Yes, I am the "Nap Nazi." Before I start, a disclaimer is necessary. If you don't believe in naps, or schedules or strict routines, I don't mean to offend. That is why I use the term "Nazi" to describe myself. Also, if you find the term "Nazi" offending, I assure you it is merely a term used to describe the strictness of my nap schedules, much like the "Soup Nazi" was about serving soup on Seinfeld; an exaggeration of the excessively strict regimentation he constantly demands of his patrons.
I guess you could also say I am the "Bedtime Nazi" as well, because the same rules apply for putting the kids down at a reasonable time. I am also a firm believer in making the bedtime process consistent and not carry it out too long. While there are plenty of times I wish I could just have the kids "skip a nap" here and there or "let them stay up late," I know my kids and truth be told, the less they sleep, the less they sleep.
What I mean is, they aren't the type of kids who can catch up on sleep. If they go to bed late, they will not sleep in the next morning. In fact, in Maddie's case, she actually wakes up earlier than she normally would when she stays up late. Missed naps make for a very long day for both the kids and me. And when we do have screwed up sleep schedules, the after-effects last for a good three days. I also know, that despite how I portray my child in my blog, they are relatively well behaved children and I think this is in large part because they aren't sleep deprived ticking time bombs. It is worth showing up late to birthday parties, making my mom serve dinner on holidays at certain times to accommodate the kids' nap schedules, leaving get-togethers early and cranking up the music while yelling "WAKE UP" when the kids fall asleep in the car when we are 15 minutes from the house knowing full well that I won't be able to just carry them upstairs and have them fall back to sleep. Instead, we will pull up on the driveway and they will wake up and that 15 minutes will be the only nap they see all day.
Naptime is precious. Not only because it allows the kids to be well rested, but it gives me a break. It is when I get things done whether it be cleaning, getting a quick workout in the garage on the elliptical machine, a cup of tea in peace, a phone conversation without being interrupted, folding laundry without someone unfolding it for me, if I'm lucky a shower and yes, a time when I can take a nap. Sorry folks, I know you are probably thinking, must be nice to be a Stay At Home Mom and be able to take naps in the afternoon. Screw you.
I don't mean to be harsh because I know how hard it was when I worked and had to deal with all the things that prevented me from sleeping at night and then have to get up in the morning, get Maddie ready for daycare and head to work. There were plenty of days where I felt like a Zombie Ad Sales Rep, but I got to drop her off, take a deep breath and then be around adults. Have adult conversations. Drink a cup of coffee and talk to people on the phone.
Now, I get up at whatever un-Godly hour of the night to tend to a screaming child and get approximately 3-4 hours of sleep, most of which with a stuffed animal crammed into my back with a foot in my ribcage, and then get up in the morning and there aren't many deep breaths, cups of coffee (at least in peace), adult interaction or phone conversations that don't include 15 interruptions.
My job requires heavy lifting, handling of potentially hazardous material, extreme patience and grace under pressure, negotiating skills, high energy, manual labor, cooking, cleaning, etc. etc. you get the picture. Enough justifying my afternoon nap, I'm just sayin’...
At night, getting the kids to bed allows me to clean up the toys without them being taken back out, finish the dishes from dinner, fold more laundry, watch something besides Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Phineas and Ferb and let's face it, drink wine. I will not even begin to justify my glass of wine when the kids go to bed.
So, imagine my dismay when this structure and schedule-whore is faced with a crib jumping, menace-making son who takes at least an hour and a half to put to bed.
A few months ago, Colin woke up in the middle of the night screaming and crying and then refused to go back to bed. I finally got him back in his crib and he fell asleep. However, the next night when I put him to bed, he threw a conniption fit and started to crawl out of the crib. We got nervous, so we took that mattress out of the crib and set up a little bed for him on the floor. Once I lay with him for a little bit, he fell asleep and didn't wake up until the morning...in a pile of laundry in the corner of his room. We realized we could still lower the mattress one more notch and he could no longer escape. Eventually he stopped the crying and carrying on at bedtime and we were back to normal.
Two weeks ago, he awoke in the middle of the night screaming again. I went in to him and he was in hysterics saying, "Hold Me! Hold Me!" I tried everything to get him back to sleep and eventually just brought him in to bed with Tom and I. Now, I know that this is considered a major "No, No" in all the parenting books and I am certainly not a fan of "Family Bed" however, at some point we all need to sleep. I didn't want him waking Maddie and Tom had to get up to go to work, so I did what I had to do.
We went through the same thing with Maddie at about the same age. She woke in the middle of the night screaming at the top of her lungs and would get so worked up she would throw up. So, not only did I have to deal with a screaming kid, I had to clean up puke in the middle of the night. Oh, and I was pregnant with Colin at the time. I tried to avoid having her come to bed with us or get in to bed with her even setting up an air mattress on her bedroom floor, but she would just stand in her crib and scream at me. Once she was out of the crib, I would sometimes get into bed with her until she feel asleep and then sneak off to my room.
