Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wherein We Employ Trickery, and It Is Good

So, as I've mentioned, David is an evil genius, and I am just evil. This is one of those developmental posts wherein the child reaches and pole-vaults over a milestone, and then Mommy archives it for posterity on the blog. But somehow, once again, it's just another situation where we have to figure out how to outsmart her.

About a month ago, I was out in the evening and when I returned home, David had taken the side off Jarrah's crib. It's one of those convertible cribs that turns into a "toddler bed." I'm putting "toddler bed" in quotations because I think it's one of those marketing things like "toddler food" that doesn't really exist. It's just the crib with a side taken off, to minimize climbing and bone-breaking. We figured we'd give Jarrah a little time to get used to the plein air sleep system before springing for the IKEA trundle. (Some of you may already be tsk-tsking over the fact that we waited so long. Our parenting theory is: Bite me. She liked it in there.

She adjusted to her freedom quickly, after the first night when she appeared in the living room and inquired balefully, "What are you doing? I thought it was bed time." I guess she always assumed we were speaking collectively about that event. Then she asked to have the side put back on, but I thought fast and offered to re-install her bumper instead. Yes, I understand that the bumper wasn't actually going to keep her in bed, but my spider sense was that it was all psychological, and indeed, she stayed in bed after that. Just a few nights later, the bumper was unceremoniously removed.

I guess I always imagined that the only hurdle we'd face would be exactly that--keeping her in bed at bedtime. It never occurred to me that we had opened the Pandora's Box of a whole 'nuther problem, which was keeping her in bed at wake-up time.

Or rather, her perception of wake-up time. While we had spent two and a half years high-fiving each other that our child slumbered until nearly 8:00 a.m. most days, suddenly the old rules no longer applied. Each day, she arose earlier, until the norm was more like 6:30. You might be thinking, "Hmmm, that doesn't sound so unusual. My child wakes up at 6:30 every day." May I extend my deepest sympathies? David and I are not morning people, to put it mildly. In our carefree couple days, our perfect arrangement was to drift off between midnight and 1:00, and arise refreshed at 9:00. His work schedule encouraged this schedule, and mine (when I have one) always did, too. We were clearly meant for each other.

Now we had a problem. Brave and Lionheart-like, David was usually the one to haul his sleepy self out of our pillowy nest and start the morning ritual of Dora and cereal. But it was still screwing with my circadian rhythms, and David developed a tendency to nod off any time he sat down.

For a while, we tried meeting her needs (TV, change of clothes, snacks in Tupperware) and then returning to bed, and while she was flexible about this, the arising party usually found it impossible to fall back asleep. Also, we were both needled by guilt that she could get into countless versions of mischief, even though we did leave a delectable assortment of candy-flavored tranquilizers on the coffee table. And do you think it's bad that we told her she could cook her own pancakes?

Then, one morning I hit my limit. My eyes were assailed by a blaze of light at 6:15, and I could hear furniture was being dragged across the wood floor. I jumped out of bed and roared at the culprit: "OH NOOOOOO! DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT! IT IS STILL NIGHTTIME! NOW GET BACK INTO BED THIS MINUTE!"

She could tell I meant business, and, shoulders slumped, she scurried back to bed. For an hour, we didn't hear a peep, and David slept on, but I lay there, eyes open and heart pounding, juggling my guilt and fury. And while I lay there, I hatched a plan.

When we got up, I convened a family meeting in Jarrah's room. I pointed to her digital clock and said slowly, "Do you see that first number? Tomorrow, do not leave your room until you see that number become a seven." She nodded, and said she understood, but let's face it--the kid can't tell time, and isn't even that firm on what a seven looks like.

Luckily, I'm married to the smartest man ever, and he had a better idea. "What if I got one of those timers, you know the ones people use to make lights turn on when they're on vacation?"

I stared at him. "How will that help?"

"I'll attach it to her night light." A glimmer of understanding penetrated the murk between my ears. "And we'll just tell her she can't open her door until it turns off."

As they say on Scooby-Doo, "It was just crazy enough to work." Readers? I hope I'm not jinxing it, but IT WORKED A TREAT. There is nothing ambiguous about the night light being on and then turning off. If she wakes up early, she plays or reads in bed, and then when the little light goes "snick!" she comes out of her room and into ours, reporting proudly, "I waited until the light turned off!" We've been setting the timer for 7:00, but David even sneaked it up to 7:30 on Saturday and it worked just as well.

I'm just marveling that this idea, crafty though it may be, is actually effective. I shake my head and marvel at my husband's creativity. And then I roll over with a big smile on my face, and snooze for another hour.


Anonymous said...

Nice trick. We never thought of that. We use a gate on the door and tell her that she can play in her room until she gets sleepy and then she has to go to sleep. She even gets mad if we forget to put the gate up. Plus, she can still hear us when the door is open.


Martha said...

Tricks can be treats indeed.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

I love your parenting theories and practices!

Laura would sleep forever and ever in the AM, and that was good; maybe because of growing up with teens in the house. But we had an opposite problem than we had with the older kids (and most kids), she didn't get out of bed when she woke up. She never crawled out of her crib, ever. She just stayed in there reading books, and when she'd had enough, she'd call us. Same-same when we finally got her a bed. (We waited a long time too. Because? She loved her crib.) Although the bed offered her the chance to roam the corridors upon awakening, she didn't roam. She didn't even get up. She'd read, and when she was done, she'd call us. But it worked really well for a long time because she stayed safely contained. FINALLY. Just THIS YEAR, at age 8, I finally planted the seed that she could get up and play on her own on weekends, and she does. Now we are usually up before she is anyway, but still, she reads and then plays quietly until we've had our coffee (or whatever ;-), if you know what I mean).

End of post written in your comment section.


Caroline said...

I freakin' love you guys. That is perrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrfect!!!! That is going to be just the thing for my gizmo/gadget guys. :D Eee! I'm so happy! (Watch it not work for us, though.)

Mamasphere said...

Excellent idea! I never would have thought of that. Glad it's working!

The Wades said...

i trained all mine to sleep until 8 AM also. silliness allowing children out of bed in the wee hours! ;)

i was going to recommend an alarm clock until david's creative solution. smart man! pretty soon he can set that bad boy for 7:59. no wonder you two are married. :)

am i'm so with you on toddler beds! what a joke!

Jennifer said...

Everytime I think I've read your best story, you surprise me with one that is even better! I love it! That David is a genius for sure and Jarrah is a gem to go along with the plan!

Jen said...

Oh my god this is my favorite post ever. Hilarious! And so brilliant!

And I am now adopting "Bite me. She liked it in there" as my motto for all time! Oh, what an inspiration you are!

Miss J

Paul and Heather said...

you people rock!!! And you are right...they can all bite you...I'm going to keep my kid in a crib until her legs poke out the end...that is if I ever get a kid :-)

Jenn said...

Genius idea on the timer... we are so stealing it when the time is right. BUT H LOVES her crib too and we have no intention of altering that mindset especially with #2 on the way. We'll just have to buy another crib! I am not ready to rock her world and let her have that kind of freedom that she clearly doesn't even want.

Anonymous said...

You are a genius and we are totally using this when the time comes!