Sleep Training: Conclusion

I realized a couple days ago that I never bothered to close out the sleep-training thread with any sort of conclusion. Now then …

IN CONCLUSION, we are finished. For now.

When I say we are finished, I mean we are finished “training” Mattias because now one of us puts him in his bed, kisses him on the forehead, tells him we love him, and walks out of the room. And Matty stays in his bed and goes to sleep. And he stays asleep for right around 11 hours (8PM – 7AM).

The whole process took just under two weeks from when we started. One night, while we had friends over for dinner, I put Matty through his bath, books, bed routine, fully expecting his usual door / floor aria upon my departure.

The thing is, by that point, I was beginning to think his reaction to bedtime had become a routine for him just like anything else would become routine. Parenting books tell you all kids love routines, and I agree with that insomuch as kids love routines because it gives them structure and helps them cope with all the chaos they encounter. Mattias, however, looooooooooooves routines, and I say that based solely on his reaction to changes in his routines, which can be summarized in three words: oh hell no. So, I had begin to suspect that he had fallen victim to the sultry tentacles of another basketful of predictable outcome. Put another way, it started to seem like he ran to the door and collapsed in a puddle of moaning because that was the routine, not because he was upset about putting himself to sleep and staying in his room all night. God, do I have to spell everything out for you?

Which is why it was with wonder and amazement that I got all the way downstairs that night (from two paragraphs ago) and didn’t hear Axl Rose being gently inserted into a wood chipper.

And that was that. Ever since that night, he has gone through his routine and then dutifully stayed in bed and slept all night long. Are we so naive as to think that we are finished dealing with night time issues forever? Well, yes, we are that naive. Why wouldn’t something that works so well go on indefinitely?

No, we know this is a phase just like everything is a phase, but because this phase is an awesome one, we chose to live in phase denial. So quit harshing our phase.

Sleep Training: Day Five and Six

Nothing exciting to report about day five other than continuing progress: He managed to pass out on the floor in only 25 minutes. It is currently day six and he is singing his song of joy and redemption as I type. Maybe he will be finished before I am finished typing this. I should write s l o w l y.

I have to say, and I’m saying this about a kid who is already about as sweet as they come, I can’t get over how his daytime demeanor has improved since we started torturing him each night. I just didn’t expect this to be one of the consequences. Maybe Donald Rumsfeld is onto something with this waterboarding thing.

Aaaaaand day six is in the books: 21 minutes. Nice work, son!

Sleep Training: Day Four

So, we waited three whole days before throwing Matty a bit of a curveball. We had some friends over for dinner last night, and they didn’t arrive until 6:30. They brought all the ingredients for TACO NIGHT, but we had to cook everything, which included grilling the chicken. I guess we could have skipped the grill. We could have also decided to never again eat ice cream or drink bacon or do anything remotely joyful. The point is, preparing was going to blow up Matty’s bedtime routine any way we sliced it, so we opted to simply plow ahead with dinner prep and bedtime, simultaneously.

I’m building this up, but there really isn’t any payoff. He did great with his nightime routine (saying goodnight, bath, brushing teeth, reading books, turning the light off), but as soon as the light went out, it was game on as usual. He protested vehemently for 30-40 minutes before crashing out in his usual spot on the floor.

He didn’t settle himself more quickly than previous nights, and he didn’t find his bed, but the fact that things didn’t get demonstrably worse while we had a house full of people is a positive in my book. We will rationalize progress any way we can.

The tacos were delicious.

Sleep Training: Day Three

No big news from Day Three. Matty’s sweet, sweet song of death lasted a scant 30 minutes before he relinquished. If he woke up during the wee hours, he didn’t make enough noise to wake us up, so that’s a thing. And, when I woke up on my own at 7:45 this morning, he was awake, but still lying on the same piece floor where he spent the night, quietly babbling to himself.

The most remarkable thing about this is how happy and normal he seems each morning when he is liberated. These past few mornings have been some of his happiest ever, which seems a little counter-intuitive. Because of the seriousness of the noises he makes when we leave him each night, I always expect there to be some residual emotional trauma in the morning. I mean, he could at least hold an angry grudge. “YOU. What the fuck is wrong with you?! Did you not hear me screaming? No concern that I might be, I don’t know, slowly being devoured by a wolf? THERE ARE TOO WOLVES IN GEORGIA. Look at the side of my face. LOOK AT IT. Notice anything … out of the ordinary? How about the topo-map of Mars because I SLEPT ON THE BARE GOD DAMN CARPET. Oh shut up about my bed already, that stupid red rectangle of sorrow. Fuck you. Get out of my way, I’m getting some milk.”

Right now it is Saturday, technically Day Four, but I’m writing about it because we had the distinct privilege of getting to execute naptime earlier this afternoon. I’ll spare the gory details and jump right to the conclusion: We’re going to need several more baby monitors. We currently have the one monitor pointed at the area in front of his door because that’s where he spends 98% of his time these days. Today, he moaned and wailed under the door just like normal, but he pulled himself together after only ten minutes or so. I glanced at the monitor to see him spring to his feet and dart out of the video frame. What ensued was an agonizing game of parental chicken. How long can you sit and listen to a toddler “do stuff” without being able to see them before you go intervene? His room is pretty well child proof, but as soon as I couldn’t see him, I realized all of the [potentially] dangerous shenanigans that could [potentially] transpire. “Oh my god. He could use the dresser drawers as stairs to climb up and then use the lamp to smash a window. WHAT IF HE TRIES TO EAT THE LAMP?!”

