The Battle of Nigh-Nigh: Getting Our Spirited Child To Sleep.

When you were born and we finally got you to go down after many dances with daddy listening to soft music, you slept like a baby - you woke every two hours all throughout the night to nurse.  In between those hours you snuggled sweetly between daddy and I, swaddled in your baby blanket, or sometimes in your bassinet that was pushed right up against my body, not moving a muscle, your eyes closed tightly off in a baby wonderland.

As a one year old we were living in the land of the "Sleepy Drive."  This drive was our night time routine and it was carried out faithfully for God only knows how long. It actually started before you were a year old because we'd make the drive down to Poipu Beach when we were living on Kauai. But daddy and I actually enjoyed many of those quiet starlit evenings driving around in the dark through fields of tall cane grass until you drifted off to sleep. Once in bed however,  you woke every 45 minutes all throughout the night to nurse and nurse and nurse and nurse and nurse. I don't think you actually ever "slept."  Or I should say I never slept. During the minutes where you'd finally break your latch, roll over and drift off to a light slumber - my "exhale moment", you thrashed your tiny body around the bed between daddy and I like crashing waves on the rocks. Your arms and legs kicking wildly as if you were swimming to shore through the raging water. It was a good night if we only got kicked in the eye or punched in the jugular a few times. You might have been "sleeping" but your body never stopped moving. Never. As a baby daddy would say you are "full throttle til you run out of gas." Truer words were never spoken.

As a two year old (who had even more energy if you can imagine that) you had a very, very, very long nigh-nigh routine that lasted hours. "No way!"  "Yes way!"  It consisted of a pre-tub sprint around the circle of our house, a long leisurely bubble tub that would make a Greek Goddess jealous, several books, as well as a verbal story, followed by a made up song, a slow dance and then a rock in the chair til you finally drifted off. I'm exhausted just writing it. Daddy and I took shifts in the beginning. This is how it all went down. After a very long dinner we come to Part One: The Running Of The Babies. It was just as hectic as The Running Of The Bulls in Spain. Something I'm sure you'll partake in someday. We called this the "Naked Baby Chase" and you wore us both out after several laps. The house we were living in at the time had a complete circle through the house. It connected the kitchen to the hall, a bedroom, another hall near the bathroom, through the living room and dining room and back to the kitchen. This was your track and you were training for a marathon. Like any top athlete, you took your training very seriously. You just kept running and running and running and running at full speed ahead, laughing like a hyena, eyes flashing with electricity every time you passed us on the side lines cheering you on trying to pinch your booty. You were a tiny, battery charged Forrest Gump. Then there was the tub portion of the evening - when we finally got you in there that is. This lasted a good 45 minutes to an hour and a half. The water was cold after several attempts to drain some of the cold and add more hot, swish it around to warm it up - repeat. Tub time ended when there was no more hot water to be had in the entire house. It did not end happily, let me tell you, even after an hour and a half. Then we come to the routine of drying you off. The made-up song I had to sing to dry your hair because you HATED for me to dry your hair and the song helped somewhat. I had to use a towel because you HATED the sound of a blow dryer. Even in a public restroom. I didn't blame you though. It's very loud. I can only imagine how loud it must sound to very sensitive two year old ears. Then the picking of the jammies. They had to be the right ones. Not too scratchy, no tags in our way, nothing itchy, not too hot, not too cold. Sometimes there would be several changes until we got it just right and even then more times than not we'd end up sleeping in only our diaper all night long anyway. As any parent with a Spirited Child will agree, any break in the routine or any attempts to speed it up only ended in heartbreak - for daddy and I. I'd like to remind you that mommy was pregnant with Baby #2 and tired. Oh-so-very-tired during this two year old stretch of wild animal life. We haven't really even gotten to the meat of our night time routine yet and it's been close to 2 hours. Add on the evenings festivities of books and entertainment provided by the "parent du jour" and we've got another hour plus. Now it's time for lights out. She knew it was coming, we knew it was coming and every one of us knew it wasn't going to be pretty and it wasn't going down without a fight. Kisses and loves, lights off and out the door closing it behind me only to find my darling cherub turning the doorknob ever so slowly to poke her smiling face out of the door about 22 seconds later. Anticipating her arrival I stood in the hallway (faithfully doing my deep prenatal yoga squats and various Bradley Method exercises) until she came to the door. I'd then usher her back in there along with some tears, more kisses and I love you's and sweet dreams wishes, shampoo-rinse-repeat for a good 45 minutes or so and sometimes yes sometimes it even ended with a sleepy drive - even after all that! Those were on the nights where our patience was non-existent and that was our last resort. Our gas budget had required us to use this as a last resort after a few years of nightly 20+ minute drives in very large circles at night. However, after all those hours spent squatting in the hallway I was extremely fit and limber and ready for Baby #2 to come along since I had so much time to prep my joints and muscles every night for most of my pregnancy. Once Baby #2 came along though, daddy was permanently up at bat in the nightly game of nigh-nigh so it took on a new form. One that he molded into what worked for them. Daddy recalls standing outside your door as well counting the seconds to see how long it would take til you popped out and needed to be ushered back in. "One hundred and one, one hundred and two..." He said if he was able to get to 200 then you were most likely asleep. Sometimes he'd only get to "one hundred and seven" before you poked your sweet lil face through the crack of the door. Prior to the hallway counting there was a lot of holding and swaying to one of daddy's famous made up songs. Something a very pregnant mama could no longer do. Even in a rocking chair. It just wasn't comfortable anymore which is very bittersweet to be honest. The end of an era spent with just me and Baby Girl rocking for hours and hours in that pink rocking chair.

