I've been hesitant to write about this. It's like when you hit every green light on the way home. You don't talk about it. You just let it happen and celebrate when you pull in your driveway. It's why Clif doesn't let me comment on the surprising lack of traffic. The minute you talk about it, everything goes to...you know what.
However, I have always said that if I ever got Ainsley to sleep like a normal kid I would write a book and make millions. Well, I can barely find time to write this blog, so I don't think a book deal is showing up anytime soon.
Ainsley is the anti-sleeper. If you have read this blog at all, you already know that. She is the perfect storm for sleep deprived parents...
1 - She hates being left out. She would rather force her eyes open and watch me fold clothes than just get the sleep she so desperately needs.
2 - She can not self soothe. She has never attached herself to a bottle, a thumb, a finger, a blanket, a baby doll, a stuffed animal, an article of my clothing. The only thing that has ever made her secure is another person to cling to.
3 - She can not put herself to sleep. Anytime I have tried to instill this in her, it has ended in disaster. Imagine, if you will, a very tired, very frustrated, at her wits end mother, reversing the door knob on her 3 year old's bedroom door so said 3 year old can't leave the room. I know, not my proudest moment. But I have been driven over the cliff with this child and her sleep issues.
I was really at peace with the situation. This was our issue. Ainsley is the perfect child otherwise. Why should I complain that she wants to snuggle with me at night? It wouldn't last forever. But then it hit me. I was really doing this girl a disservice.
It happened about 6 weeks ago. We were over at some friends. There were a bunch of kids all around Ainsley's age. Clif was staying to hang out while I took the kids home. He would spend the night. Some other dads were staying over with their kids. A sleep over! Ainsley wanted to stay. How could I let her stay? Could I really expect the mom - who had her own three kids to put to bed - to sleep with my daughter? Clif was staying to catch up with some visiting friends. Our deal was that I would take the kids home at a reasonable hour. I couldn't ask him to change his plans to sleep on the floor, in a sleeping bag with Ainsley.
She cried the whole way home. And I thought...this is my fault. If I had taught her to do this, then I could have left her. Clif was there, I could have left her to go to sleep with her little friends and have her first sleep over.
And what happens in a couple of years when little girls at school are having sleep overs? Will she still need a mommy to sleep with her? The thought of her missing out on things like that because I hadn't been able to figure this out, killed me. I couldn't let it happen. So it started...the sleep chart...
The deal was that if she could go to sleep on her own for a certain number of nights she would get a reward. Three nights = Slurpee. Five nights = Target shopping. Seven nights = Build A Bear. Ten nights = Movies.
I took the picture about a month ago. It took over a week to get through the first 3 nights. We just finished the 10 night stretch. She's doing really well. I can't believe that I can walk out of her room and have her fall asleep. She still whines every night that I leave, but she does it. I think the whining is more for show. We still have our bumps...like when she screams and cries for an hour straight, or when I head to bed at 11 and she's still awake. But for the most part, I feel like we've got a good thing going. For the first time in years, Clif and I can actually follow a grown up show like The Walking Dead*. We can read books. We can get laundry done before midnight.
But most of all, I feel like we've given Ainsley something important. I always thought that letting her sleep with me was fine. That it made her feel safe and that was the most important thing. I want her to feel safe, that is extremely important...but more, I want her to feel confident, I want her to feel fear and conquer it, I want her to problem solve, I want her to rely on herself. She's only 4 and I expect her to rely on me and Clif for awhile...but hopefully we're getting her on the right foot.
*Holy Hell!!! Does anyone watch this show? All I think about is zombies. Last night I dreamed that I met Jennifer Lopez (random in itself) and she was a zombie! Crazy stuff.