1001 Nights of Bedtime – The ups and downs of sleep in the early years

1001 Nights of Bedtime

(Photo credit: Becca Gutierrez with Rusty Metals Photography  // @RustyMetalsPhotography)

Whether on TV or all the articles online, parents idolize bedtime. It’s that special time with kids, an important part of the routine and a key part of bonding. Or so they say. Let’s be realistic, though – unless you do sleep training or have a magic kid, it’s probably also a bit of a struggle. The first years are the hardest for obvious reasons, and I just keep thinking of them as the 1001 nights of bedtime, and just like Scheherazade’s story, it can be about survival more than love.

I know, I know, these will be the times I’ll look back on fondly when Harley is older. This is part of how I’m building a solid foundation of love and trust with her. But mostly, I end up trapped under a hot toddler who screams at me if I move. So yeah, the Scheherazade thing fits. Maybe.

1001 Nights of Bedtime – Stories

Remember when I said that I wanted to raise a bookworm? I don’t quite think that I realized what that meant in reality. Every night, I show Harley three options of books to read before bedtime and let her choose which one she would like. It’s like the signal of bedtime, both for her and the husband.

The thing is, selecting a story can sometimes be a struggle that includes changing her mind or hunting for a specific book that she wants that we haven’t seen in days or weeks and must now read. Or, as happened the other night, she will confidently choose one book, only to reach the end and see other titles she recognizes and start crying for those instead. “No, I don’t want Duckling gets a Cookie! I want Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!”

A few nights ago, she woke up at an ungodly hour crying for me to read one of her books to her. Thankfully, I could paraphrase it in the dark while turning random pages of whatever book was next to the bed and get her back to sleep.

Still, it’s sorta adorable to hear her read the books to me, and I’m always amazed at how much she remembers. We count the same things on certain pages, or she will look for hidden animals on various pages. She’s recognizing more and more in each book, and it sometimes feels like she’s learning to read with each iteration of the books.

1001 Nights of Bedtime – Toys and Blankets

1001 Nights of Bedtime

Every night, the favorite “friends” go up to bed with Harley, and every morning she insists we carry them downstairs again. This usually includes her giant teddy bear, big bunny, little bunny, and panda. Sometimes it also includes monkey, buffalo, Garfield or Princess Leia. Then there are her myriad blankets that also take part in the daily migration.

In bed, she goes in waves. Sometimes she loves her pillow, other times she wants whatever I’m using to rest my head on. She will tell me she is cold when her room is hotter than a sauna. Other nights, she is “too hot for a fan”. Each night is a mystery of which blanket is the preferred covering, and if she wants it “like a cape” or covered, tucked or not.

1001 Nights of Bedtime – My Captivity

When I weaned Harley, part of how I got her off the boob was by cuddling her instead. She would lie on my arm and fall asleep, calling it “Mommy Neck”. After two years of breastfeeding, this was a huge relief. Now, it’s like a grown-up version of Coyote Ugly, where my only escape is chewing off my own arm.

Some nights, she will happily lie on a pillow, or her bunny, and go to sleep. Others, you would think she was being tortured considering the cries and screams. Lately, she insists on holding my one hand while having me rock her with my other one. There goes any chance to relax on my phone while she drifts off.

I usually wait for her to be sound asleep before pulling my ninja moves to try and escape. Some nights, I make my attempt too soon and get reprimanded by my toddler dictator, told to lie back down. We are past the age of just crying for things like that, instead, she tells me “Mommy, close your eyes! Lie down and rock me like a baby. Please.”

1001 Nights of Bedtime

Have I mentioned that she isn’t even 2.5 years old yet? 1001 nights is about 2.75 years. So Scheherazade was running low on stories around now. How long will my tales go on? When will Harley be okay with being left alone to fall asleep? When will storytime be my own contribution towards her journey to dreamland? And will I miss these seemingly endless nights, when every minute she fights sleep is a moment of space in my own head that I lose?

What is or was your bedtime routine like with your two-year-old? Have you changed things as they hit 3 or 4, or is this pretty much my future for a long time to come?


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