Sunday, February 28, 2010

Solving the Mysteries of Toddler Sleep: AKA I Can't Take it Anymore



Let this be a warning to parents who have sleep trained their children: It can all come to a screeching halt for no reason at all. And then your life will never be the same.

Let me explain. We worked very hard to have children who slept well. We read and followed the ridiculously titled and poorly written Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child bible. We arranged our schedule around their naps and bedtime and did everything we could to preserve these sacred times. The results were amazing: Naps daily for two to three hours and 12 to 13 hours of sleep each night, starting between 6:30 and 7:00. Life was good and we all were well rested. Until it aaaaaaaallllll stopped.

I am not sure what changed or why now. Perhaps a combination of many factors. I guess it somewhat coincides with our new schedule of heading up to Massachusetts on the weekends, as well as with taking them out of their cribs and putting them into their toddler beds (we had no choice: They were climbing out of their cribs and I even caught Avery once in a Matrix-like position, precariously balanced on the side of the crib). And since it is winter and we are cooped up inside, there are less play dates and running around and energy spent on playgrounds.

Free-range children is the horror I imagined: Two kids running around their room at night, alternating between giggling fits and crying over pulled hair. Sometimes for two hours, before going to bed. Last night, they were in bed by seven, and they stayed up until after 9:00.

And the naps? Completely not into them any more. I put them in their room anyway, for quiet time, and can keep them their for about two hours. But it is not the same. And I know they need that nap. But they are too excited to explore twin conversations (they have adorable talks together) and collaborative play (which is all good, except when it involves a crayon). Sometimes if I lay on the floor in front of their bed and model sleeping for them, they will sleep. But I can’t take naps every day with them (or can I? Hmmm…) and it doesn’t always work anyway. And bedtime, which once involved reading one book and tucking into bed, and kissing tiny foreheads, thus freeing me up for important activities such as watching Survivor or surfing the internet, now involves 46 trips into their room, finger-pointing way too much and admonishing them to lie down, stop talking and go to sleeeeeeeeeeep.

So I feel like I never get a break. Well, that is not entirely true: The alarm goes off at 4:00 for me, and I go to the gym at five (I’ve managed to log almost 150 stress-reducing miles on the treadmill), thus ensuring that I get a little break time each day. But once I get home, the girls wake up shortly and it is go-go-go all day, with no nap to look forward to and no cut-off time to anticipate. And nap times were such a break for me. I would call friends and prepare dinner and clean, uninterrupted. Sometimes I could read for pleasure, if I were feeling entitled. Or I could just decompress. Not anymore.

Does this change? If anyone can offer hope/advice, I’d appreciate it. Because I don’t understand how something that was going so right could suddenly go so wrong.

So it has come to orchestrating breaks. On a bright note, the girls are officially signed up for their first drop-off class. Twice a week for two hours each time for a grand total of eight weeks, they will be attending a gentle-separation toddler class down in Union Square. Oh, how I am looking forward to this. And dreading it. The dread part: I have never, ever left my children in a situation like this. To fend for themselves in the dog-eat-dog world of toddlerhood, with a bunch of adults I don’t know who are paid to decide who got the toy first. And don’t even get my started on all of my collection of unlikely but nonetheless scary hell scenarios, like what if there were another 9.11 event? It will break my heart to walk out that door. But when I DO walk out that door, I am smack dab in the middle of Union Square, with so many wonderful attractions, like Whole Foods and Barnes & Nobel and amazing coffee shops and Babies r Us and Trader Joe’s and the Farmer’s Market and Fishes Eddy and Union Square Park and, if I feel like taking a stroll literally down memory lane, my old NYU stomping grounds down University Place to Washington Square. I will have two hours, twice a week of strolling sans stroller. Of food shopping without destructive little shelf-clearers. Of negotiating my way through the world on my own. Maybe I will get a hackey sack and stand around in a hackey circle. (ok, that is a joke, but the point is, if I wanted to I could, if only for a couple hours). For all of March and April. March, with its ugly weather and occasional snow storm. And April, with it’s spring-is-in-the-air feel. I am so excited. And yes, a little nervous. But we need this: Me and the girls.

I am also pursuing full-force my theory that having things on the calendar makes life a little more enjoyable. So I have been adding new and exciting plans to these upcoming months. More on all that next time. It is 1:23 in the morning and I can’t sleep but I think I better try.

Pictured above, a sledding/snowboarding afternoon. Nicole and I and the girls went sledding with my brother’s family. My dad is visiting from China. It was so much fun. Avery loved sledding down the hill and Madeline enjoyed making snow castles. And it was nice to do something with our families: We usually just hang out at each other’s houses, which is fine. But it was so great to create new memories. Avery loved the snowboarding and when I asked her last night in bed what she wanted to do tomorrow she told be “Snowboarding.”

