The Never-Ending Bedtime

Ahhh, bedtime!

Every night, at the same time, we begin our toddler’s bedtime routine. And, honestly, more often than not, things tend to go pretty smoothly. In fact, as far as sleep goes, my son has always been a pretty decent sleeper—sleeping through the night since he was about two months old.
My husband and I have worked really hard at creating a bedtime routine that worked for our Little Bud. While we have definitely needed to adapt to a variety of obstacles along the way, keeping as much consistency as possible has proven to be our saving grace.
For us, this consistency includes a couple of must-haves, including:

  • A sound machine (to drown out city noises that might wake him up),
  • His favourite stuffed animal(s),
  • A bedtime book (or two … or three),
  • A song to put him to sleep—and, most recently,
  • A story made up by Mom or Dad.

Each of these elements are key to getting Buddy to sleep, and the trick has been to incorporate them into a routine that he can expect will always be the same. For example, we currently follow the schedule of: diapers on, PJs, teeth, face, book, kiss, sleep.And, as I mentioned earlier, most of the time this works—that is until he seems to realize that this bedtime routine is actually putting him to sleep, or, more plainly, that it’s helping him fall asleep. And, right now, as a toddler that never wants to stop moving or causing mischief, that is the very last thing he wants to do.
Hence, some delay tactics began to emerge.
You see, my husband and I have always divided up our son’s bedtime routine into two parts. It used to be that Mommy would take the first half, getting all the pre-bedtime tasks completed, and this included the bathroom/hygiene items and getting him into his pajamas. Dad would then take over with reading a book and getting Buddy into bed. It was smooth sailing.
However, once my son decided this was way too easy, he started picking fights at every turn. Whether it was a sudden aversion to brushing his teeth or an absolute refusal to lay down in his bed, things just became an upward battle that would last hours and usually include a few tears (sometimes from the child, sometimes from one of the mentally exhausted parents).
Something had to change; and after many long and sleepy discussions over the best course of action, we decided to switch things up by keeping the same routine but changing the players. Dad would begin handling the first half, and I would take over with the second.
And we were thrilled to find that this worked like a charm. It was like a magic switch had been flipped and our boy was falling asleep quicker than he had in months. My husband and I finally got our evenings back, which joyously included a little bit of time to unwind and finally finish watching the final season of Better Call Saul. Yay!
It felt amazing to be having positive time and interaction with my child, each night, after weeks of battles—because, believe me, toddlers can be cruel opponents. Being on the same team again was incredible. And as he began to ask for me to tell him a story, each night, I found myself excited and happy to make something up for him … until … I forgot to write down one of the stories that I made up for him.
Trust me, if you are ever in this situation and you make up a story for your youngster, for the love of everything you hold dear, please write it down. Because it will not be the only time you will tell it. They will ask for it again, and Lord help you if you happen to forget one of the seemingly insignificant details.
My husband learned this the hard way when he was asked to tell the story I had made up on the previous night about two teddy bears making chocolate-chip cookies. Now, to be fair, I was tired when I made this one up, and at one point I had just listed off the ingredients I use in my own cookie recipe. I didn’t think anything of it, and it didn’t occur to me that my son, who sometimes forgets to peel the banana before he eats it, would remember the entire list of ingredients.
But he did. So when Dad not only forgot about brown sugar, but also listed the ingredients in the wrong order, my goodness did he get punished for it. And this upset ensured that my son also succeeded in delaying his bedtime by at least a good 15 minutes.
These days, any extra minutes my child can get, whether it is from asking for an eighteenth sip of water or for another song, or wanting to brush his teeth without help and doing it as slowly as humanly possible, he’s going to try.
And if it begins to occur to him that something is making him fall asleep faster, well, that piece of bedtime becomes an immediate no go. For example, I’m no longer allowed to sing “Hush Little Baby” because apparently it makes his eyes “shut too much.” Go figure! Who’d have guessed?
So we’ll keep working at it, one night at a time. And as Buddy continues to try and distract, with delay tactics, we’ll counter with minor changes that appease him while continuing to maintain the necessary boundaries we have in place ’cause, really, bedtime routines can be wonderful—just as long as we have a large catalogue of songs to sing (and don’t forget about the brown sugar).

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