Like many parents, bedtime is one of our toughest times of the day. Despite trying various routines- giving warm milk to drink or having no drink, trying to wear them out or not letting them get over tired, stories before songs and vice versa, lavender in the bath, trying no screen time rather than letting them watch the bedtime hour on CBeebies etc. it became apparent that my children are ‘immune’ to sleep. This has been an issue for a long time, our daughter (the youngest child), has always been a night owl and rarely napped as a baby. She would give the Duracell bunny a run for his money in the ‘going on and on and on’ stakes. Of course, this meant our son then had a trickier bedtime routine.
I have tried so many sleep routines and methods, except for Crying it Out which just didn’t sit right with me. I say ‘I’ as Mr C is often at work at bedtime, though he has taken part in his fair share of these trials! They simply would not drop off with us there as they wanted to talk, or play, and so it quickly became apparent that that was not an option. We tried leaving quietly after doing stories and songs, which resulted in our daughter getting out of bed and running laps of upstairs, as well as emptying drawers. She thought this was a marvellous game. This 1950s dressing table did not:
We were both at our wits end. The only time they went to sleep successfully was when Nana and Grandad babysat for us and Grandad told them they had to be ‘as quiet as church mice’. The little monkeys were out like lights that night. I thought that was the magic answer and tried the same thing the next night. Of course, my efforts were about as useful as a chocolate teapot and resulted in me beating my ‘going up stairs’ target on my Garmin and getting a nice little medal on the app (you have beaten your stairs goal by 23 flights, you’re having a great day!). Marvellous for my fitness, but it didn’t result in settling any quicker. (She fell asleep on my bed, exhausted by her Olympics worthy trampolining!)
I also tried sitting outside their room, waiting for them to sleep. (I attempted to look less like a prison guard by crocheting on the landing whilst I waited for the sound of gentle snores.) I may as well have been waiting for Christmas, so that idea quickly flopped. (As a side note, it’s quite hard to crochet with people running over you as they complete their 8pm marathon training session).
We were totally despairing by this point. I’d read on various Facebook groups about a book, The rabbit who wanted to fall asleep. I’d also read the reviews and they seemed promising, but then my sceptical side thought ‘I read them a story every flipping night, I can recite Stick Man in my sleep, how will this be any different?’ I ignored it, we’d spent money on sleep gadgets already; blackout curtains, a Gro Clock (which incidentally did not work as my son pulled the lead out and brought it to me at 5am to tell me it was still ‘on the moon’), white noise apps etc.
A few months later a friend was selling her copy of the book as it hadn’t worked on her son, and another friend had said the same thing. However, she kindly offered to lend me it to see if it worked and I thought it was worth a go. Our first night trying it did not go well. (Children who are determined to climb their bedroom walls do not generally find it easy to ‘just relax your feet’.) We left it for a while, and to be honest I just couldn’t get the hang of the different voices needed-you had to read some parts with a more ‘meaningful’ tone and others in a hypnotic ‘you are feeling sleepy’ voice. (I was very glad Mr C didn’t listen to story time as he would have laughed at me and then it would have gone completely pear shaped.)
My son asked for ‘the special rabbit story’ again after a week or so, and I reluctantly agreed; if nothing else he’d have had an extra bedtime story. Then something unbelievable happened that night-he fell asleep with me reading to him! (The hard-core, sleep resistant 2 year old just ran around a bit less quickly.)
The next night I read it again, and he was snoring by the fourth page. The battery fuelled toddler stopped searching for pens to draw on the walls and laid herself in bed and SHE ONLY WENT TO FLIPPING SLEEP! This was a (silent!) celebration worthy moment. I was downstairs by 7:45, safe in the knowledge that my perfume stash was not being raided. (The night she drenched herself in March Jacobs perfume was both fragrant and devastating in equal amounts.)
Now for the even more amazing part-it has worked every single night since! I paid my friend for the book so we could keep it. I was completely unconvinced it would work on ‘madam’, as the language is quite complex, whereas hers is not (if it’s not related to food or toilet humour then it’s not worth bothering with). However, mysteriously, it does have the desired effect. It is pain free (as in, no one is left crying at bedtime, even the grown ups), it takes very little time, and it’s cheap. What more could I ask for?
The power of the mind is pretty special, I may even look into similar materials to help overcome my dental phobia. (It plants subconscious messages, I guess it works like hypnotherapy.) I am also hugely relieved that we have found something which our children respond to, as I was worried that them not settling was having a cumulative effect and making them overtired and therefore unable to relax the next night and so on.
Have you ever been sceptical about something and then been proven wrong? What makes your children go to sleep? Please share!
PS If the authors of the book ever read this, a spin off entitled ‘the children who wanted to tidy their toys away’ would be much appreciated.