For awhile it seemed as though bedtime was running smoothly. Emmalee and I had a routine that we followed: bath, jammies, read some books and then into the crib she would go. She lay down on her Brobee body pillow, snuggled Foofa to her chest, and I would tell her goodnight and leave the room without hearing a peep from her until the next morning. It was blissful.
Now, our bedtime looks the same aside from one heart-wrenching factor. Emma does not go down quietly anymore. We follow the same routine but when I put her in her crib she immediately dissolves into tears. And even worse than the tears are her sorrowful words. “See you in the morning, Mommy.” “We play tomorrow.” “Bye bye, Mommy.” All choked out through sniffles in a voice drenched in despair.
I leave her and stand in the hallway outside her door, feeling like evil incarnate as I stoically ignore her pleas of “Mommy, come back.” This generally only lasts a few minutes, but those minutes are achingly, painfully long.
Truthfully, I am terrified to go back into her room once I’ve left because once she stops protesting she falls asleep and sleeps the entire night. I’m so scared of messing up a good thing. I don’t think a brief trip back into the room would do anything more than prolong the teary portion of the evening, though I honestly haven’t been brave enough to try yet. And staying with her until she falls asleep is just out of the question. What would probably start off as a ten or fifteen minute ordeal would likely get progressively longer until I’m trapped in her room for an hour or more waiting for her to doze off. Not to mention that she would inevitably come to rely on my presence to be able to sleep, and we would be back to middle of the night torment for Mommy when she wakes and I’m no longer there. I only have three short months before her little brother will become the tyrant of my night time hours, so it would be preferable to avoid this outcome. Of course, I’m also worried that I could in some way be causing permanent trauma, damaging our relationship and her faith in me as her mother, and otherwise contributing to lasting psychological effects that I’ll be paying a therapist to sort out when Emma is in high school.
I would really like to get the bedtime situation remedied, but I am unsure of how to proceed. I would like to convince myself that Emma is just being her usual emotional, dramatic self and that she’ll eventually get over this without me having to do anything differently, but listening to her anguish each night is taking an emotional toll on me as well. My mother has suggested that I try to talk it out with Emma, and though I’ve read that two year olds can be quite difficult to reason with, I am willing to give that a try. This might just add to our night time struggles, but I am also planning to convert her crib into a toddler bed soon. Perhaps it is the confinement that Emma is suddenly not so pleased with. Maybe getting out of bed to have Mommy usher her right back will at least reassure her that Mommy is still nearby and has not completely abandoned her (which is the conclusion I fear she reaches each night when she gives up on crying and goes to sleep). Or, more likely, the freedom to get up will just drag out both bedtime and her tears.
Why does bedtime have to be so difficult? I know, I know, that’s like asking why we exist. We are just here and toddlers just don’t like to go to sleep. Some of the many mysteries of the universe. I guess I’ve been spoiled these last few months with the hour or two of down time in the evenings and the sleeping eight hours at night anyway. Whatever I come up with to fix our current predicament will likely only be temporary, as Oliver’s arrival is sure to shake up the entire house. I will try not to mourn as I resign myself to after dark dilemmas and a general zombie like existence. And I will continue to count down the days until I can finally get reacquainted with my beloved Starbucks to ease the pain.