Bedtime for Xavier
I posted this to MySpace a day or so ago, and got some good feedback there, but I wanted to also get opinions from some of the folks here.
Okay, you parents and folks with experience with young children, I’ve got a question for you.
Bedtimes with Xavier lately have turned into a bit of a nightmare. He does not want to be put down to sleep by Daddy. Mommy, and Mommy only, will do. Frequently, this means they fall asleep together in our bed, and I then carry him into his bedroom at some point in the night before coming to bed myself. Sometimes, he wakes up in the middle of the night, cries, and crawls back into bed with us.
Now, the issue of co-sleeping, or the “family bed” isn’t really what I’m concerned about – although truth be told, I’d much rather he slept in his bed, and Carole and I slept in ours. Rather, my concern lies in how the “going to bed” process – and our efforts to change it – impacts how he views the two of us.
As I said, he typically wants to go to bed with Carole, and on many nights she’s fine with that and I acquiesce. On some nights, though, we determine that I’ll put him to bed. Queue the waterworks, as he cries and wants to do something other than rock with me in the chair in his room. If I put him down to sleep, he cries and gets out of bed (he’s been in a toddler bed for several months now). Sometimes he’ll let me stand with him and twist rather than sit and rock. But its almost always a struggle.
Tonight, as I’m trying every trick I know of to get him to calm down and sleep (or at least outlast his tantrums so he falls asleep anyway), Carole came in – twice – to pick him up and calm him down. The second time she took him downstairs to lay on the couch with her (they’re asleep there now as I type this).
It’s taken me a few hours to piece things together in my head, but this is the scenario I’ve come to – and this is where I need your feedback. My fear is that, by coming in to calm him down, it could reinforce this notion that “Mommy is the one that solves my problem, and if I just scream loud enough or long enough, she’ll come rescue me from this place I don’t want to be (with Daddy).”
Not that I enjoy listening to him scream bloody murder about wanting Mommy, or wanting to go downstairs, or that he doesn’t want to rock, or whathaveyou. But I also feel that, if Carole and I decide that I’m putting Xavier down that night, I should be able to do that unless I specifically ask for help. Having Carole come in to “save the day” just reinforces this idea that I’m the problem, and she’s the solution. Which makes the next time I go to put him down even harder, and gives him yet another point of reference where if he screams long and hard enough, he’ll get his wish (Mommy).
Perhaps I’m being naive, but I do think Xavier was calming down with me tonight – and on nights when Carole isn’t around, he’s gone down with me without all the histrionics. It isn’t easy, but then again isn’t part of a parent’s job to -not- give in to every stated whim? To let them be frustrated, to teach them how to deal with failure, with not getting their way? Or, put another way, to let Xavier cry himself to sleep with me to show him that it’s okay to go down with me, that the world won’t end, that he’ll still see Mommy in the morning, etc?
I’m sure this could be stated more coherently – blogging at 12:30 AM on 3 hours sleep the night before isn’t the best idea, apparently – but this seems to be reasonably close to what’s going through my head right now.
What say all of you?