Little Olivia has been giving Lee and I a problem lately. She just hasn't been sleeping enough. She wakes up at 6:00 in the morning (sometimes 5:30) no matter what time we put her to bed. This would be bad enough if it was just her biological clock resetting, because Hubby and I are not morning people and don’t like being up that early. But it’s worse, because she’s not a morning person either. In the two weeks she’s been doing this, the pattern has been that she wakes up around 6ish, is cranky, and crabby, and angry all morning, throwing tantrum after tantrum over the smallest things. Then if we’re lucky she takes a nap and she’s back to her normal, sunny self all afternoon. If we’re not lucky, she’s too tired and cranky to fall asleep, and she’s awful all day long until bedtime.
I don’t know what to do about it. The child needs more sleep, but all of a sudden she hates bedtime and wakes up too early. Often, she even wakes up in the middle of the night. This is the child that from about 6 months on went to bed like a champ and slept 12 hours through the night. I was so lucky to get that, but the problem is I’m not used to being woken up in the middle of the night by a crying baby. I’m crabby. Olivia is crabby. Lee, who has been dealing with terrible insomnia for months now and rarely gets enough sleep as it is, is really crabby. It’s been a bad two weeks for our whole family.
So this morning, in a fit of desperation, when my darling daughter woke up just before 6:30 (after waking up at about 5:00 and crawling into bed with us for an hour or so) I just put her back to bed. Not in her toddler bed, which she can get out of, but I set up the pack n play, porta crib, whatever you want to call it. Point is, she can’t get out of that. I dumped her in there with a blanket, a pacifier, a snack, a couple books, and a couple toys. And I left, and I crawled back into bed. I ignored her cries of “I not sleepy yet!” I even ignored her cries of “I want Mommy!” I felt horribly guilty doing it, but I figured she’d either settle down to play with her toys, allowing me to get some much needed sleep, or better yet she’d crash and fall back asleep. She cried for 7 minutes (I know, because I was anxiously timing it. I wasn't going to let her cry longer than 10 minutes) and then settled down. I don’t think she slept. But she ate her crackers, she played with her toys, and she was in a perfectly happy mood when we both got up at 8:00. I don’t know if she’ll still be in a good mood later, as she really didn't get enough sleep. But right now, she’s watching a movie and I’m writing this blog post and all is right with our world.
But as I've become more and more convicted that positive parenting is the right way to go, I feel more and more guilty when I have to do things like this. Because, in effect, I am telling my daughter “I know better than you do what’s best for you.” And positive parenting is about respecting my child as a person, as an individual, and not just automatically overruling her preferences. Or at least that’s the way I see it.
But sometimes, I really do know what’s best for her. Right now, I know that she needs more sleep than she’s getting, and all her cries of “I not sleepy” are simply not true, and just the angry claims of a toddler that doesn't want to go to bed and can’t explain why. Furthermore, I know that to be a good parent, I need more sleep, and so does my husband. It’s best for our whole family if she spends more time in bed. I recognize that I can’t make her sleep, but I can make her stay in bed. Before I had kids, I was pretty authoritarian in my ideas of how kids should be raised. Once upon a time this would have bothered me so much. But now that my ideas about parenting lean much more towards encouraging cooperation than coercing obedience, mornings like this make me uncomfortable. But she’s two. Sometimes, she’s just not going to cooperate. Sometimes, I really do know what’s best. Sometimes I just have to put my foot down. Right?
If anybody has any ideas on how to get a two year old to sleep longer, I’m all ears. I really would prefer a gentler solution than just dumping her in a crib she can’t get out of when it’s early in the morning and I’m too tired to deal.