Sleep is exhausting. Or, rather, teaching kids (specifically, my kids, though I have a sense I'm not alone in this boat) to sleep is exhausting.
I'll preface this by saying: I've read the books. I've read the books, the web sites by sleep experts, the blogs by other moms, the Babycenter boards and every other resource out there. We've tried routines, sleep cues, special sleepwear, and every trick we've encountered. If there's a suggestion, we've tried it. Our kids haven't met a magic sleep trick that one or both of them hasn't been able to best.
Sometimes, it feels like we're under siege. (Is that dramatic? Sleep deprivation is a recognized method of torture.).
Our current battle over sleep started with P2 fighting sleep. Every nap, every bedtime - she would cry as soon as she was faced with the prospect of being lowered into her crib, sometimes crying for an hour before finally giving up and passing out. Just listening to that much crying every day is exhausting, and not knowing how to effectively soothe her - the only thing she wanted was to just sleep on me all day every day (cue the comment section of judgey mommies in my head guilting me for not giving my baby what she wants), and anything that was shy of her preferred method of sleep might was received as if we were suggesting that she sleep on a bed of pins and needles.
Somewhere in there, P1 started waking up in the middle of the night, sometimes multiple times, with screaming nightmares. It could take an hour to get her back to bed, and there were the nights when we never succeeded in cajoling her back to sleep and ended up getting kicked by her in our bed over and over.
Now the nightmares have mostly ceased, but have been replaced by epic, screaming battles at bedtime (though, thankfully, P2 has become less resistant to sleeping in her crib, FINALLY, so we're usually only fighting with one kid at a time). Sometimes it starts as early as when we announce dinner: "I no sleep," P1 will respond firmly. No one's talking about sleep yet, but she knows that dinner's a precursor to bath time, and after her bath is when she gets her bedtime books and then has to go to bed. So she tries to preempt all this by announcing her intentions early.
So far, she has not convinced us to drop the sleep component of the evening.
Lately, she's added the line of reasoning, "I sleep already." Like, she got that done, so she doesn't need to sleep again. She is unpersuaded that sleep is something everyone must do, every night, no matter how many nights they've already slept.
Now, she will try every trick in the book to drag out her bedtime routine. When one of us has finally managed to get her into her crib, she will clutch onto our arms or hands to try to keep us from leaving her. She's begged me to sit in her rocker and let her hold my foot from her crib; she's tried to order J to lie on the floor next to her crib (or, like the last few nights, to sit in her little stuffed elephant chair, to which J responded indignantly, "I'm not a baby!" This fight is taking its toll on even the most even-tempered among us.).
We've tried bribes. We've tried threats. We've tried appeals to reason (whatever reasoning a 2-year-old is capable of, at least) and comforting reassurances. We've tried WWDTD (what would Daniel Tiger do) and informing her that princesses go to sleep and don't fight with their parents. We've tried leaving the light on, turning it off, promising to come back and check on her after a few minutes, leaving the door open, letting her take any and all of her toys to bed with her, threatening to take the toys away, appeals to empathy (I know YOU don't want to sleep but MOMMY is tired, PLEASE let Mommy sleep!). No dice.
So we're left hoping it's just a phase that will wear itself out, as the other phases before it have. If I've learned anything about parenting in my 2 short years of experience, it's that as soon as you have something about your kid figured out, they grow and change and are on to the next issue. You get a handle on sleep only for baby to regress. You figure out a popular dinner only for it to get thrown on the floor the next time you serve it. And so on.
I guess they like keeping us on our toes.
The other thing I've learned? Having two kids is a front seat to the absolute reality that every kid is different. We're learning that things that worked for P1 are meaningless for P2. P1 we sleep-trained (CIO opponents, don't @ me), and it was about a week or so of misery, but then she got through it and slept like a dream (until P2 came along, and now . . . well, you read the above). We'd stick her in her Merlin sleep suit and pop her in her crib and have the night to ourselves. So, we tried sleep-training P2 the exact same way we had with P1 and - nothing. It made no difference to her. Merlin sleep suit might as well have been rigged with bright lights and loud noises for all the soothing abilities it had on P2.
Bottom line: what works for one kid miiiiight not work for another.
Whew! If you've made it this far, you've basically read a novel, at least as far as blog posts tend to go. So I'll wrap it up and keep my fingers crossed that we'll get this whole sleep thing figured out - and soon! It'd be really nice to have our evenings back, and for my husband to be sitting on the couch with me right now instead of trapped in our toddler's bedroom waiting for her to fall asleep.
Fellow parents, former bad sleepers - let's hear from you. We've run the gamut testing out sleep solutions, but if you have advice for how to operate without sleep, please let me know <3
Eating, working, mothering and adventuring in Brooklyn and beyond.