As a three year old it was much of the same as when you were two except for adding Baby #2 in the mix of dinner time, bathtub time, jammies time, book reading time on top of you - the three year old trying to get more mileage out of the whole nigh-nigh routine. How can you possibly add more time to that you ask?  It's possible. We fondly referred to you as the "Dilly Dally Queen" on occasion. However, at three "we" were way more vocal, way more savvy and knew exactly how to work the system. We'd pick at our meal during dinner time only to try to finagle eating a full "4th meal" after bath time. Because we didn't want her to go to bed hungry we'd let her eat a snack. She snacked all day so she wouldn't actually be hungry but in the off chance she was hungry in the middle of the night it only caused US pain in the long run if we didn't let her snack on 4th meal. And before you think what you might be thinking, there was never any circumstances of "she'll learn her lesson if she - this or that..." with this child. This is not how she's hard wired. This is not how she operates and us "teaching her a lesson" out of hostility and our lack of patience is not how we try to parent. We're not perfect, we get worn out and at times just want results like any other parent but we shoot for patience the majority of the time. And believe me our patience was running thin. But our time spent helping our Spirited Child grow in the world as a toddler was not about us "winning the battle" and her "losing the battle" and us "breaking her down" in order to make her bend at our will. I believe she was brought to us to teach us patience and it's a lesson we're still learning and it's been a long bumpy road, but we're getting there.  A few times a week you'd creep out into the living room and we'd have to usher you back a few times. You'd want a little something as a snack. You became very fond of a glass of warm milk which I was more than happy to oblige since it meant you'd most likely stay in your room. And most of those times you just really wanted some extra snuggles from daddy. I don't blame you. Daddy is a good snuggler. Mama was chopped liver from most of 2 to the end of 3-ish. I can understand. Baby Brother was nursing and Big Sissy had already weaned and wasn't the least bit interested in nursing anyway aside from right after baby was born to see what all of the fuss was about. Your thoughts: not interested. Special attention from Daddy: Bring it!

