler bed, praying that with the climbing factor removed we’d be back to hours upon on hours of restful slumber. We were wrong. So very wrong. Unbeknownst to us, the toddler bed was some sort of torture device designed to terrify and antagonize our son. He REFUSED to sleep in it. For several months, he slept in several places other than his bed — his Anywhere Chair, his floor, an (unused) dog bed in his room. We played this game until later that year when we purchased a used racecar bed to test out a new theory. Maybe with a super fun new bed our son could be willing to sleep like an actual person again. And it worked. That one year was great.
Then, all of a sudden, things took a turn for the worse.
We’d always had a pretty long and involved bedtime routine. There was a show in our bedroom. Then a show in his own room. Then he got to lay down in our room again for five minutes. Finally, he would settle into his own room — and lights out.
But sometime in the early spring, our son burst into tears as it was time for him to go to sleep. Hysterically, he told me he was afraid of his room. The same bedroom he’d been sleeping in since he was 7 weeks old. We tried a million things to make his room a place he wasn’t afraid of. If he said something was scary, it was taken out or replaced. We tried no blankets, new blankets, music on, music off. He had a Mickey nightlight he previously loved. Now it made him cry, so we hid it. Nothing worked.
Scratch that. There was one thing that did work. And that was sleeping in our room. Fortunately, our son doesn’t need to sleep in our bed. Just on our floor — on that same previously mentioned dog bed. But only after he sings to himself, attempts to crawl under our bed, and plays with each and every lovie he hoards onto the bed with him. Some nights I struggle to stay awake long enough to outlast him.
I long for the infant days. I’m sure most people won’t agree with me and will think I’m crazy. And I get that. But in my case, bedtime back then was a breeze. Now, not so much. Now, it’s nearly an hour and a half of cajoling, comprising, and pleading. And that’s on a good night. My son fights sleep like his life depends on staying awake. He hates bedtime.
And truth be told, I’m not a fan either.