My Family’s Sleep Training Saga

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It’s 11:40 at night, David Letterman is on the tube and I am afraid to go to bed. I just finished a date night, got my fill of romance and I should be fast asleep, but instead I am awaiting the sound of footsteps to come stomping down the hallway.  I’m ashamed to admit that we are back in the full swing of trying to sleep train our children.

It seems like only yesterday when I was new to Twitter and reaching out to my cyber friends for any support I could get while tortured by the symphony of screaming from my nursery.  That seems like ages ago, and although my kids have surpassed the toddler stages, here I STILL am – getting up at least once or twice a night.

Truth is that all my kids are divinely strong-willed, sometimes to a fault. The normal sleep training 3-day rule has proven to be BS in my household.  What it has given me is a room full of vomit due to kids who were traumatized by being left alone in their beds to cry themselves into a revolting terror. Not flying in my house!!!

What I never got about the concept is that it’s more exhausting to sleep train your children than just enjoy the family bed.  I know I am opening a community can of worms here, and it is not for everyone, but I loved my family bed for many years.

Only now I am paying the price…

Anyone who knows me and has read my book and blogs knows that I am not big on tough love.  Tenderness has kept my blended family close and attachment bonding was a philosophy of mine for my first five years of motherhood.  I learned the pros and cons of that and have tried many methods for children #3 and #4.  But the bottom line is, they are still sneaking into our beds like little mice.

Frankly, I do not know anything more delicious than a cuddle from my kids and so I have enjoyed every midnight interruption, until these past few months.  I have been so busy with work and the many early call times have been wearing on me.  A good night’s sleep has become more of a fantasy than a reality.  This holiday it was even my Christmas wish on my early visit to Santa.

Lately it has been musical beds in my house.  Shaya comes in, squeezes in between us and goes immediately to sleep after his swig of water from our bedside table sippy cup.  Shortly after that – in the wee hours of the night – in comes Rain, who sweetly asks, “Mommy will you hold me?” as she snuggles close. Of course we become entangled like a pretzel away from the boys.  That’s makes four in my bed and sometimes late in the night I wake smushed, hot, or pinned down. Then I bail to my daughter’s empty bed to sleep through whatever time remains in the night.

Timing is key for us in the very challenging sleep training process.  Now that I have finished my TV season, I have some time off to bury myself in other real jobs like slavery, chef, chauffer and my least favorite, night referee!

So I decided to get creative.

I explained in detail to my youngest kids how important it is to sleep in our own beds. That Mommy and Papa need our sleep so we can focus during the day and how it’s hard for us to sleep and be healthy when they wake us up at night. I explained that it’s not good for all of us to not sleep through the night.  Then I made a chart for each of them.  Here’s what they look like:

 

Ignore the abstract artwork!

I marked each day of the week except for Saturday, which will be a free day when we conquer this. Then I created a series of boxes, which will receive checks when they are accomplished. The boxes are for David, the kids and me.

Charts have worked great for us in the past.  I also added a few boxes for healthy eating and that is working marvelously.  They are excited about trying new veggies and fruit in order to receive those checks too.

My kids feel a sense of accomplishment when they are able to check off the boxes and we make them feel safe by reassuring them that we are checking in on them throughout the night, by checking our boxes for them to see.

Every morning, they get a happy face, sad face or MAD face depending on how the night went.  So far not too many happy faces.  They have been waking us up and we walk them back to their bed.  Shaya is doing great with staying in there alone, but Rain is freaking out!  She says she is so scared and needs me close to her.  It’s really hard for me to hear her cry through that fear.  What’s worse is that I have to stay up to keep going back in and reassuring her, and keep my word that I will be back in 5 minutes.

I’ve heard all the advice on how to do it and that it will get easier, but I really hate this!  Some of you may say it’s my own fault, but I have no regrets for the years we enjoyed snuggling up together – so save the criticism please!

Rain broke my heart last night at 2 AM when she said, “Mommy I need to feel you close to me, we’ve been cuddling all my life, why won’t you let me cuddle you now?”  So of course, I climbed in to hold her and tell her how much I love her.  She was shaking.  Probably faking it, but what a convincing actress!   I broke the rules again, and I know I suck at sleep training.

So Rain got a sad face in the morning and so did I.

I’ll keep you posted. :(

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