In the end, I gave him about 40 minutes before I had to know what all the noises were. He had completely disassembled his changing table and was doing a pretty good job relocating an entire package of wipes, individually. And there was a weird wet spot on his bed. But other than that, things were okay. I decided to suspend training in the interest of him actually having a nap, so I laid down next to him and he fell asleep in like 4 minutes.

Forward we march.

Sleep Training: Day One

Last night we jumped into LONG OVERDUE sleep training with both feet. A little background:

Matty first began sleeping through the night when he was around 5 weeks old (the first time it happened, it scared the shit out of us). From the time he no longer needed a late night / early morning feeding, he slept like a champ. At home, we could put him in his crib wide awake and he would either go right to sleep, or protest for 5-10 minutes before giving in to the sandman. Away from the house, one of us would have to stay with him until he fell asleep, but it rarely took more than 20 minutes, which was perfectly tolerable.

This lasted until Sunday, March 13, 2011, a date that is traditionally known on the Roman calendar as HA HA FUCK YOU PARENTS Day.

Daylight Saving Time messed up Matty’s schedule something fierce and he never really recovered. I say he never really recovered, but should I actually say that Gia and I never really recovered his schedule for him? You betcha. Our bad. Matty was around 18 months old at this point and starting to become A) much more willful, and B) much more physically capable of doing whatever the hell he wanted to, like, for instance, climbing out of his crib. We converted his crib to a toddler bed via rail removal, and you would have though we converted his pajamas to rusty chain mail. So, he wouldn’t stay in the crib, but he couldn’t handle the toddler bed. One option he seemed somewhat interested in was the “big boy bed,” which is actually just a full matress and box spring parked on the floor in his room. We went with it. And that is where he has slept since last summer.

Since that transition, the bedtime routine has been this (with one or the other parent):

  • Head upstairs for a bath after dinner
  • Put on pajamas
  • Brush teeth
  • Read books
  • Turn off the light
  • Lay in bed until Matty falls asleep

    Sometimes he would fall asleep in 5-10 minutes, sometimes it would take 45 minutes. But if you got up to leave before he was asleep, he would follow you right out the bedroom door (which he can unlock) and stand at the top of the stairs, howling. [Side note: Matty's room is upstairs and our room is on the main floor, so we have a gate at the top of the stairs.]

    Even with the falling asleep variable, the bedtime routine was largely manageable. It was a nice way to end the day and spending some quality quiet time with your kid before they go to sleep is something akin to the fabric holding civilization together.

    The main problem is that Matty wakes up anywhere from one to three times per night. And when he wakes up, does he find a stuffed animal and put himself back to sleep? HAHAHAHAHAHA shut up. No, he climbs out of bed, walks (or runs) out of his room, and stands at the gate screaming bloody murder until one of us goes upstairs and puts him back to bed. And putting him back to bed is simple, right? Just tuck him into bed, kiss him on the head and you’re good, right? Again, har har har. No, one of us would have to stay with him until he falls back asleep. NOT MANAGEABLE.

    So, despite being in full agreement that this situation was one big Are You Kidding Me?, that’s the way it has been for the past, oh, 5-6 months. Until last night.

    When Matty falls asleep quickly and only wakes up once during the night, we are okay. Unfortunately, that combination only occurs maybe two or three nights out of seven each week. The other four or five nights were some version of oh-my-god-we-have-to-do-something-I-am-actually-willing-to-throw-all-of-our-money-at-the-problem-if-that-will-make-things-better. And with me facing an extremely busy travel schedule this year, well, Matty might just destroy Gia. And then Gia would destroy me. Mutually assured destruction is not a family value.

    We had tried a few touchy-feely “no cry” techniques, but Matty proved far too headstrong and willful for any sort of timely success. We saw little incremental progress, and when we would revisit the teaching materials, they would say things like, “You might have to work on it for a few months,” and, “You most important contribution is patience, even if it doesn’t seem like it’s working.” Exsqueeze me? No.

    On the other hand, the idea of locking him in his room and letting him shriek himself into a coma never sat quite right. I didn’t like it, and I have a much stronger stomach for toddler torture than my lovely wife, So, we decided on a hybrid approach: Lock him in his room (I turned the door knob around so the lock is on the outside), but go to him periodically, gradually increasing the time between visits until there are no more visits.

    So last night we gave it a shot. I put him down at about 7:45. I was barely out of his room and he was already trying to negotiate the door knob, which had become solid and motionless.

    The betrayal was, as expected, devastating. And he let us know all about it, for 56 straight minutes. The noises he made probably wouldn’t have been as guttural had someone been causing him actual physical harm. Gia wore headphones. We both drank whiskey. But less than an hour later, he was asleep. Sure, it was on the floor behind his door, but I had braced for several hours of terror and ultimately giving in. So … score!

    As I type, we are 27 minutes into Sleep Training: Day Two.