And, by the way, both girls fell asleep in the car within two minutes on our half-hour drive home. Because THEY STILL NEED THEIR NAPS, dammit.

15 comments:

giggleblue said...

while i know you don't think it's cute (and i'm sure i wouldn't in your situation either!) i do think it's neat that they are enjoying their nights together. perhaps just the adjustment to their new bed situation and freedom is inspiring the slumber parties.

i hope they return to their golden sleep cycles soon!

Calliope said...

I never seem to be able to get W on a schedule. He'll finally relax into a routine and then BAM! a molar happens. I feel like I spend 30 minutes trying to get him to nap for 40 minutes. so hearing that it can get worse is scary.

K J and the kids said...

I wish I had more time to talk about this. but my only piece of advice is...keep on it. As exhausting as it gets. Keep with the routine and just put them down. Their naps will come back.
Just like you said. The sun will come out and they will wear themselves out at the park in no time.

Good luck mommy. You rock !

Jeannine said...

Going through the same thing here, except I'm not brave enough to get mine into big kid beds yet (we tried taking the front off the cribs a few months ago and my daughter had a toddler panic attack, so they are still in the full cribs). I put them down to nap almost an hour ago and they are still going strong in there. If they actually do sleep in the day, they take up to an hour and a half to go to sleep at night. I think they are still getting around 11-12 hours of sleep per day, and all the "experts" say that's within the ideal for this age (11-13 is recommended for two year olds). So, we have to hope for the best and stick with the routines. If you figure out how to circumvent this issue, please do share as I am slowly losing what little is left of my mind...

Michelle said...

Just a few months after Maggie turned 2, her naps went to hell. The same thing happened to several other friends when their kids were around that age. I don't know exactly how long it lasted. I know it felt like forever, but I think it was probably 6 weeks or so. I doggedly continued to try a nap every day, because I do think a 2-year old still needs the rest and, like you, I needed that break (and naps here only last about an hour, but I missed that hour once it was gone!). Like others have said, my advice is to keep doing what you're doing, and hopefully "quiet time" will once again be "nap time." We still have an occasional nap fail day, but it's now the exception.

Hope said...

I love the idea of "free range" children- probably because I don't have any! It sounds like either a book or a social movement.

Good Luck!!!!!

Homestead Mom said...

I have 2 kids with my wife, 8 months apart. Every day, I lay down between them, read 3 stories and then make them roll over & be still. I ignore them while I read, meditate or use my BBerry. They go to sleep quickly. Once they are asleep, I can get up if I want to. About half the time I doze for 20 minutes then get up - it makes the afternoon go better for us all. :)

Bedtime is different - they share a double bed in the nursery. We read & snuggle in mom's bed, then they go to sleep in the nursery with books on cd playing for distraction. There is a little playing, but they aren't allowed to get out of bed. Usually the younger is asleep within 20 minutes; the older is less reliable, but she stays in bed listening to the stories the whole time.

I'm sorry you're suffering. I've long admired your sleeping babes, but would never wish bad sleep habits on any parent!

Rebecca said...

I only have one teeny tiny piece of advice and it may not be useful to you anyway: enforce quiet time and go take a nap yourself. Even if it involves just laying down in your bed and being warm and cozy. My little guy is the same age as your twins and he is going through the same thing. The only way I can stay (a version of) sane is to nap myself. Enforced rest for mommy too. For me, nothing else is as rejuvenating, not even things I *want* to do like read or watch netflix, or things I need/enjoy like cleaning/cooking.

No idea what causes this toddler sleep regression. Maybe it's a toddler version of the infant can't-sleep-when-hitting-a-new-milestone thing and has something to do with potty training?? Which leads me to the next part of my comment...

Thank your lucky stars ALL they play with is a crayon. The other day I found Rhett with his diaper off, getting ready to smear its contents on the walls. GROSS. My sister swears this is peculiar to boys, though. (Sorry if that was WAY too much information...)

psapph0 said...

Free Range Kids is BOTH a book and a social movement! I follow the blog constantly and am looking forward to getting the book!

http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/

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Briar said...

I have no sleep solutions whatsoever. We are trying to leave the room and never go back, but we have the benefit of a floor below him to escape to. I like the Supernanny walk back to bed repeatedly. But if they are just talking and hanging (as Beck does) I do not know what to do.

However, I MUST know how the "school" thing is going! I am thinking of you guys lots!

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kat said...

sorry sleep isn't coming so easily for the girls. that's no fun.
i'm actually reading healthy sleep habits... right now. could you give me more of your thoughts on the book and it's methods? it seems to have worked (for a while) for you. i'm trying to decide if i should implement his suggestions. my daughter is 13 weeks now. you can email me at khenolson at gmail dot com if you want.
thanks for your help, and i hope things improve for you!