Raising Richmond: The Sleep Comeuppance of 2012

My son slept through the night for the first time when he was six weeks old. At four months he was sleeping 12 hours straight. But before you hate me know this: I am getting mine now. And it suuuuuucks.

I’m going to tell you something that’s probably going to make you fellow parents hate me.

When our son JR was a baby, the most we ever got up in the middle of the night was twice…and I think that happened maybe four times total. Typically he’d wake up once at around 3am, eat, and go back to bed.

Wait, there’s more.

He first slept through the night (as in, eight hours) when he was six weeks old.

Then at about four months old, he started sleeping 12 hours a night. Save a few bumps in the road due to ear infections and minor teething issues, he went down at 7:30 without so much as peep until morning from that age on. Sure, he’d fight naps from time to time, but once the sun went down, this kid knew what was up. There was no rocking or nursing him to sleep because he flat out wasn’t interested; we’d put him in his crib and he was out like a light.

I know. You want to punch me in the face. And right now I want to punch myself in the face, because I didn’t CHERISH those moments of consistent, blissful slumber while I had them. All that time, taking it for granted, being smug and well-rested. But it’s all over now. Now I’m living in what I’ve deemed The Sleep Comeuppance of 2012.

It’s quite cruel when you think about it. My son, who is now three years old, spent those first few years making us think that sleep was just not something we needed to be concerned about. He let us get confident…comfortable…and then BLAMO! It all basically went to shit.

It started a few months ago when JR decided that bedtime was a plot to kill him. As our nightly routine progresses, he gets more and more desperate in his attempts to put it off, ranging from your straight forward dramatic flops on the floor to the more manipulative declarations that he needs “to go pooooooooooooop”1 and “You’re my favorite friend, Mama, I just need one more kiss…no, three more…no, five more kisses. TEN KISSES I NEED TEN”2 What used to take about 30 minutes now can take hours if you factor in all the back and forth that goes on until he finally conks out.

Naps bring about pretty much the same performance, except he only falls asleep maybe four days out of seven. When he doesn’t sleep, he typically spends nap time shouting the words to his favorite Dr. Suess books, dismantling his bedroom, and/or changing his clothes several times

What’s more, JR recently decided that he no longer wants to wear Pull-Ups to bed. I realize this is something to be proud of, and we are. But not wearing Pull-Ups requires him to have access to the bathroom whenever he happens to need it. Prior to this development, we were actually able to tell JR to not get out of his bed until we came and got him; it just never occurred to him to get up. Now, we have to say “If you need to go to the bathroom, just get up and go, but then get straight back in your bed.”

He hears the first part just fine. It’s the latter half of that statements that he’s having trouble interpreting.

For example, one morning a couple weeks ago, early on in his new Pull-Up free existence, he thought “get straight back in your bed” meant “take off your pants, go downstairs, remove all of the DVDs from the bookshelf, open the refrigerator (and leave it that way), go into the cupboard, grab a bottle of ginger ale, bring it upstairs, and bust into our room shouting ‘PICNIC TIME’, all before 6:30am.”

Since that adventure, we’ve repeatedly gone over what we expect him to do should he have to get up and use the bathroom before it’s time to get up for the day–we’ve even adjusted the restrictions to staying in his room until we come and get him. He can look at books, he can play with his fleet of toy cars, he can build towers with his blocks, we don’t care–just stay put.

I would say perhaps 45 percent of the time he does well. The rest of the time, the reality that he is, well, a three-year-old boy takes over, and he just can’t resist doing the exact opposite of what we ask him to do. Although, to be fair, I guess I never explicitly told him he wasn’t allowed to use the trash can as a stepping stool so he could then stand in the sink and sift through the medicine cabinet. That morning he woke me up by slamming a bottle of Robitussin down on my bedside table and stating matter-of-factly, “I think you’re sick so I brought you this.”

There were so many things wrong with that incident, I…I just can’t talk about it anymore. So, I’m hoping maybe you will. You’ve proven quite helpful before, and I’m hoping you’ll be just as generous with the advice this time around. Now I fully realize that compared to what others have gone through, our situation is small potatoes, but I’m counting on parental empathy winning out here. So give it to me straight: is this just how life is going to be for us now? Am I going to spend the rest of my nights on high alert, just waiting for JR to bust into our room at any and all hours, ready to party? What tricks have worked to make nap time, bedtime, and random wake-ups more manageable for you and your wee ones? I mean other than sedatives and duct tape?

— ∮∮∮ —


Soon after writing this, things got much, much worse. And then they got better. Following a hellish week of no naps, horrible bedtimes, and nightly 3am wake-ups, it finally occurred to us to do two things:

  1. Tweak JR’s nap schedule ever-so-slightly.
  2. Take him to the bathroom before we go to bed to eliminate the need for middle-of-the night pee breaks that lead to sink-climbing shenanigans.

As of now, we seem to be back on track. In fact, I mused on Twitter about whether I should even submit this piece for publication since sleep didn’t seem to be an issue anymore. But then my father, in all his wisdom, replied with this:


[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/gr810r/status/161442094005760000”]


Good point. History shows us that we shouldn’t get too comfortable with this whole sleep thing. It’s only a matter of time before JR makes fools of us once again…and I start shrieking about it on the Internet for you all to see. I figure I might as well put this out there now so I have your suggestions to turn to in my future moments of sleep-deprived desperation.

— ∮∮∮ —


  1. What if he actually does? I’m not trying to clean that mess up and clearly we need to encourage putting poop in the appropriate place
  2. I figure I’ve got maybe three more years of him actually wanting kisses from me, so I have a hard time turning him down. Yes, I realize I’m being totally played. 
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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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