Luckily, she outgrew this stage and it isn't like she climbs into bed with us every night. When she does wake up in the middle of the night, I can go in there, find her stuffed animal she sleeps with and tell her to go back to sleep without her freaking out like she used to. Unlike Colin, she never tried to climb out of her crib or even her bed with a guardrail. She always calls for me to come get her. In fact, we took the guardrail off this week to give to Colin and she STILL won't get out without someone coming to get her. It's good, but she refuses to get out of bed in the middle of the night if she has to go potty too, which means she still has to wear a Pull Up to bed despite the fact she's been potty trained for a year and a half.
And now we have Colin. The first night he officially climbed out of the crib by himself, I was reading to Maddie and putting her to bed and I heard his doorknob jiggle and next thing you know he was in Maddie's room listening to me read "Snow White" to her. I'm not sure how he did it, but my guess was it wasn't real gracefully since he had a nice red strawberry on the side of his face. We immediately removed the front off his crib and turned it in to a toddler bed. He chose to make his way downstairs and curl up on the couch and watch "Diner's Drive Inn's and Dives" and when I told him to come back upstairs to see his new bed, he simply said, "No." Clearly he wasn't really excited about his new pseudo big boy bed, but at least he wouldn't break his neck if he tried to climb out.
He really seemed to like Maddie's bed, so I figured it might just be better to graduate him to a real "big boy bed." Luckily, we had a twin bed ready and waiting and the next night we set it up and put Maddie's guard rail on it. He enjoyed jumping on it before we put the sheets on, but once actual bedtime rolled around, he was pissed and kept saying, "NO." We put him to bed and put a gate up at the door, which he proceeded to climb over, screaming and crying the whole time. I finally got Maddie to sleep and then shepherded him back to his room. I sat on the floor next to his bed until he fell asleep.
At one point when I was putting the kids down for a nap I catered the idea of having them nap in the same bed since they seemed to do pretty well on our trip to Arizona when they napped together. Not so much. They wrestled each other in his bed and I finally convinced Maddie to return to her room to her own bed for her nap. I had to bribe her with ice cream, but eventually she gave in.
I also realized that having them sleep together might not be a good idea, because again, they would never learn to go to bed on their own and all I could think of was my Aunt Virge and Uncle Tom. They were my Great Aunt and Uncle who confused me as a child because all of my other Aunts and Uncles who lived together were married, but these two were brother and sister. Long story, but all I knew was co-dependence was a long-term risk for a short-term solution.
I continued to sit in his room until he would fall asleep. I would watch his every move to see when he would start doing the "involuntary twitch" and then try to sneak over the gate. I learned two things. 1) There is a squeaky floorboard right at the threshold of his bedroom. 2) I am not very graceful when it comes to gate hopping. I almost always woke him up as I was exiting.
After several nights of this process, I realized that it was taking longer and longer for him to fall asleep. I knew if I continued to sit in his room while he fell asleep, he would never learn to go to bed on his own. I was to the point where the only way I could cope with putting him to bed another night was to just bring a glass of wine with me at sit at the end of the bed. I realized that a little "tough love" was necessary and he would just have to cry it out. We were lucky that we never really had to do this when they were infants because they went to sleep without a peep. At least when they are infants, they can't get out of the crib. One of the nights we were battling Colin to get to sleep Tom said we should have put something heavy in his crib. I wasn't sure what he meant and he explained putting a cover on the crib. I explained that crating our child probably wasn't appropriate. Since crating him wasn't an option, I was forced to go get doorknob covers so he couldn't open his bedroom door. I read him is books, said prayers and sang him a song and then "night-night." He screamed bloody murder the whole time I put Maddie to bed, but by the time she was telling me her favorite part of the day, he had stopped banging his head on the door and was quiet. I looked on the video monitor and could see that he had made his way in to his bed and was fast asleep. Success.
It has been almost a week and the while the last several nights he has cried (and so have I) when he goes to bed, each night he cries less. The last two nights he didn't wake up in the middle of the night crying for me. All in all, I would say the situation is improving. I wasn't sure if bribing him like I bribe Maddie would work, but he spotted this Matchbox Car carry case shaped like a tire at Target the other day and I told him if he slept in his big boy bed like he was supposed to, I would get it for him. I took him to the store on Sunday and rewarded him with his "Wheel" as he calls it.
As for Maddie, I still think she is more excited about Colin's new sleeping arrangement than he is and claims his bed is better than hers. She did help me put him to bed one night by waving her magic wand on him in hopes he would go to bed without crying and would sleep through the night. She asked me if I cried when I went to sleep. "No Maddie, I sleep when I go to sleep. I only cry when I don't get enough sleep." She also informed me one day that some snakes and lizards sleep during the day and are awake at night. I told her that is called "Nocturnal" and asked if she knew any other animals that were awake during the night. Her response? "Colin."
I think it is relatively safe to say we have survived yet another parenting milestone and can look back on this experience and laugh like so many other events. Well, gotta run. The kids just woke up from their naps.