Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sleep training. Yeah, you read that right...

A few days ago I bought a Groupon for two months of unlimited yoga at a studio near my house. They have 6 a.m. classes every day which might seem like information a sleep lover like me could simply ignore, but it's actually the main reason I bought the darn thing. Trying to squeeze a workout in any other time of day has proven to be pretty unlikely. If I want to make exercise a habit, I need a schedule I can stick to.

I'm hoping this early-bird-gets-the-worm business is it.

But now that I want to get up early, I have to get to sleep on time. Which wouldn't be a problem (I looooove going to sleep) except that in order for Bill and I to have a little grown up time each night, we have to wait out the kids. And they aren't in any hurry to hit the sack.

See, we have ourselves a bit of a bedtime situation here. It's not good. And now that I don't want to work around it anymore, it's becoming a real problem.

We never sleep trained Finn. I know, I know...he's not trainable. But you know what I mean. We never worked out the whole going to bed thing. We've just jumped from one bad habit to another for the past four years and slept with one eye open so when he comes in our room in the middle of the night, we're ready for him.

It started with colic. Months and months of screaming and nursing and rocking and crying and not even thinking about a sleep schedule because of the loud ringing in our ears at all hours of the day and night and OMG HOW DID WE SURVIVE THAT???

After that was...I don't even know. We had a colic hangover or something. It was like we still had a newborn and were in that survival stage where you do anything that works as long as it works and when it stops working you stumble around in the dark whimpering until something else clicks and you try that for a while.

I honestly CAN NOT remember how we ever got that sweet child to sleep.

I know exactly what I did with Liam. What time he woke up in the night to nurse. How old he was when we moved him from our room to his crib. How long it was until he was sleeping through the night. When I first let him cry it out so he could get himself to sleep. How many hours he slept at night. When he liked to nap. All of it.

With Finn it's one big blur. I mean, really. ALL OF IT. I only know that by the time he learned to crawl out of his crib (something Liam never did) we were like, "Oh crap. We haven't taught him how to fall asleep on his own yet! What do we do now???"

Four years later, we're still in survival mode.

We've laid with Finn until he fell asleep a million times.

We've locked him in his room and let him cry it out for HOURS until he finally passed out on the floor.

We've given him drinks and snacks and whatever else he asked for in the middle of the night so he wouldn't cry so loud he'd wake up Liam.

We've moved a little closer to the door each night as he tried to fall asleep hoping eventually we'd be out of the room and he'd go to sleep happily on his own.

We've bribed, yelled, screamed, cried, rocked, shushed and begged.

We've talked about it a LOT.

We've gotten into good routines and bad, had successes (or, at least what felt like successes...) and failures.

But we've never, not one time, read Finn a few stories, kissed him goodnight, turned off the light, and left the room not expecting to see him again til morning.

Not once.

He's four, you guys. Is this crazy? It feels crazy...

I think most nights we just sort of do what we need to do (either hope he falls asleep while we're reading - he doesn't nap so he's usually pretty tired - or lay with him until he goes to sleep). So long as we still get a bit of time for ourselves and a good night's sleep (totally possible now that he stopped waking up for a drink at 2 a.m.!), we don't worry about it too much.

But when something comes up that makes me need him to stay in bed once I put him there - like a super early wake up call or friends coming over after bedtime - I realize just how dysfunctional our little situation really is.

Because it's not just Finn. He takes the early shift in the bedtime debacle, sucking up our evening hang time, but Liam works all night. We must have billed bedtime as special alone time years ago because he's pretty sure he's entitled to as much one-on-one with himself as he can squeeze in between the time he goes to bed and whenever the sun comes up. He reads and thinks and draws and writes and listens to audio books lays around not sleeping for I have no idea how long. He's like a nocturnal Renaissance man. Which is great. Mostly. Except when Finn interrupts him? He's not a happy camper. Plus, our bedrooms share a door and it's happened one too many times that we thought he was asleep and he busted in on our naked alone time.

Not good.

It just kinda feels like we have hardly any time without kids. And now if I want to get up early every day...something's gotta give.

The trouble is, we have no idea what to do. How do you correct a bedtime situation you've been stringing along for years? When one child won't listen to you or stay in bed and the other one can't sleep until he's good and ready?

I wish I had the answer. Maybe soon I will. So far I'm only finding out what doesn't work. Yelling, like I did last night, doesn't work at all. Not for one bit of it. Jury's still out on whether or not adding a second night like was a win. At the time I felt like I had just discovered the missing ingredient. Like, "Oh my gosh, Finn must just be scared of the dark! And Liam could probably use a bit more light for reading. How silly of me not to think of it before. This little light of mine is going to solve everything!"

We practiced going to bed and staying in bed earlier today and then, with the nightlight, I went into bedtime tonight feeling really pretty good.

I felt even more optimistic after I finished reading, kissed Finn goodnight and left the room.

He hadn't asked me for a snack or rolled onto the ground or started yelling, "No!" to nothing in particular. He wasn't following me out the door or jumping up to go to the bathroom. He hadn't picked a fight about wanting yellow juice even though he knows he's not allowed juice before bed.

He was just laying in bed. Quietly. Almost looking as if he might fall asleep.

Liam wasn't even reading. He caught the fever Finn had a few days ago so he was much more subdued than usual. He wasn't exactly interacting with Finn like I keep hoping he will (a little encouragement from a big brother goes a long way) but he wasn't complaining about him either. He was just laying there quietly, looking as if he might drop off to sleep.

The whole thing felt very primed for success.

But before I even made it back to the living room Finn needed to find his baby owl and dug through the toy boxes until he did. And then he had to pee again. Then Bill got home from a dinner meeting and laid with the boys for a few minutes. Then Finn needed to tell me something. Then Liam said the light was keeping him up so Bill turned it off.

The whole thing would have felt like a huge bust except every time Finn got out of bed, he went straight back to his room and shut the door. He may have even climbed in bed for all I know! Eventually it got so quiet I have to believe both boys are asleep.

It wasn't a perfect night or exactly what I had hoped for (I have bizarre expectations sometimes) but it didn't really interfere with our grown up time. And since I started bedtime at 7:00, it won't make a dent in my early morning either. Plus, I already worked out a solution with Liam where he won't bug us at night if we let him stay up as late as he wants.

I can live with that.

It makes me wonder if the situation is really as bad as it seems. Maybe it's my reaction to the situation that's really the problem. What if, instead of getting angry when Finn gets out of bed, I just address him like I normally would and go back to whatever it is I'm doing like I did tonight? If I don't react to the situation will it stop being "a problem"?

Or might it really stop being a problem? Like if we start letting Finn have his bedtime his way, will he eventually get comfortable enough that he'll be able to just lay quietly and fall asleep? I actually kind of think that might happen. Like if we make time for "sleep training" and give it the attention it deserves, we might be able to get into a really good habit.

Which means I'll probably be able to get into a good habit, too! Finn will be sleeping, I will be exercising... this is starting to feel like a major turnaround!

(I really hope so...)

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