(Emilia, I am documenting this here so I can share it at some appropriate time in the future)
Our first “family meeting” seems to have been moderately successful. Some may laugh at the notion of holding a “family meeting” with a 2 3/4 year old to discuss her recent regression in bedtime routine, but I think she understood quite a bit better than I imagined.
Emilia is a pretty amazing little sleeper for the most part. Even though she stopped taking a nap just recently, bedtimes were a pretty low-key and easy affair. She moved from a bed to a crib without any fuss. Her accidents are few and far between. She only recently would actually get out of bed in the morning, typically waiting for us to come and get her.
Until this past week.
Perhaps sensing an opening because of our general fatigue, she began (slowly, methodically) adding requests to the nightly regimen. Her first new trick was quickly scanning the room upon her arrival to determine which toy or doll was missing. After making a mental note, she bided her time, waiting for stories, prayers, songs etc, before requesting the previously catalogued doll a moment or two following the click of her bedside lamp.
“Daddy? Where is Poke? Will you find her?” (Poke is her doll, she named it)
“Ummm, sure Emilia, I’ll go find her.”
“Ok, I’ll turn the light on until you get back.”
I didn’t make anything of it the first few times, until I noticed the pattern.
After her initial success, she swiftly added additional ruses and misdirections to her bag of tricks:
“Daddy, will you rub my back for a second?”
“Please sing me a song”
“I need a book to read to my babies”
“Say my prayers again, please”
“I forgot a drink!”
“I forgot to go to the bathroom”
“I forgot to brush my teeth!”
“I didn’t give mommy a kiss!”
“I didn’t give Elena a kiss!”
This all culminated with an epic 1 hour and 15 minute bedtime procedure that included pretty much all of the above, a bath, 10+ books, and me putting all of her books and stuffed animals in a pile on the bed in frustration.
Hence the meeting.
We broke it to her over dinner, at approximately 5:50pm in between bites of turkey and squash.
“Emilia, after dinner we’re going to have a meeting to talk about bed time.”
“Is it bed time?”
“No, but we’re going to talk about bed time.”
“Oh, but do I have to go to bed?”
“Not for a little while, but we’re going to talk about some new rules for bed time.”
I laid out our case while Sonja looked on in support. Emilia listened intently. She asked some clarifying questions (How many books? How many requests?) We went over the procedure (potty, teeth, pajamas, two books, prayers, lights, hug, kiss, “good night”). She repeated this for us.
When bed time rolled around, we proceeded smoothly until the lights went off.
I could sense her brain racing, trying to find a loophole in our previously discussed plan.
“Good night, Emilia”
I inched towards the door, and when I reached the threshold, she called out.
“Daddy, stay right there!”
“Right here?” I thought, “I’m in the practically in the hallway! You can even see me”
“Stay there!”, she repeated.
“I’m going to close the door, but not all the way so it is not too loud” (This was a common request because she had decided I had been “vacuuming” one night.)
She pleaded for a second, but I left. I went to our room.
Sonja coached me through our contingencies – good job, she said, but if she gets out of bed put her back in without a word. right?
right, i said.
Then, from down the hall – “You forgot my pumpkin!”
Crap, the pumpkin. She has this turtle that Uncle Joey got her for her birthday. It lights up and projects stars on the ceiling. Pretty cool, she’s been using it as a night light ever since she got it. It also turns itself off after 15 minutes, so it doesn’t stay on all night, saving batteries.
However, the batteries were dead.
In the previous night’s desperation, Sonja got our illuminated jack-o-latern from the office to serve as a replacement. I had forgotten to turn it on.
I quickly returned to the room and plugged it in. We quickly compromised on the location of the pumpkin.
“Good night, Emilia, I love you”
She was quiet.