Sleep straining / by Susie Lubell

Last night, without any premeditation or strategizing, I decided to sleep train my daughter. About a year ago we had begun our journey down the slippery slope of early morning snuggling in our bed. She would wake up around 6:00 and one of us would get her and put her in the bed. And she would snuggle and giggle and usually fall back asleep for another hour. Then at 7:03 she'd wake up and make my husband take her to get a banana for breakfast. We enjoyed it. She was like a little early morning radiating butterball.

But then 6:00 turned in 5:00, then 3:30, 2:30 and so it went. And she grew bigger. And developed some annoying habits. Like digging her heals into the space where my back meets the mattress. It was like she was trying to burrow. And she had to share my pillow. And she snores. Basically it became intolerable. She had also forgotten how to fall asleep by herself. We got in the habit of putting her to bed in my son's twin (she refuses to go to sleep in her crib) and when she's asleep, we sneak out. It only took minutes and she was so cute and cozy to sleep with. But when she wakes up at night she can't fall asleep again unless we're with her, which is why she comes into our bed. And since she shares a room with her brother, we can't just let her shriek until she falls asleep. And anyway, at this point she's on her crib mattress on the floor next to her brother's bed, so she can just get up and roam into our room at all hours.

So you could say, we made this bed and now we're lying in it. And the thing is we were so diligent with our son. Vigilant even. And he is a champion sleeper. I remember reading an article in some parenting magazine about how a family of four kids had four different sleepers and I wondered how can that be. Now I know. The second kid is very different than the first. The second has to share a room with her brother. We have exponentially less energy now for middle-of-the-night discipline. So many factors.

But last night I'd had enough. So at 2:00 am when her majesty came into our room, I brought her back to hers and she started to shriek. So I grabbed her blankets and made her a bed on our floor and for the next two hours she got out of her covers and tried to gain entry to our bed and I put her back on the floor. Back and forth. 97 times. I made my husband take a shift and then my daughter got disoriented and went stumbling around the house looking for me unaware that I was just hiding in the far corner of our bed. Then my son woke up so I pleaded with him to go back to bed and my tone must have been sufficiently urgent because he just turned back around and hid under his covers. But we heard him whimpering so I sent in my husband and I snuggled with my daughter on the floor for a few minutes. That calmed her down but when I got up she started to shriek again. And then she got up and we repeated our exercise a few more times. At this point she has started banging into the bed and tripping over everything because she is so exhausted. I feel like I've been hit by a truck but we remain steadfast. She makes one final effort but I put her back on the floor and tuck her in tightly. Her whimpers subside to aggressive thumb-sucking. And then…silence. We have won the battle.

This morning everyone woke up an hour late. My daughter was unusually grumpy. But it took her about a minute to snap out of it. After breakfast she came into our room and looked at the heap of blankets on the floor and started wagging her finger and saying sternly, no no ni ni, which I can only infer to mean, no sleeping in mommy's bed. You have to go ni-ni on the floor. Poor thing. We'll see how she does tonight. She's a persistent little bugger. But she gets that from me.