Yesterday we decided to try to get 17 month old Emma to transition from her crib to her bed. There is a little history here, so bear with me.
Emma has slept with us from day one, right smack dab in the middle of John and I. We had a little set up so that we were sure to not roll over on her, and slept in sweats to avoid the need for blankets that could possibly smother her. She eventually got used to sleeping in her crib during the day for naps, but absolutely refused to sleep in it at night. At 4 months she was smart enough to feel that her rightful place was snuggled between mom and dad at night.
At about a year we decided to have Em share a room with Anna until we could find a bigger house. This involved taking Anna's bed off the frame, and putting both of their mattresses on the floor, and making sure that everything was still baby proof in Anna's room. Our plan was to have Anna go to bed at night in our room, so that Emma's talking didn't keep her awake on school nights.
Since 12 months, Emma will go to sleep in her own bed, but one of us has to lie down with her until she falls asleep. Sometimes she wakes up, and one of us goes to bed with her. So, for the last 5 months, she continued to sleep in her crib during the day, but still slept with mom or dad at night.
I know, I know, I have read The Baby Whisperer. Her catch phrase was something like "start as you mean to go on", meaning you basically have to teach your children good sleep habits and keep a routine. Sounds Good in theory, until you are up for the 20th time at 3:30 am trying to get you very stubborn child back to sleep.
Anyway, to make a short story long... My dilemma was this: if I had Emma sleep on her own in her bed just as I did when she slept in her crib (which means keeping the same routine of closing the curtains, turning on the white noise and her birdie night light, and singing Twinkle Twinkle), would she be confused that I didn't lie down with her during the day, but did at night? Would that make the transition more difficult? Or would completely cutting her off from bed time snuggles be worse?
In all honesty, Anna didn't start sleeping by herself, or putting herself to bed without prolonged snuggling until she turned 4. We didn't have a choice since Emma was on the way, and it was a good excuse to try. Anna resisted, but with a lot of bribery *snort*, we succeeded.
I was torn. last night I realized that even though we have two children, I still have no idea of what the heck I am doing as a parent. Yesterday at nap time was a little rocky, but with a lot of hugs, and the fact that Emma could see me sitting at the computer from her bedroom door upstairs helped. I sang to her from downstairs, and told her I was here if she needed me.
Last night however... She was grieved. I mean this in every possible context of the word. To hear my child sob desperately, no matter how many times I tried to comfort her was heart breaking. During those 20 odd minutes, I doubted myself in so many ways. I wasn't a good parent. I am a failure. I should never have had kids, that's how much I completely and utterly suck.
*I am getting to a point, I promise!* Ten minutes into the sobbing, Anna emerged from our room to tell a teary me that she wanted to talk to me. Emma, of course reached for her sister from between the safety gate rungs, pleading for help.
This made Anna very upset. "Momma, can't you see that she needs you? She is upset, she wants you!"
I tried to explain as best as I could, but Anna wasn't having it. I started to cry, and asked John to please handle the situation with Anna, because though I knew she was so upset, I just couldn't do it. Poor John, three weeping women under one roof... John managed to drag Anna to bed, wailing and yelling that I should be doing something to help her sister.
Emma made it to bed by herself, while I continued to go over my self doubts in a teary manner. Was it fair to Emma, since her sister got 4 whole years of bed time snuggles? Shoot, she still wakes John up in the wee hours to have him sleep with her,to this day. By cutting out Emma's and Anna's snuggle time ( Anna was told that to be fair to her sister, snuggle time would be cut down to a few minutes), John would be denied precious time that he missed with the girls because he had to work... Were my motives pure? Was I doing this because I didn't want to have to put Em to bed anymore, to the tune of at least an hour every night? Am I really that selfish?
I realized that as horrible as I felt, my motives were pure. I know that if I had to lie down with Emma during nap time, that wouldn't be fair to Anna. I didn't want to leave her on her own while I tried to put her sister down for a nap, even thought that is how we did it with Anna 4 1/2 years ago. But it's different now. I have two to care for. A compromise was in order! Good news, bed time snuggling is back on. Hopefully, since Emma has known the difference between nap time and bed time since 4 months of age, things will go smoothly.
Today, She has gone down for 2 naps with almost no tears, with lots of hugs and kisses, by herself! But that's not really the thing I am most excited about. My oldest has discovered compassion, love, and selflessness. Even though she knew it was possible that she could get into trouble for getting out of bed (one of our rules, unless a potty break is needed), she "saw a need and filled it". I am hoping that despite the past aggravations, tauntings, teasings, "accidental head kicking" *LOL*, and general "I am the big sister, you must bow to my every whim"-ness, that this is a glimpse of things to come.