The Battle of Toddler Bedtime

It’s been a while since I’ve spoken about anything parenting related on here. I’d say that’s because our life has been within the four walls of our home. Either trying to keep ourselves entertained or our three and a half year old happy, having already exhausted the park visit by 11 am. The struggles we’ve had will match those of millions of parents, so if you’re out there and you’re screaming into a pillow because your son/daughter “wants to do something else” within a matter of seconds after you’ve spent 20 minutes setting an activity up for them, then I’m with you, and I feel your pain.

One battle I didn’t see foresee during lockdown, was bedtime. As someone who relishes the thought of getting into bed and trying to get 8 hours sleep, anything that goes against that logic, I simply don’t understand. But, then again, I’m not a toddler, whose behaviour most days goes against what would be considered logical.

It’s interesting how we begin our lives with a huge reluctance to going to bed. As kids we want to stay up and watch cartoons, as we get older sneaking in some extra hours of Playstation or Gameboy (depending on how old you are) as the family sleeps. Then, university rolls round and the thought of being in bed before 3am doesn’t make any sense, and if you really master it, by the end of uni your body clock will be royally messed up and you suffer from full-blown insomnia. Yet, I seem to have forgotten all of that as we are still banging our head against the wall at the moment as Ivy fights sleep every night!

Something changed

For months the bedtime process was a breeze; tea, bath, book, brush (teeth), bed. Like clockwork. And at the time, yes we were quite smug (I regret that now). The evening’s to ourselves to relax. Perfect. But then something happened. Suddenly our peacekeeping toddler changed, it’s like overnight she invested in a crash course of excuses and delay tactics that even extended as far as what can easily be considered vandalism (not joking!). Here are some of the reasons we face bedtime delay:

“I’m hungggrrryyyy…” Having just consumed half of the UK’s supply of food
“I want to come downstairs…”
“I need to tell you something… “ * Proceeds not to tell us something
“Let’s talk about…. *insert any number of topics she thinks of on the spot…”
“I need you to sing me a song…” and so on and so forth.

Bedtime Banksy

And as for the vandalism, no that’s not a joke. Ok, it’s not graffiti on a train track bridge, but Sudocrem on walls, a whole bottle of talcum powder on the floor, and a NON-SPILL (go figure) cup of water tipped on the floor all in one evening. Chaos all created under the stealth comparable to that of a Ninja.

Up there with one of the greatest decisions we’ve ever made was putting a stairgate at Ivy’s bedroom door. Just today I read a post from a woman whose 3 year old uses their ensuite to go to the toilet in the night, without a gate at her door this has now become a living nightmare for them as she’s armed with the perfect excuse to get out of bed. With several visits in the early hours of the morning! Some reassurance that we’re not alone in this, and even more support for the stairgate idea.

What’s going on?

We know we’re not the only parents that are going through this, and there are millions of lucky parents that have this to come. For those going through it or those expecting it, here’s a bit of what’s going on.

Scared of the dark – Shadows on the wall, noises outside her window and scary dreams are now becoming a factor. Trying to have a night light on but also counteract shadows is our latest battle. Overcoming the imagination of a 3-year-old as her brain goes into overdrive is also a struggle. It’s a work in progress, but trying to maintain some kind of calm before bed and limit the weird TV shows that are considered ‘kids’ TV will hopefully pay off.

Nightmares/Terrors – Just the other night I was having to escape an angry mob on a rowing boat from a Chinese town with my sister and mum in a nightmare I had (explain that one!). Unfortunately, they’re unavoidable and not much fun, especially when you’re little. Ivy will scream at the top of her lungs in a deep sleep which will result in us leaping out of our skin and my wife kicking me in the back towards the door to go and check everything is ok. What’s even better having almost had a heart attack, when I go to calm Ivy down she kindly asks me to get out of her room! Fortunately, just reminding her we’re there seems to help.

Sleep talking – This sort of goes hand in hand with nightmares and weird dreams. Some of the sleep talking is very funny, and some of it is less talking and more shouting which can be quite distressing. In these instances, it’s usually over in a matter of minutes. What’s most impressive is she’s able to boss me around even in her sleep!

Sharing our bed!

When you hear parents-to-be say “my child will never watch the iPad” you have to hold your belly laugh until you’re in the safety of your own company. Because when you’re new to parenthood you set out with the best intentions, but then one difficult afternoon where you need 5 minutes peace rolls round and your 3 year old has Peppa and the gang put in front of them.

Sharing the bed is a different matter. This isn’t to start an all-out war on co-sleeping, sometimes there is a time and a place. But hear me out. At a particularly difficult stage, we found ourselves trying to talk Ivy round at 1.30 am when she decided she was no longer tired and also “didn’t like her room anymore”. I did what I said I never would do and let her come and sleep in our bed. After ten minutes, however, I decided this wasn’t how it would be. It would end up in a repeat pattern of her thinking this was the solution to her problems, and I like my space in my bed. So I consulted my good friend Google. I’m not sure if these parenting advice articles are written by liars, worryingly calm people, or people on a steady stream of Diazepam with some of the advice they give. All I can say is having a calm conversation at 2 in the morning is hard to do when one person in the argument is screaming at the top of their lungs (no, it’s not me). Anyway, we resolved that situation with a carefully places nightlight so as to hide away any shadows.

We haven’t mastered a silver bullet for bedtime and everything is a work in progress. But my best advice, learn patience… fast! And remember, when you’re bleary-eyed in the early hours of the morning, there is someone else out there going through exactly the same thing. Hopefully, that brings you some comfort.

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