Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sleep, School and the Zoo

A while back Jesse and I were having some struggles with Riley going to sleep at night. I talked a little about it here and intended to give an update way before now, but you know... things get away from me. 

Riley had been going to bed just fine, but had been getting up once in the middle of the night for awhile. We set her up with a new bed as we figured she outgrew her other one, but this just made things worse. We'd put her to bed at 7:30 and she would proceed to fight it for 2 - 3 hours. 

And when I say "fight it" I mean she screamed for hours. Often, like she was being tortured. (But, at least she wasn't getting up in the middle of the night anymore.)

It was pretty heartbreaking as she would either cry super hard or yell for one of us. "Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy...". One night after yelling for daddy and then mommy for some time without either of us going upstairs she bellowed "anybody, anybody, anybody, anybody, ANYBODY...". Broke my heart, but totally had me laughing too. It was just so dramatic.

Then there was the getting out of bed and sitting at the top of the stairs. One night I thought I heard her through the monitor, but then there was nothing. Later, I found her asleep at the top of the stairs. Thankfully, she hadn't rolled over and toppled down those stairs.

Jesse and I tried a number of tactics. We would take turns going upstairs to check on her, we'd lay in bed with her until she fell asleep (sometimes falling asleep ourselves), we tried to let her cry it out.... but it wasn't until we sat down and agreed to get on the same page that it started to get better. Jesse is a softie when it come to his daughter and would cuddle in bed with her all evening, but I thought this sent the wrong message and wanted to reclaim my evenings. 

Eventually, Jesse and I agreed to some middle ground. I provided Jesse with two options based on the research I did. We agreed to gradually remove ourselves from the situation (he didn't want to let her cry it out). We'd cuddle in bed for a bit, and then sit on a stool next to her bed for awhile (where I almost finished reading In Defense of Food), then stand by the door, and eventually leave. Eventually she caught on to the pattern and even once told me when I got up from the stool to go stand by the door (these kids are smarter than we think).

We had to make some changes to our original plan as she wouldn't let us turn off the light. We are still fighting that one (one table lamp on the floor, two night lights, and a lame $4 lava lamp that doesn't lava, if you know what I mean). But we were able to incorporate some new nighttime traditions like back rubs and "how many hugs and kisses" which basically involves Riley telling me how many hugs and kisses she wants (this has sort of replaced the kiss blowing tradition we had previously). Some of these new night time traditions I can totally get behind.

We are finally at a place where we can leave after reading, cuddles, hugs and kisses and she won't cry. It's fantastic. Sure she still has the light on, but it gives me an excuse to go into her room when I go to bed to turn off the light. There really is nothing like being able to see your child peacefully sleeping. I just want to stare at her all night.

Anyhoo, one other thing that helped up fight this battle was the introduction of rocks for good behavior. I had it one morning after a particularly challenging night and morning. As Riley was sitting in a time out I scoured the house for a jar and some rocks. I found a rather large vase (it would have to do) and a bag of rocks. I explained the concept to her: she'd get two rocks each time Jesse or I would see her doing something good - including sleeping at night without crying. That first night? Not a peep. 

We still had some bad nights after that, but we were on the road to sleep recovery. I was able to regain some of my time in the evening and Riley was also in a better mood because she was sleeping better (never mind that she only sometimes takes a nap - that could be a whole other post).

When we finally thought all was right with the world Riley started freaking out about going to school. She was about a month in at her new preschool when the meltdowns started. Jesse let her come home one morning after a bad drop off and it sort of tail-spinned from there. Not that his action caused it, but it was a sign of things to come. The next day it happened I ended up starting work late because I was determined to get her to school and, honestly, was afraid Jesse would let her come home again.

It was pretty traumatic. There was some forcing her into the car seat, some screaming, throwing, hitting. I may be the tougher parent, but that doesn't mean it doesn't tear me apart inside just as it does Jesse. It was killing me to see my kid upset like this. We used a gradual process with this and let her sit in the car, then sit outside and watch the other kids enter, then read a book in the hallway, etc. But in the end we had to leave and she screamed and cried and it was HEARTBREAKING. 

Jesse does most of the drop offs and pick ups, but I did a few in the couple weeks after that. The teachers tried to encourage Jesse to basically drop and leave, but Jesse wasn't totally trusting of their advice since they don't have kids of their own. However, he discovered that Riley was fine after he left, and happy all day long. And when he'd arrive to pick her up she would be in a good mood. He finally admitted to me that he needed to 'toughen up' with this one.

We utilized the rock technique with this one too and just stood our ground. We, of course, talked about it a lot too. Everyday she now proudly tells me how she didn't cry at school. We haven't had a morning of tears in a long time.

At any rate, this is a really long way of explaining that her reward for filling up her rock jar was going to the Minnesota Zoo. Oddly enough she whined most of the time she was at the zoo (scary noises, "I want to go home"...), and yet in the end she said she loved it. 

Oh, and hey... I took some pictures while we were there.

I can't wait to see what she picks for her next reward.

Edit: Curses! Curses! Curses! The very night I posted this Riley totally regressed and had us up in her room multiple times. The next night was the same thing, but for a different reason. In her defense, she wasn't feeling well, but both nights I laid in bed with her until she fell asleep. AND, the morning after I wrote this she had a huge meltdown at preschool drop off. So far so good since then, but almost never want to write about this again.

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