Oh, the bedtime battle. The time that toddlers have the biggest power struggle with their parents. Or maybe it’s just me.
At the end of the day, when all I want is some time to unwind, some time for just me, and I feel like I am a puppet on strings and the puppeteer is my toddler. My two-year-old (29 months) knows exactly which buttons to push (or strings to pull) to get me into her room after I have put her down to sleep.
“I have to go potty.” It’s pretty much a given that I’ll respond to this, even though with every fiber of my being I don’t want to. I know she will just sit there and not go, and then ten minutes later, I’ll hear…
“Change diaper.” And back I go, to change her diaper. Usually she’s wet, but sometimes she is smart and asks me to change her diaper even though she’s dry. Because she knows this means freedom from her crib.
I leave her room, and yet not too much time passes when she’s whining again. I can’t decipher her but I firmly say from afar that she needs to go to sleep. The whining intensifies. I try to ignore it. And then it becomes a full-out wail.
“What do you need?” I ask her, squinting in the dim light of her nightlight.
“Put my socks on.” This is a regular occurrence. I would send her to bed without socks but her toes would freeze because she can’t keep a blanket on. (I swear, she’s a ninja in her sleep.) I would do footie PJs if we weren’t attempting potty training. So I fetch the socks she threw out of the crib and put them on her feet. I tell her if she throws them off again Mommy isn’t coming to get them. And that I am shutting the door.
After a few-minute meltdown when I shut the door, I return and calmly remind her that she needs to go to bed. She finally passes out within minutes of me leaving the room.
I’ll never forget the time I heard my husband walk into my daughter’s room and say, “Where is your shirt? Why are you taking your clothes off?” As frustrating as I knew the moment was, I couldn’t help but laugh as I visualized my toddler stripping and throwing her pajamas out of the crib.
Then there was a few weeks ago when she was whining and I walked in and she says to me, “Wipe my hands.” So I grab a tissue, and she says, “Get my boogies.” Thinking she meant her nose, I wipe her nose. She touches her mattress, and I wipe in the dark, thinking there’s nothing there. But after turning on her light, I realize she has wiped her boogers in her crib.
My Favorite Moments
Okay, okay, I’ll admit, as frustrating as the bedtime routine may be, it does have its sweet moments. I love winding down with my daughter at the end of the day. Playing games together. Reading stories.
After brushing teeth and getting jammies on, we usually read a couple stories before bed. Sometimes, she’ll sit on my lap or next to me on the chair. And sometimes we sit on the floor. Sometimes, she’ll read to Mommy. Or I will read the same book five times. No matter what this looks like, I love reading together.
After books, our new thing is to turn off the lights and sing a couple songs before putting her in bed. She will sing along with me as I sing “Hush Little Baby,” or sometimes she will want to patty-cake or sing the “I love you” song in the rocking chair. Hearing her sing “I love you” to me is pretty much the sweetest thing ever.
And before I put her in the crib, she gives me goodnight kisses. First, she’ll kiss my cheeks. Then she grabs my face with her tiny hands and makes the “Mwah” sound as she kisses me on the lips several times in a row. We give each other a big squeeze before I lay her in the crib and leave the room.
And finally, my favorite thing is on the nights that can be the most frustrating. When all she needs is to calm down, and I know she just needs me. “Sit in the chair for a minute,” she will sometimes say to me. Or I will take her over to the chair on my own. We will sit in the rocking chair in the corner of the room, swaying slowly, saying nothing. I inhale and exhale. She slowly inhales and exhales. After a few minutes she has calmed down and is ready to go in her crib.
I lay her down and tuck her in one last time, kissing the top of her head. “I love you,” I whisper.
And I finally exhale fully. Time for me to unwind. And while the battle may have been long, I am thankful for the time we share together, especially after a long day at work. She needs me and I need her. And at this point, I need some chocolate.