The Bedtime Struggle

Bedtime is the one time of day that I look forward to and dread all at the same time.

I truly enjoy bedtime with Audrey. She is just so sweet and so precious and I think she enjoys our routine just as much as we do. She asks for her "banket" and all of her bedtime friends - tiger, "brr" (elephant), and "dophin." She can barely wrap her arms around all of them but she insists they sit with us while I read her story. She then cuddles up on my chest as I rock and read a story. She likes to point out different animals in her books and make animal noises ("owl-ooh ooh," "wion - roooooaar").

I then turn out her light and she knows its time to wind down and sing her songs. She will lay back and wrap her arm around me and say "tinkle star." So we sing our two songs - Twinkle Twinkle and You Are My Sunshine - while she looks up at me and grins. Then she gives me a kiss and hug and I snuggle her as long as I can - sometimes for a few minutes and sometimes just a few seconds. When she gets squirmy I lay her down with her bedtime friends and cover her with her blanket while she looks up at me and giggles. I put my hands on her cheeks and say "I love you sweet baby girl." Sometimes she says I love you back and sometimes she doesn't. Then I turn on her classical music, close the door, and she goes right to sleep, typically within two  minutes.
That's the easy part of bedtime. The part that I look forward to each day and will always cherish.

Raley's bedtime, on the other hand, is not so enjoyable. I've talked before of our troubles with getting her to stay in bed at night, so today I'll elaborate.

She does everything in her power to delay going to sleep. She's deliberately slow getting her jammies on. She takes forever to pick out a story. She's thirsty (or, as she says, "drinky"). She wants to put her baby to bed in her cradle (and feed her. and sing her a song. and rock her.)

We try to be patient as she's doing these things. We try not to rush in an attempt to have a pleasant end of the day with her as well.

If David and I are both home we will both climb in bed with her as we read a story. Then we give kisses and hugs, turn the light out and say good night. But there's always something else that she wants.

Some nights she will quietly sneak out of bed and just sit on the stairs until we realize she's out of bed and go lay her back down. Sometimes she will do this over and over for hours. If we're already in bed she'll either sit quietly in the playroom outside our door or come into our room. There are some nights we really think she's asleep and then 30 minutes later she'll come sneaking into our room.

Other nights she just sits in her bed and cries/yells. Sometimes she yells in a mad/demanding tone things that she wants. Sometimes she cries "I want you, Mommy/Daddy."

Last night she was sitting in bed yelling in a mad tone "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" until David finally went up to see what she wanted and she told him "I want Mommy." Sometimes it's comical, but it's still very frustrating.

We have tried literally everything.
- We've tried bargaining/bribery - "If you stay in bed you'll get a treat in the morning."
- We've even tried bargaining to the extent of making a chart and telling her that if she stayed in bed at night for a week straight then she could go to the store and pick out a treat. This eventually worked but it hasn't worked since.
- We've tried spanking
- We've tried reasoning with her
- We've tried good cop-bad cop
- We've tried ignoring it
- We've tried taking away toys
- We've tried cutting out naps
- We've tried giving in to the things that she asks for thinking that, for example, if we give her a drink of water she'll then go to sleep (wrong).
- When she's crying for one of us we've tried holding her until she calms down, talking to her, telling her we love her and why it's important to go to sleep. We'll tell her the fun things she's going to do when she wakes up and why we can't lay down with her. But when it's time to lay her back down, she typically will start the crying all over again.
- We've also tried laying down with her at times. It breaks my heart to listen to her cry "I want my Mommy." Sometimes I think what if she really does need me? But I get the same results. I lay down with her for a while, just like she asks. Sometimes I even lay with her until she falls asleep. But when I get up to leave, she wakes up and starts crying all over again.

The other problem we have with laying with her (or letting her lay with us in our bed) is that she comes to expect it every night, and it's just not something we can do each night. We need that time after they go to sleep to get things done around the house. Sometimes we need that time to just be together. There are days when David is getting home as they are going to bed and we literally haven't seen each other all day.

I know that a majority of the things that she does are stalling tactics. We have told her that it's always ok to get up to go potty because we are trying to get her used to that so we can get her out of pull ups when she sleeps. So since she knows that it's ok to get up to potty, some nights she will get up and pee on the potty four separate times. Sometimes she tells us she's had a bad dream (when she hasn't been to sleep yet) and will come up with these creative, elaborate stories. Sometimes she says she's "scared" and when we ask her what she's scared of she looks around and says "ummmm......that" and points at something random in her room.
This past Sunday at naptime, we found her like this on the floor, bottom half under the bed, with Audrey's paci in her mouth
We are literally, at a loss of ideas. We even got one of those Ok to Wake clocks that turns green when it's ok to get out of bed. It typically works in the mornings, but it doesn't keep her in bed when it's time to go to sleep.

Actually, I thought it was going to work great. We had a couple of weeks after we got it that she actually did much better. If she did get out of bed at night it was only once or twice, then she stayed in bed and fell asleep. There were some nights she didn't get up at all. There was actually one morning that she woke up before the light turned green so she grabbed a book and sat in bed until it turned green and then she got up. I thought we had made a turn around.

But then it all went back downhill again. Several nights this week she has still been awake nearly two hours after we've layed her down. One night it was almost midnight before she fell asleep. I keep telling myself it's a phase. I keep telling myself to hang in there, she'll get past it. There have been several nights that I have been in tears as well because I don't know if we're handling it the right way. But it seems that no way is the right way because nothing works. I hate ending our days this way. I hate ending a great day with crying and spanking. I just want her to go to sleep a happy girl.
Does anyone have any suggestions? Because it's rough around here. Is my child the only one who acts this way at bedtime?

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