Winning the Bedtime Battle

My son is smart.

Allow me to clarify: I’m not saying that to brag or to make anyone feel bad.  It’s not like I’m saying he’s smarter than your kid[1].  And it’s not like Eitan would win on “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?” or anything like that.  He’s only 13 months old, after all.

But he is smart.

No matter what he’s doing, the wheels are turning.  If you watch him play, you can see him trying to figure things out.  The ring stacker, the shape sorter, the push truck without an on/off switch, he’s mastered them all.[2]  He knows how to walk, but also knows that he gets places much faster if he crawls.  Think you can stop him from pushing dining room chairs around the room by putting other stuff in his way?  He’ll either move the obstacles or just push right through them.  Think your phone is safe because you put it on top of a couple pillows on the couch so he can’t reach?  He’ll see the phone and pull the pillows down so he can get to it.

Which brings up this question: if you’re such a smart kid, and we know you are, why won’t you just go to sleep when you’re tired?

Last night, we went through our usual bedtime routine.  Eitan got a bath (even though he had apparently invaded my wife’s shower a few hours earlier), I got him into his pajamas, we read him two stories, and he nursed.  Then, after nursing, my wife put a sleepy Eitan into his crib.

Eitan immediately stood up and started crying.

(This is not the confusing part, believe it or not.  We know why he did this.  Without getting into too much detail, he wanted to fall asleep on our bed and we weren’t letting him.)

So we both said good night to the crying, standing Eitan and left the room.  It was 9:03 PM.

We went to the living room and started watching television, listening closely for the continued screams.  We’ve used the cry-it-out method once before and it was mostly successful, so I hadn’t planned to go back into the room before at least ten or fifteen minutes had passed[3].  At fifteen minutes, it sounded like he was slowing down.  By a half hour, his crying and screams of “Ma!  Mamaaa!” had become softer whines.  Around the 40 minute mark, the crying/whining had stopped but we heard him turn on the piano.  Then we heard a clicking sound, followed by a change in the mobile music, as Eitan apparently pressed the different buttons.  Then some more whining around 50 minutes, plus a clattering noise as Eitan threw some toys out of the crib in protest.[4]  The silent sounds of sleep finally set in at 57 minutes.

In retrospect, our question of why he wouldn’t go to sleep was more about us than it was about him.  We knew he wasn’t going to sleep because he was trying to see if we would give in to his demands.  Our question was more about our own insecurities about parenting and setting limits for a toddler than about why he wouldn’t just do what we wanted him to do by going to sleep.  He knew what he wanted and he tried a number of different tactics to get it.  He screamed, he pleaded, he whined, he played for a bit, screamed some more and threw some toys before finally giving in.  The truth is that he did exactly what he was supposed to do.  And, in the process, he manipulated our emotions to make us question our decisions and consider giving in.[5]

I told you he was smart.


[1] Although he might be.  I don’t know your kid.  It could be another example of the Homer Simpson-Darryl Strawberry logic.

[2] That’s a slight lie.  He hasn’t fully mastered the shape sorter.  But if you put the shape near the right slot, he can turn it so it fits in, so we’re counting it.

[3] As it turned out, neither of us ended up going in at all.  Every time we were about to, it sounded like he was slowing down so we didn’t want to rile him up again.

[4] We found four different animals lying in front of the crib when we came into the room later to cover him with his blanket.  The hostages had been abandoned.

[5] God help us when he becomes a teenager.

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8 responses to “Winning the Bedtime Battle

    • Thanks Betty. That wasn’t actually one of the initial reasons I started the blog but after a couple of weeks, I had that idea also. I’m actually really looking forward to showing this to Eitan when he’s older and to re-reading it myself a few years down the road. If nothing else, this blog will help remind us of stuff that we’ll have long forgotten by then (like last night’s episode, for instance).

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