I don’t know if you guys know this little fact, but my sister just recently moved to Australia. I know that you are the thinking the exact same thing that I am, “But ALI, how can she do this TO YOU?!” I mean, sure, she’s got a really great job and opportunity and SURE, it’s, like ridiculously gorgeous in Perth all the damn time, and she’s like this local celebrity around there; she’s The American who has swooped in to save the day! But, yes, things were much better FOR ME when she lived in New York and no, it wasn’t just so I had a free place to stay in New York City (wow, you guys really are shallow). But, luckily for me, through the magic of skype and through a significant-but-tolerable time change, I can have my sister in my living room every morning and every evening. I mean, sure, every time we skype, I am wearing pajamas and look like hell, and sometimes, well, she’s crying about the toddler-sized roaches (aha! We found a negative about Australia! It’s not all surfer boys and ridiculously cute accents!) that are keeping her up at night.
It has been exceptionally helpful during this past week when my husband was away for ten days and I decided that I was done with the bedtime manipulation and I was ready to start sleep training my kindergartener. I really do have impeccable timing. Because not only did I choose a time when I was solo parenting to do this, I chose a time right before we were going to my mom’s for a week and if you need any sort of perspective as to why this is a bad idea I will tell you a little story.
My mother is incapable of saying no to small children, and good lord, she can NOT be asked to listed to them cry. Because of this fact, both my sister and I had the luxury of having OUR ZAYDIE stay in our rooms with us until we fell asleep every night. In other words, we were spoiled as hell and we were never taught proper sleeping habits. To this day, both my sister and I have issues sleeping alone.
He was an easy manipulation target for us.
So, yes, this seemed like really bad timing. But, you guys, I was done. I really needed to reclaim both my evenings and my sanity, and not just so I could get through an entire episode of American Idol without having to pause the tv 87 times. So, I armed myself with comfort food and my laptop, and listened to my sister explain to me exactly what The Sleep Training Project of 2011 was going to entail. And keep in mind that she is a professional, so she knows what she is doing.
1. Isabella gets put to bed. She gets lots of hugs and kisses and two stories and help brushing her teeth and she gets to pick out whatever pajamas are the most comfortable, even if they involve white knee-hi socks. She gets a drink right before I leave the room. We check for bugs and cuts and scrapes. Once all of her basic needs are met and I realize that she is FINE, I tell her that I will see her in the morning.
2. When she calls out, I am not allowed to respond. GOOD TIMES! I get to sit on my couch and listen to the likes of, “Mommy, I just love you and need you! Please come to me!” and “My finger is broken OMG!” and “I told you it would be a wreck without Daddy here. You are so mean!”
3. When she comes downstairs, I am not allowed to engage. MORE GOOD TIMES. Instead, I have to take her by the hand and lead her upstairs to her bed. And not talk to her. At all. Not respond. Just take her back to bed. And leave.
4. We are working on a reward system. When she goes one night of not calling out and not coming out of her room, she gets a sticker and the gift of her choice, which was a Tangled Barbie. I thought, wow, we are making this way too easy for her. (That turned out to be ridiculous thinking on my part, because even after NIGHT #5, she still hasn’t gotten her Barbie. I really DO need to leave it to the professionals.)
Night #1 was a disaster. She cried for 90 minutes straight about needing a band-aid. She appeared downstairs 8 times. I didn’t talk to her once. It just about killed me.
Night #2 was a disaster. Before I left the room, she said, “If something happens, like, if I threw up or fell out of bed or was bleeding, would you come back to my room?” Of course, I said. Because, obviously. WELL. GUESS WHO THREW HERSELF OUT OF BED TO GET ME TO COME UP TO HER ROOM? She’s good, this one. A tough nut to crack. She was fine. No broken limbs, no lasting damage, I’m assuming.
Night #3 was a disaster. (Are you seeing a theme here?)
Night #4 was a disaster. She screamed for an hour straight and came downstairs (only) twice. Oh my heavenly days! By 8:38, he was asleep. I don’t remember the last time that happened.
Night #5 was, well, at my mom’s house. Daddy had returned so I had to school him in the program. But, obviously, Isabella thought that the Good Cop had returned and she was going to be rescued. Little did she know that Good Cop was down with the Sleep Training plan. Books? Read. Drink? Drunk. Kisses and Hugs? Kissed and Hugged. She came down twice. Was taken up twice. She yelled once.
And then she went to sleep. Just like that. I mean, it helped that there is an hour time change so it was really an hour later for her. And it helped that we had woken her up early the day before for our ten-hour drive to Milwaukee. And it helped that she was TIRED. But I don’t care. She went to sleep. She went to sleep.
She went to sleep.