A few months ago we went through a bit of a rough patch with Bee at bedtime. Bedtime with our girls isn’t always the easiest, but when is putting 3 kids under the age of 5 to bed at the same time supposed to be easy. There’s teeth that need brushing and books to read and PJ’s to find, all the while trying to keep the kids from playing and getting all excited right before bedtime.
Bee being the eldest of the three gets a few things that are a little different from the other girls. She has a radio in her room, so she gets to listen to a story on CD after we turn the lights off. Also the other girls are both still in a crib or a variation of, where she’s in a single bed, so she gets to have cuddles from mommy or daddy after we turn the lights off.
The problems started when we realized that cuddling with her every night was adding about 30 minutes to her bedtime and that the whole bedtime process was taking way too long. So we started cutting out the cuddle. The problem is that Bee had gotten so accustomed to having a cuddle after the lights were turned off that when we told her we were going to stop, she got really upset. She would lie in her bed crying / screaming for us to come back and cuddle. We would go downstairs to start our evening (and by that I mean to clean the kitchen, make our lunches and to make their breakfasts) and she would just lie in her bed screaming. We could go up and talk to her, or yell at her, or try and console her but as long as she wasn’t getting a cuddle she wouldn’t stop.
It turned into a nightly issue for two weeks, but the problem was that it was no longer about the cuddle. We weren’t quite sure what was going. After we thought we had broken the cuddling issue, she starting going to the bathroom, a lot. We’ve always told her that after we go downstairs if she needed to go to the bathroom, she was allowed to leave her bed to go, but to be quiet. But now she was telling us that she was afraid that she was going to have a pee pee accident in her bed, so she kept going to the bathroom to try. After she would try a few times we could hear her crying very quietly in her bed. When one of us went up she would tell us that her body told her that she had to go pee, and she was so worried she was going to wet the bed that she would go to the bathroom. But when she got to the bathroom nothing would come out and she would go back to bed just to have the feeling again that she had to go pee. For her it was a vicious cycle that was driving her crazy. After 2 nights of this going on, I suggested to her that she could wear a pull-up at bedtime to help if she had an accident. She thought this was a great idea and was reassured that even if she had an accident at least it would be in the pull-up.
But as parents we started getting worried. Was it a UTI? Sometimes you can have the constant feeling of having to go to the bathroom, even though nothing ever comes out. Was she starving for attention? Was she doing all of this to get us back upstairs, while trying to fill the time where she usually got to cuddle with us? So many ideas and theories went through our minds, we just couldn’t figure out what was going on. It turned out it wasn’t a UTI, she never showed any of the same symptoms during the day so we were able to rule that out. Now that she was wearing a pull-up for a few nights she was getting comfortable knowing that she had a safety net. Well guess what happened next? When I told her that she couldn’t keep wearing a pull-up every night, because she was a big girl and didn’t need it, she went back to the same attitude of yelling and crying in her bed to get her way. We would tell her that we were leaving and go downstairs and she would continue to yell and cry!
I wish I could tell you the magic solution for what made this crisis stop. Eventually we were able to convince her that she didn’t need to wear the pull-up every night, and we told her that if she went to bed with no issues then possibly the next night one of us would give her a very short cuddle. It took a few nights to finally get the good behavior and we followed through by giving her a short cuddle, but now she understood that it wasn’t going to be every night!
The parenting lessons that we learned from this, and it is actually something that I’ve tried to do since they were younger but I guess we were giving in too much when it came to the cuddling, is that when it comes to children it is not the best practice to do something as a constant routine, if eventually you don’t want it to become a habit. There are lots of special things that I do for my children, but I’ve always noticed that when it starts to become a routine instead of sporadic, they become dependent on it and have trouble when the routine changes.
Have you had any similar bedtime experiences to this? Feel free to share in the comments!