Friday, December 11, 2009

I Hate Putting You To Bed

Those are the words I spoke/whisper-yelled (so Lucy wouldn't wake up) to my son last night. And the worst part? Was not that I used the word "hate," which in our house is on par with a swear word and is not allowed to be uttered. It was not that I lost my cool in front of Finn, which I have been trying not to do.

It was that I meant it.

There was a time when I loved putting Finn to bed. Those nights are long gone. Now bedtime is naught but a source of stress, leaving me exhausted and glassy-eyed once all is finally quiet in the house. Every moment is a battle. Let me just list for you the possible fit-inducing aspects of Finn's bedtime:

Pick one toy to bring to bed
Go upstairs
Use the potty
Brush teeth
Get in the tub (only a possibility every other night)
Get out of the tub
Pick out pajamas
Put on pajamas
Pick out two books to read (can be a process, and he usually wants more)
Songs while cuddling in chair (usually wants more/interrupts)
Get in bed
Get under covers
Say goodnight

Typically several of these points in the bedtime routine are accompanied by crying fits or flat out refusals to listen/do what we ask him to do. The worst is the "say goodnight" part - it is guaranteed to be greeted with lots of "I want you" whines and crying. Nothing makes me want to be motherly and comforting LESS than hearing "Mommy, I waaaaaaaant youuuuuuuuuuuu," by the way. Then once we do get out of his room, we are almost certain to have to go back in because his "nose is stuffy" or he need to be tucked in tighter or he needs to pee again or he wants a different toy (we do not give in to this, of course) and(my favorite) the poop fake out. You know, where he says he needs to poop, you get him all situated in the bathroom NAKED (because he can't spread his legs wide enough if pajamas/underwear are still on), and not a particle of poop appears. Then you have to grumpily get him completely dressed again (because child REFUSES to dress himself - something we are working on) and dump him back in bed. And say good night, again.

We typically alternate, M. and I. One night I'll put Lucy to bed and he will take care of Finn, then the next night we switch. In theory, the one putting Lucy to bed is supposed to take the additional kid-free time (since she's out by 7-ish, when Finn is just starting the bedtime extravaganza) to work out. In theory meaning that does not always happen, of course. Aside from working out, we developed this system to make sure each kid got some quality one-on-one time with each parent, fairly evenly throughout the week.

I can't take it anymore, though. It's making me act evily toward my son. I am behaving in ways I do not like, and saying things I do not like. I feel like a terrible mom. M. will be handling Finn's bedtime for a little while (does this mean I have to jog every night?) to give me some time to adjust MY attitude, which I appreciate.

But how can I adjust Finn's, too? Will this ever get better? Will I ever be able to just read him a couple stories, tuck him into bed, give him a kiss, and say good night? Conflict-free, where we both go to bed with smiles on our faces?


  1. I reall wish I had advice for you. DS1's bed time is a process too. We've found things that he absolutely hates for us to do (take his lightbulbs) and we threaten that and follow through with it. But it can be just exhausting and frustrating. DS1 does something that is absolutely evil. He quiets down but does NOT go to sleep. I've walked in there and it is 11 pm and he is wide awake!! This causes all kinds of mean mommy to come out. All I can think of is how it is going to cause trouble for the next day with cranky pants. So, we try the routine, work through the moments and hope to God the kid will go to sleep at a decent hour (seriously in my house 8:30 is good).

  2. Ouch. I too would be equally frustrated in your shoes. And frankly you are not making me look forward to the terrible threes! Have you thought about changing up his bedtime routine completely? Perhaps no toys at all and one book only? Or maybe a sticker chart for when he goes to bed with no issues?

  3. We've done the sticker chart before and it helped a bit, but it doesn't seem to be a good long term solution.

    The problem isn't one specific aspect of his routine, I don't think. It's that he wants to battle us at EVERY aspect. We have tried little changes here and there (hence the toy he is allowed to bring to bed), but they don't solve the problem. I'm tempted to send him up to his room and tell him to get himself ready for bed!

  4. We found we had to start bedtime routine MUCH earlier because everything takes so much longer. I've found if I let them go more on their own pace instead of rushing them, there is less frustration for everyone.

    Here is a list of tricks we use regularly:
    * We give them gummi flintstones which we call candy instead of vitamins. Anything that requires decision making is done first - pjs, books, socks, etc - as well as potty. As soon as that is done, they get a candy. If they cry or fight, no candy.

    * They get to pick bath or shower as well as pick the toys they want to play with in the shower. For some reason giving them control makes them so much more excited about bathing.

    * Bedtime good nights are strict. They get five kisses, five hugs and we are out of there. They can cry if they want, but we are leaving. We used to lock them in their room and only recently removed the lock. They can come out to use the potty but if they come out for anything else, then we use 1 2 3 Magic and if they get to 3, they are locked in. Usually the threat of locking in helps.

    We've also tried sticker charts when they were fighting a lot at bedtime. I actually put the chart on their door and they got the sticker right before they went in their room.

    But yeah, I would say bedtime is the time I hate the most right now bc I LOVED having a 7:30 cutoff that switched to my time.

  5. I don't have a lot of experience with the disciplining of toddlers, more tweens- but I feel so sorry for you, 'cause he is running you through the ringer. I like everything Laura said, "five kisses, five hugs, bed." I think you and M need to super nanny him- you'll have one or two rough nights then a new routine with firm limits will be established

    :) hang in there

  6. I think Laura had some good suggestions. One thing we learned recently from our meetings with the developmental pediatrician is that taking away or ignoring the power struggle is the only way to get through it. It's only a battle if you choose to fight it. We've been trying this with Alex. I call it the "keep the show moving" tactic. If he freaks out about putting on his socks, I put them on him and talk right through it, "There! Now we can go downstairs and have breakfast. Do you want to hold my hand? Let's see what you want to eat. Do you want oatmeal or cheerios? Do you want milk or water?" If I keep the show moving, the tantrum often doesn't have time to build.

    Also, for bedtime, you might consider giving less attention to his popping out of bed. Right now you are giving in to his every "stuffy nose" and request to be tucked in again. It only encourages him to keep doing it.

    Good luck. I totally identify with your frustration.