Noah has never been a good sleeper. We have had some very long, very dark, dark nights in the past three years. His bedtime routine is very important. Since he dropped his afternoon sleep, he goes to sleep as soon as his head hits the pillow. It’s getting his head to hit the pillow that’s the challenge…
Step 1 – Bathtime
Noah’s routine starts with a bath. Bathtime is my husband’s responsibility. Noah likes his bath but that doesn’t mean he makes it easy for us to get him in there. It partly depends on what he has been doing five minutes prior to bathtime. Half way through Toy Story? There’s no way he’s getting in that bath without a fight. One day this week, my husband was working late so bathtime was down to me. I started running Noah’s bath and he came in to use his potty. I wandered out of the room to get him a towel. When I returned, he was sitting fully clothed in the bath, playing with his squirty toys. Yes, I left him in the bathroom unattended whilst running the bath.
If getting him into the bath is a challenge 60% of the time, then getting him out of the bath is a challenge 95% of the time. If you push the lever that lets the bathwater out, Noah pushes it back in. If you push the lever that lets the bathwater out and block him from getting anywhere near it, he turns his back on you and continues to play with his toys as if you don’t exist. Trying to lift him out of the bath when he is in this mood is very dangerous as he throws his slippery body away from your tenuous grip. I usually let all of the water drain away, silently count to three, then grip him under the armpits and pull him over the edge like a giant fish. He doesn’t like it one bit.
Step 2 – Pyjamas
Getting Noah’s pyjamas on is the biggest challenge of the bedtime routine. He rolls, kicks, runs, somersaults, crouches, moves away from you in whatever way he can. Sometimes my husband tries to hold him still while I whip the pyjama top over his head. Sometimes we leave the room and turn the lights out, telling him to let us know when he is ready to be a good boy, otherwise he can put himself to bed. If he is in a really naughty frame of mind, he will then deliberately wee all over his bed. Usually, he just treats it like one big joke and puts his light back on or appears in his doorway grinning. Sometimes, I ignore him as he parades around his room naked. Instead, I sit down and start reading his favourite book of the moment. It draws him over like a magnet. When the story is finished, he is calm and I then whip the pyjama top over his head.
Step 3 – Stories
This part usually goes well as he loves his books. He can choose three books at bedtime. Sometimes he wants to read the same book three times, but that’s as bad as it gets.
Step 4 – Getting into bed
He gets into bed with whatever animals he is sleeping with that night. He lays them all across his pillow. I say his prayers for him and he says Amen.
“How much do you love me?” I ask.
“Moon and back,” he replies dutifully. Otherwise he completely ignores me.
I tell him, regardless, “I love you all the world and everything and absolutely to the moon and back.”
I then sing him two songs, at the end of which he is sound asleep.*
*(Unless he has fallen asleep at some point during the day and then we have a whole other kind of nightmare to live through before he finally goes to sleep).
However, at any point during step 4, he could do one or more of the following:
- Claim he is hungry. “You’ll have to wait for breakfast,” I tell him. Result – outraged, screaming fit.
- Desperately needs a toy he hasn’t shown any interest in for weeks and you have no idea where it is.
- Says he needs a poo-poo. This is a very tricky one and the thing that, above all else, makes my blood boil. 50% of the time that he says he needs a poo when I have already settled him into bed, he is telling the truth. I can’t refuse to let him go, even though the other 50% of the time, he is saying it just so he can get out of bed. I take him to the toilet, he sits there for an endless amount of time, play-acting at squeezing his poo out. Finally, he informs me with an expression of fake sorrow on his face, “My poo-poo won’t come out.” It then takes another 20 minutes before he is ready to fall asleep.
Step 5 – Sleep
Peace descends. I usually stay in his room for five minutes after he falls asleep. All is quiet. All is calm. I lay next to him with my head on his pillow and listen to his little breaths. The child is my nemesis, but he is also my life.
Sweet dreams, my Noah.