We do the evening things.
The feeding of the children, the bathing, the brushing, the bedtime story, the kissing, praying and cuddling.
Then there’s the moment of hope.
Hope that they will close their eyes and fall asleep.
Now if you are a parent, you may have out loud laughed at that last sentence.
United we stand, or sit, or lay, because we’re (sometimes) exhausted, because some (possibly many) children do not know that when we say, ‘good night!’ it means they are to happily agree to the falling asleep activity. Preferably promptly.
With our elder two, aged 7 and 8, there’s a possible need to wee and/or rehydrate and sometimes a ‘stroke my back’ or ‘cuddle me in bed’ but within the half hour they’re usually asleep.
Then there’s the change-everything-you’ve-known-of-parenting-before 2-year-old.
The one who will not cooperate with bedtime. Who will go to great lengths to stay awake. So, I’m going back over the research (see: Googling – heavy reliance on babycentre.com) done with the elder two. Got all the memos about routine and consistency, watch out for overstimulation, professionals recommend 12 hours sleep Etc.
But when you’re worn out from night after night of the sleep refusal, it’s tricky!
We have to believe each night anew that she will go to sleep before we plan on being asleep. The thing is, she used to, and not that long ago. But some phases, the ones where you get less sleep, feel like they are lasting longer than the other phases. There will be that day, that evening, where she will go to sleep and we will again have that precious time before we sleep to spend time together, be leisurely, or do some housework, or study, or work, or have a shameless early night ourselves.
But in the meantime, we cut ourselves some slack and do what works. Being grateful for one another and thanking each other for what we do helps a lottle (like a little but actually a lot). We retry with the routine and we plan for consistency. We give her the warm baths, avoid evening screen time, give her coconut oil massages – encourage the production of oxytocin. We pre-empt her requests by giving her the drink of water, story, song and cuddle before she asks, then when she does ask, remind her she has had them.
Of all the things, she usually gets the cuddle – and the long cuddle. Sometimes we fall asleep in this cuddle. I know that being 2 requires a lot of cuddling, a lot of touch. And I know that it is more comforting to fall asleep with someone you love close by (or really, really close by).
In this season we need to remind to each other to keep going and keep trying.
We remember to be intentional about spending time together at other times. If in this season, our 2-year-old desires a lot more of us, then that’s probably what she needs. If the bedtime trickiness continues longer than we can manage, we’ll make bigger changes.
But for now, we make room to be patient and hopeful.
She will approach sleep with less resistance eventually. A little more time. A little more patience. Some adjustments and then consistency in them. And then… and then, the difficulty will pass.
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Gabriela Antonini chronicles snapshots of her moments on her Instagram @g_and_tribe, in between racing one of her three lively children, sharing chocolate with her theologian husband, feeding her ever-hungry progeny or singing lyrics wrong with the hubs. She is often found with her nose in a book, at the beach, up a tree or carrying around a teapot. Born in Slovakia, a childhood spent in Melbourne, she now lives in Perth heartily appreciating its exquisitely mild weather.