In Hopes of Alone Time

It’s 5 am when the alarm clock rings. I grab my phone and stare at the alarm, hoping that the light and sound will help wake me. Begrudgingly, I make my way to the bathroom. There is serious work to be done, and I need to prepare myself. I look into the mirror and repeat: You can do this. Then with more force: You’ve got this. And with even more force: You. Are. Mom.

Alas by the time I make it into the shower, nerves have clouded my mind again. Nerves that began yesterday when we got the call. The call that will forever change our routine.

They will be delivering the girls’ new bunk beds next Monday.

girl-431089_1280I remind myself that I should be happy. The process of getting here has been pretty exciting. While I decided on the purchase of a bed, Riley decided that it must be a bunk bed. According to her ideal of what it would be like, she will walk down the ladder each morning when she wakes up. Maddie will be sleeping on the bottom, and she will have slumbered up top. This simple thought had her smiling from ear to ear. It did me as well. Riley on the top and Maddie on the bottom meant no one in mom’s bed. This might just work, I thought.

So, I spent some time looking at options, and one morning, Riley and I sat down and went through them. As I scrolled, Riley stopped me, landed her finger on a white bunk bed with beautiful wide stairs going up the side and a trundle bed underneath. “This is my bed,” she proclaimed and returned to watching her television show. The stairs had huge railings, and the top had a nice railing. I was sold, and so was it. I’ve done my best to keep her excitement about the bed up, not wanting it to lose its appeal during shipping. We’ve been excited for three weeks now.

Then the call came. Then reality kicked in. We were going back to battle. Nay, we were going back to war. The nighttime war. The second nighttime war.

Stubborn look in cribThe first war had lasted two and a half years and left both sides a little scarred. Of course, the largest scars reside in the side that lost. That would be me.

My strategy the first time had been clear, well planned, and backed by Internet research. I couldn’t fail. I had the tools, the knowledge, and I was pretty darn stubborn. I would be consistent, and I would be strong. Her bedtime would be 8 pm, allowing me some alone time, and she would sleep in her bed. But like the demise of so many armies before me, I didn’t take the time to learn my enemy. I underestimated her. It was easy to. She was just a little baby, after all. So, the day I brought her home from the hospital, I began the work of sleep training. We had a routine that we followed every single night. Bath time at 7:20. In pjs by 7:40. Reading a book by 7:45. In bed by 8:00 pm sharp. I’m a timebound person. I followed this to a tee. Every. Single. Night. For two and a half years.

Each night, I would be defeated. Her screams and wide eyes continued well past 8, leaving me with no alone time and overwhelming frustration. At first, she fell asleep at 2 am each night. Then it became 12 am. Then 10 pm. It was better, but it wasn’t 8 pm. At least she was sleeping in her bed. That is, until she began waking at 4 am. Then she traveled to my bed in hopes of a couple hours more sleep. Small victories in hopes of large wins. I chalked up my early defeats to infancy. Babies aren’t suppose to sleep, right?

Mom sleeping, baby notBut the defeats kept coming, and I became more and more frustrated. I dreaded nighttime. Absolutely dreaded it. The screaming, the whining, the crying on both parts was shameful. As I lamented my sad and scary tale to anyone who would listen, I received the same feedback: “Are you being consistent? Consistency is key.” No, I wanted to respond, I change it up every night and expect it to go well. But I would just reply, yes, I was being consistent. The response always met doubting eyes, causing me to continuously doubt what I was doing.

By the end of the first year of battle, though, I began to realize that the problem wasn’t the execution of my plan, it was the tenacity of my opponent. This little girl was ten times more stubborn than I was. Lord, have mercy on my soul. I like to think a weaker woman would have thrown in the towel and relinquished the ideal of an hour alone each night and the spot in her bed; I forged ahead. Looking back, I think a smarter woman would have stopped.
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By 2 ½ the nighttime fits became so bad that I regularly had to give myself time-outs to calm down, and her crying became so hard she vomited. The first time that happened, I quit. I couldn’t remember why the bedtime and where she slept was so important to me. She was clearly a night owl, and I really didn’t care if she was in my bed or not. I just thought she was supposed to be in hers. I realized in my defeat we needed to find a routine that worked for us.

And so we did, and it worked. That is, until this fall when our peaceful evening routine became Riley’s favorite time of day to chat. Typically she is a girl of few words. She was, anyway. Now when the lights go down, all she wants to do is gab. “One more thing, Mom,” she’d continue for hours. Yep, our routine wasn’t working anymore.

Enter the bunk bed and my hope of nighttime quiet. I think it may work. She’s excited. She has a plan (which is important for a stubborn person); now all we have to do is execute it. Can two former enemies work together for household peace? Only time will tell. Until next week, when battle is called, I will repeat my mantra: You. Are. Mom. You can do this.