I’m being sarcastic, but actually if by some chance you are about to have your second baby you ARE probably wondering. I know when I was pregnant with Julius this was the burning question on my mind. I wanted to tackle moms-of-two at the playground, in the store, anywhere I could find them, and ask them WHAT IS BEDTIME LIKE WITH TWO LITTLE ONES?
The answer? It sucks. Hey! I’m not going to sugar coat it for you.
We’re in week 8 now, and Julius is starting to become a much better napper (blog curse alert!). He’s still pretty unpredictable, but he usually can settle himself and fall back to sleep a few times during the day with minimal effort on my part. I might have to hold his binky for a few minutes, or at the worst “wear” him down in the wrap, but he can often fall asleep on the floor or in the swing too. He will have his days of catnapping, but more when he takes nice long naps.
Evenings are another story altogether. He always wakes up from his last afternoon nap around when we’re eating dinner. He will eat and typically take one last very short catnap, then wake up RIGHT when we need to put Miles to bed. Without fail. Even if Miles’s bedtime moves around because he missed a nap or the routine runs late, the timing ALWAYS seems to work out this way. And then Julius is awake until 9 or 10 pm.
Awake would be one thing, but he’s fussy and almost inconsolable. It’s kind of a slow build as he’s okay at the beginning of Miles’s bedtime stories, then starts to fuss, tries to nurse, gets pissed, then starts crying off and on, and shortly thereafter becomes HYSTERICAL. When Mike is here I hand him off and he tries to calm him down. When I’m alone, I have to kiss Miles goodnight and beat a hasty retreat. We take him outside, which helps a little and also keeps the noise down for Miles, do the Vertical Bounce: held in front of your chest and vigorously bounced up and down – your choice whether you destroy your arms or your knees. It’s exhausting and it’s the only thing that works. Even when he calms down, he will fitfully doze and wake again until I take him to bed.
Meanwhile… Miles is even more unpredictable. There is no way of knowing whether he will go straight to sleep like a little lamb, or scream hysterically for a couple of hours. And no, we don’t just leave him there to scream. But we are still trying to find ways of dealing with it. Lately the thing is he will fall asleep reasonably well at the outset, but then wake up around 9ish wanting us to sit with him or let him get in our bed (the “big bed”).
A few times I have put him in the big bed and left, and that worked. One night Mike sat in the chair by his bed until he fell asleep and that worked, but took an hour. One night I was so not in the mood to deal with bedtime that I just let both of them fall asleep in the big bed with me, and then I snuck out around 9 to get some time to myself, but I couldn’t enjoy it because I was terrified that one would wake up the other (I had moved Julius to the bassinet for safety). One night I fought the good fight until 9 and then gave up and took them both to bed for the night. One night I went up a couple of times to reassure Miles and that actually worked (but usually doesn’t).
Now we’re at the point where Miles is getting into the big bed after his bedtime stories, and staying in bed with us all night. This reminds me why we moved him out in the first place – not arbitrarily or because he turned two, but because I HATE having him in bed with me. He is all over me all night, sticking his feet in my pants or directly in my face, and if I tell him to stop, he freaks out and has a tantrum, which now has the added bonus of waking up the baby. And… we’re back to the ear rubbing. NOOOOOOOOO. No. No.
I have to tell you, I dread bedtime so deeply now that I start getting tense about it hours beforehand. I grind my front teeth together so hard I’m afraid I’ll crack one. I am so, so drained by the time bedtime rolls around, in every way. Every cell in my body just wants to clock out and be alone. This is BY FAR the hardest thing about parenting right now, times a thousand. I loved the recent Momastery post “Whack-A-Mole” about how much bedtime sucks (though her post was funnier and gentler) – I LOVED where she wrote, “Bedtime should be in the morning – when we’re fresh and kind and sweet – and decent parenting still seems like a very real possibility. But no, the hardest parts – dinner and baths and bedtime – arrive at the end of the day- when we have nothing left. When the truth is, we are counting the minutes.” I swear if I could hire someone to come in and put my kids to bed every night, I would. That and change Miles’s poopy diapers.
Miles has started into the negotiations and stall tactics phase of bedtime, and you know what? I actually vastly prefer this to incoherent screaming. Yes, getting him a drink of water and finding the Elmo figurine and gathering the exact needed combination of binkies together (are they replicating themselves??) takes time, but it’s QUIET time. These are simple verbal requests that I can actually respond to rationally, unlike the baffling wordless tantrums that just cause me to have an emotional breakdown. So, there’s that.
The other silver lining is that Julius only wakes up ONCE during the night, very briefly to get a diaper change and nurse. I know that might change when he starts teething but it works for now.
In reading Raising Your Spirited Child (dear God, I think I have two of them) I skipped ahead and read the chapter on sleep habits, because CLEARLY that’s a big area of concern for us. It was both frustrating and validating because she says that intense, persistent children need a consistent routine and a LOT of time to fall asleep, both of which we’re already providing. We are taking a few new suggestions like not doing baths in the evening, because the rise in body temperature can prevent sleep, no TV first thing in the morning or just before bed, etc. Other than that, the message seemed to be grin and bear it. Yikes.
It gets better, right? If not, just lie to me.