One thing parenthood does a great job of showcasing is just how much work it takes to ingrain certain habits into a child that we as adults generally take for granted. It's basically your job to housebreak and domesticate your kid so that he or she fits nicely into our society. Generally this starts very early when whichever of the parents draws the short straw and must attempt to rope lasso their rambunctious child, climb on their back and hold on for dear life until the little one runs out of energy and gives into the notion that the parents are in charge. Once that is achieved you can move onto more refined things like eating with utensils, counting using their hooves and what we're currently dealing with: sleeping in a regular bed.
A couple of weekends ago we decided it was time to bring Olivia up from the minor leagues and into the world of big girl beds. I fitted her crib with a toddler rail, ground effects, a spoiler and some sick ass rims, then Jodi and I talked up how awesome it was to be a big girl sleeping in a big girl bed. "Hey Olivia, I heard Elsa (always name drop a favorite character or celebrity your toddler is following on social media when you want them to do something) sleeps in a big girl bed. Do you want to sleep in a big girl bed too?" "I recently read in 'Modern Toddler' magazine that big girl beds are all the rage. What do you think?" Once she was on board it was simply a matter of installing the nanny cam, which we hoped would help keep her in bed when she needed to be, and we were off.
When it was time for bed Olivia was gung-ho to try out her new setup; so much that she decided against story time and any shenanigans that she'd normally try to delay the inevitable. We let her climb in, get comfortable and then proceeded to let her know about the rules for her new bed:
She can take a doll with her to bed.
She must remain in bed until we come to get her in the morning.
The clown on her rocking chair is there to watch over and protect her. If for some reason she falls asleep for a second, then wakes up and looks over to see that he's no longer there, she should never EVER check under the bed to see if he's under it. He will absolutely scare the shit out of her when she sits back up.
When she's awake she can knock on the door to let us know she's up.
Once we turn off her lamp the floor turns into liquid hot magma. If she tries to get out of bed her feet will be toasted like marshmallows and we will then be forced to eat them between two graham crackers and some chocolate. If she questions why we are able to walk on the magma we will tell her about the special socks we have on that allow Mommy and Daddy to walk without getting hurt.
After we'd successfully traumatized our child into not getting out of bed we left her room and rushed over to our couch to huddle around the baby monitor and see just what she'd do with her newfound freedom. Upon our first check, we found that she was just chilling in bed holding her doll in the air. Success! The scare tactics worked and I figured she'd be asleep in no time. We waited 5-10 minutes and checked on her again, this time finding her standing up in her bed, holding her doll and surveying the room. At this point we realized that we hadn't discussed just what lengths we'd allow her to go until we intervened and reminded her that it was night time. What did we do if she was sitting up, not sleeping and playing with her doll? Did we wait until we saw her standing in her crib to say something? What if we turned on the monitor and saw her floating in the air? At that point I think I'd do what any good husband and father would do to protect their child: strap a proton pack on the back of my wife and wish her good luck while I hid in the closet.
After watching Olivia sit on the edge of her bed and then stand up again, we decided it was time to remind her of what she was there to do. Jodi pressed the talk button on the baby monitor receiver, gently told Olivia it was time to sleep and then we watched as she hit the deck and pretended like she was sleeping the whole time. We're no strangers to this tactic, so we got a good laugh and waited a while longer before checking again to see that she'd finally settled for the night. Since that night things have been mostly hit with a dash of miss in regards to her adjustment to the bed. Some nights she goes to sleep with barely a peep, but then others she's wide awake and wanting to test the boundaries of what she can do before we tell her to reel it in. Some of the more interesting things we've seen when tuning in to check on her have gone as follows:
- She's staring back at the monitor, eyes glowing in the night vision like a lion on the Serengeti being filmed by an Animal Planet documentarian. At this point I have to wonder if we're watching her, or if she's watching us.
- She's somehow fallen out of her crib and is sound asleep on the floor.
- She's asleep in her crib, then just as we're about to turn off the monitor something dashes in front of the camera. While there are no signs of bugs or rodents, I have found small cars made out of matchsticks, paperclips and buttons. This leads me to believe that the "little people" Olivia keeps talking about are in fact real and living among us.
In the past we've had our nights where Olivia would wake up crying and we'd have to go in and console her, change her diaper or give her water. While I thought those days were behind us, the new sleeping arrangement appears to have brought that back into the spotlight to some degree. One night there's not a peep from her, then the next she's up at 4:30 wanting us to turn on her octopus night light. She's woken up to ask us for water, so now we've started keeping a bottle at the side of her bed and reminding her before the lights go out that it's there when she needs it. While the water situation appears to have been solved, we're still trying to figure out how to teach her to use a blanket. She refuses them once we put her down for the night, and we have to go in later to make sure she's covered up if it's cold. She's woken up a few times recently, arms folded around her and calling out for a blanket to warm her up. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't want to go in there, cover her up and care for my child. It's that whole late night/early morning wake up call to do something she could basically do by herself. Why can't she just reach down and pull the covers up on her own?
That's the thing though: how do we teach our toddler to be self reliant when she either doesn't want to be or just doesn't get it? It's just another piece of the puzzle that needs to be figured out by both her and us. Somehow we've got to get it to click that she can do basic things on her own, like covering up with a blanket, brushing her teeth or completing a Rubik's cube. I think it's adorable that she lets us know she's awake every morning by knocking on her bedroom door from her bed. But how do I get her to realize that she can get out of bed on her own, without burning her feet, and come out to play or see us? I guess it comes down to setting hard rules to get her to understand what we need, then softening them up gradually so she sees that there is also flexibility there. While I enjoy going in to get Olivia up for her day, I'm looking forward to when she can begin doing that on her own. Then again, I should be careful what I wish for. Someday soon I'll wake up to find our toddler standing next to our bed, staring at us, and it'll scare the shit out of me. I guess it's better than that clown.