As a four year old we got to the point of you knowing exactly what your night time routine looked like because we basically did the same thing night after night after looooooooong night since you were a wee lass. You were sharp as a whip so we'd talk you through the evening. "In 5 more minutes we're going to do this -" and we got to the point of shaving off some serious time on our nigh-nigh routine. Because if you remember, Baby Brother was now in the mix as an 18+ month old dragging out his very own nigh-nigh routine.  "Please pick your jammies and get dressed." "You pick some books and look through them while I get Baby Brother's jammies on", etc. We were very independent and liked the authority over our own agenda.  As pre-written as it may have been. She still took the reins on a lot of it from picking her jammies to picking her books to picking her clothes for preschool the next day. Spirited Children thrive on control. This was control I was more than happy to let go of.

At four something magical happened...

Something that almost brings tears to my eyes just typing all of this up. We'd do our extremely trimmed down version of "night-night" ("only babies say nigh-nigh"), we'd prep you that it was "last book," we'd kiss all of your animal lovies, sing a made-up song by request, we'd turn off your light, close your door and before we'd make it to the living room you were pretty much asleep!  No walking out into the living room 10 minutes later needing - something, no Sleepy Drive, no requests for 4th meal. You were just....asleep. Sometimes you'd sleep til morning, sometimes you'd have a bad dream and call out for one of us. Sometimes we'd find you snuggled in our bed at 3am or 5am. But 4 years old was when we no longer dreaded the infamous Battle of Nigh-Nigh.  We all won the battle - together. The only time we need a sleepy drive is when our evening has been thrown out of whack and we are at the point of no return. Like with having dinner guests, over night guests, a long day at Disneyland (the drive home is the sleepy drive thank the sweet lord!), birthday cake, Christmas Eve - you name it. But it doesn't take too many streets and you're out like a light. Baby Brother is another situation when it comes to sleepy drives. It tends to work the opposite with him!

Tonight you are 5. At 5 we are seeing a very worn out lil Miss who plays hard all day long at preschool, who's no longer napping (haven't seen regular naps since 3 1/2 anyway) and at 5 we are seeing the earliest bedtimes we've ever seen in your lifetime. The bedtimes everyone as well as every parenting book always told us you should have and no matter what we ever tried to do we never, ever, ever accomplished it. "Just give her a short nap."  Nope. "Just wake her early in the morning."  Uh-uh. "Just wake her early from her afternoon nap."  Umm...do you poke a sleeping bear just before spring?  I don't either. "Just cut her naps completely and keep her up all day long." Major back fire explosion.  The word "just" that began everyone's sentences of helping us fix our sleepy time issues implied it was an extremely easy fix. I'm assuming none of those people had a Spirited Child. There is no "just do" anything with a Spirited Child. There just isn't. Tonight we took an early tub, had a pretty early dinner and you powered through your meal and told us you were full. Jammies were already on and we decided to snuggle with daddy on the couch. You, 2 year old Baby Brother and daddy. You all started to drift off to sleepy land (Daddy's favorite thing to do at about 6:30pm - heehee!) and suddenly you got up and ran down the hallway.  We both assumed you were going to the bathroom and you'd be back for more snuggles or demand to break up the slug fest and get down to business of reading a bunch of books. A few minutes went by and no return. Baby Brother had drifted off to sleep in what was to be the easiest, most effortless nigh-nigh we've had in a very long time. I decided to go check on you and I found you in your bed, covers tucked up all around you (something you used to fight with me about that you'd never be able to do yourself), your lovie firmly in place "full body hug style," your night light on as well as SeaSea: your glowlight/soothing musical seahorse lovie - a throw back from your infant days illuminating your angelic face peacefully asleep. Not a word was spoken to complete this mission. It was carried out 100% by you - our five year old!

I'd like a moment of silence to let the full weight of this monumental moment sink in fully. 


Exhale.... 

Hello 5. We've been waiting for you. It's so wonderful to see you. However, if we're being honest, your friends ages 4, 3, 2, 1 and newbie are missed. Even the hardest of times, they are missed. For we can't fully appreciate where we are today without you and your grueling all-night moments.  But for now I'm happy missing those times as opposed to still living them. We did it together, kid. You, me and daddy - we did it together.

Love you forever and ever and always,
Mommy

Now go to bed.  ;-)

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