It’s the last week in our rental, and since we’ve gotten here ZMP’s going-to-bed pattern has gotten worse. Back at Chorizo House she was actually “going down” with very little trouble; Mike and I would take her upstairs, we’d sing a little song and read her a story, she’d cry a little bit, and then she’d be asleep.
I don’t know if it’s the rental or teething or the fact that she’s crawling and sitting up and just so excited to be mobile, but lately getting ZMP to bed has been a huge struggle. A two hour struggle, in fact. We put her down, and she screams and cries and is completely inconsolable unless I’m nursing her or Mike’s holding her. And because we’re in a duplex, we can’t let her cry; it’s not fair to the people trying to get sleep, one room over.
So last night Mike had to run an errand, and I was solo putting her to bed. At around 8 PM I took her into the walk-in closet that is (temporarily) her bedroom, and I set her down to nurse. Which she did for about a minute, then she rolled off and grinned at me, and started to charge around the room.
(I will quickly say: this is not a small closet. It fits a dresser, a crib mattress, a box of clothes, two adults, and a baby with no issues. I don’t want to give you the impression that I’m crammed into a 2′ x 4′ space, because: no.)
So I reclined on her mattress as ZMP crawled and cavorted, going to the entry (across which we have a baby gate), then coming back. Getting onto the mattress is an effort for her; she’s successful two out of three shots, and when she was she’d crawl over to me, nurse briefly, then crawl off again. And that was when I realized: ah ha. This is a chance to spend time with my daughter.
Let’s look at it this way: she’s not tired. She’s not ready to sleep. She hasn’t seen me all day. I may want her to go to bed at 8 PM, but she clearly doesn’t, and trying to force her just leads to tears and wearily trying to get a baby to bed for the next hour. So why not let her play in this soft, safe space?
I think there’s something to the “she hasn’t seem me all day” line of thinking. Call me crazy, but I think my baby misses me as much as I miss her, and when I put her down in that closet and sat with her, she decided to show me what she can do. She can go here! She can go there! She can get this book and this cloth block! And then she comes back to nurse, but only briefly, before she heads off to show me some more.
I think I’ve been too focused on “baby must be in bed by X time because the books say so”. I really try to only take the books with a grain of salt, but that one, for some reason, stuck. I’d forgotten she might want to spend just as much time with me as I wish I could be spending with her.
So tonight, at around 8 PM, I’ll take my daughter to her “room”, and I’ll play with her for an hour or less, and then at some point I’ll say, “It’s time for bed now.” Because she’s still a baby, and she still needs structure.
I think I need to give her that chance, though, to be with me. I think that’s what she wants.