This week has been a great week, because we finally (knock on wood) discovered a solution to our bedtime woes.
My youngest son has real difficulties going to sleep at night. It isn’t for lack of trying, but some combination of exhaustion, fear of the dark, provocation from his brothers, and whatever else is going on in his little head, have long made a nightmare of getting him to bed. Bad nights involve running around the house and screaming, forced tooth brushing, and hour or more of sitting in his room until he quiets down, then jumping on the bed and other craziness when his brothers come to bed, and then, at last, sometimes three or four hours after the ordeal began, sleep.
We tried everything we could think of – making bedtimes more gradual, making them more structured, reading more stories, reading less stories, having a big snack before bed, not eating at all before bed, having a nice warm bath before bed, putting in a nightlight, letting him hold a flashlight – everything. Some of it would work a little, for a day or two, but in no time at all we’d be right back to bedtimes from hell.
It got to the point where we couldn’t do it anymore. He wasn’t getting enough sleep, his brothers weren’t getting enough sleep, and his parents definitely weren’t getting enough sleep. Everyone was cranky. So we moved him to a fold up mattress at the foot of our own bed. This didn’t solve the problem completely, but it was an improvement. We still had to go through the first few stages of disaster each night, but at least he didn’t get his second wind when his brothers came upstairs.
Even so, having him sleep in our room wasn’t ideal either. Even leaving aside the minor inconveniences of having a bed taking up the floor of our room and needing to go back and forth to his room to get him dressed in the morning, let’s face it, having a seven-year old child sleeping in your bedroom is a serious cramp to your sex life. There’s no getting around that fact.
Then, my wife struck on an idea. We’ve long known that my son likes enclosed spaces, constantly makings nests of pillows in the backs of closets, behind couches, and in cardboard boxes. What if, my wife reasoned, we could make his bed into an enclosed space. She went scouring the internet, and sure enough, there was already just such a product, something like a small tent that can be set on a boxspring and have the mattress fitted inside. In can be zipped right up or left entirely open on one side.
We tried it last week for the first time. Not only did he go to bed without fighting, he was positively excited to try out his new tent. He fell asleep almost immediately, didn’t awaken when his brothers came to bed, and slept through the night. In the morning, he was well-rested and happy. It was glorious.
I tempered my enthusiasm, however. We’d experienced some all too temporary successes in the past, and it was entirely possible that the novelty of the tent would wear off and that we’d be back to square one. I kept my expectations low.
But, thus far at least, things are sill going well. He’s taken several cushions into the tent, so that he sleeps almost in a cocoon. He’s also brought in some picture books and his flashlight, which we haven’t seen him actually use in there yet but that seem to give him some sense of security. And he’s gone to sleep with relative ease every night.
Most importantly, my wife and I have our bedroom back. It’s been a great week.