AT likes her rituals. She demands an eggy-burrito nightly while she watches her programs (Macneil/Leher primarily) — and who am I to deny her this? I once ate a tuna fish sandwich every day for an entire summer when I was a big-wheel trucker in college and I never once got sick of it. The only reason I stopped was school started again and I needed to move on to eating a burrito every day. And I forcibly removed her pacifier at 3 months, and now she sucks her fingers, so I figured she probably might knows what’s best for her.
But recently, she’s taken up the habit of the never-ending bedtime ritual, and to parrot one of her favorite phrases, “I.don’t.like.it” (said through gritted teeth very, very slowly). This never-ending ritual starts with something she co-opted from me, the spell-it-out method¹ of saying what you intend to have happen long before doing it.
Up until very recently, I’ve found it particularly effective to spell out EVERYTHING the two of us will be doing together in advance, not only so I can later say, “SEE!” and “REMEMBER?”, but because it’s really the only proven tactic I’ve had for getting her to do what I want. One example of this is on a typical weeknight after I’ve picked her up from daycare. On these drives home, I always spell out exactly what we’ll be doing (eg. “we’re going home to make dinner, you can watch one episode of wonder pets, and then it’s bath, book, song, and bed — sound good?”). This has worked quite well, until just recently, when she’s been heading me off at the pass and using my method against me.
Instead of me dictating our night in advance, she will say things immediately after we get in the car like, “Just so you know, I’m not tired at all daddy and I’m not going to be tired later”… at 5:30 pm! Of course you aren’t tired you sweet little monster. What am I supposed to say to that?!
Partially my response to this is seasonal, it’s summer after-all and we live almost as far north as Alaska, so it’s generally quite bright when I’m trying to get her to fall asleep at 8(ish), and so I say, ok, let’s read another story, or hang out while daddy gets his at-bat in softball.
But when it’s pushing 9:30 and she is adamantly not tired (yet yawning violently), I’ve tried everything to combat this objection:
Aggressive post-school play. I love to take her to Greenlake or Wallingford Wading Pool and try to tire her out as best I can after a long day of running around at daycare. I have her run win sprints with a weighted-vest with the parachute attachment. Doesn’t Help.
Sugar-rush! I’ll admit this may at first blush appear completely counterintuitive, but I read something recently that stated that the “sugar high” is actually a complete fallacy, so I thought perhaps if I just seceded to her every chocolate whim, perhaps she’d do me a solid and go to bed when I ask. Nyet Chance, and chocolate stains the $hit out of her PJs.
Scalding Hot Bath. You know what makes me sleepy? Hot tubs make me really sleepy. I thought perchance if I ticked up the temp on her bath right before bed it might make her conk out. So far it has only made her look slightly oompa loompa-ish and strengthened her resolve not to go to bed because in her words, “I’m soooooooooo not tired right now because of that bath.”
These 3 seemingly brilliant ploys to tire her out have only made the ritual seem that much more feeble and pointless. Perhaps I should just turn on the TV and let her watch it until she falls asleep? This would free me up to go to bars and dog tracks and other things and then come home to a sleeping toddler (and blaring TV) and I’m sure there wouldn’t be many long term repercussions, and I might make a bit of money.
As you can tell, I’m at a loss for what to do. She is a master of feigning sleep; waiting the perfect amount of time until she knows that I have comfortably settled in to my own bedtime ritual (3 chocolate bars and 10 episodes of Wonder Pets) before emerging slowly, methodically from her room.
Usually I hop up and scoop her back into bed before she can say, “I’m not tired daddy” but that doesn’t stop her from immediately following up with, “can I get up?” When I say no, she’ll move on to her other favorites, “Lie in bed with me daddy!” and “I’ll just play in here for a little while, k?”
Rinse and repeat 3-16 times and you have our typical bedtime ritual. Since this is the interwebs and crowdsourcing is like happening all the time here, I thought I might put out a quick survey to see if anyone has any brilliant ideas (being a parent is not a prerequisite for answering the survey).
¹ I will go into in greater detail on my spell-it-out method in a future post, or never. Basically, it’s the opposite of the stupid Sear’s method of co-sleeping where you co-sleep and no one get’s any sleep, which I think is stupid if I haven’t yet mentioned. Stupid