So we’ve been spoiled and blessed up to this point with a little girl who, at about 8:15 p.m. every night, rubbed her eyes as you read her a couple of books, then, when asked by Joe whether she was ready to go up to bed, would say, “Yes,” and happily climb up into his arms.
The last couple of nights, however, we’ve dealt with a lot of resistance at bedtime. Screaming to the point of gagging, mucous covering her entire face (and roping downward ickily), sitting up, refusing to take a pacifier (and the comfort it provides in moments of fear or panic for her), and calling for “Mommy” until, giving up, calling for “Daddy.”
Ugh. Last night, because of Joe’s work-related travel, I had to put Lily to bed, which isn’t the norm. And as anyone who’s been around really little kids knows, any departure from routine is a huge blow. So I held her hand until she was asleep, even though Joe generally sings a couple of songs and leaves, even if she’s awake. Up until this point, she’s fallen asleep on her own, sometimes pushing the button on the white noise machine/aquarium fastened to the crib until she drifts off.
Tonight, because she was screaming and fighting bedtime again, I offered to let Joe off the hook and let her hold my hand again. “She’ll come to expect and demand this every night,” Joe said, and while I knew in my gut this was true, I said, “I won’t do it every night. Just tonight.” Famous last words in parenting.
So in one of those moments where you feel like every instinct you have is wrong, Joe threw up his hands and left Lily’s room. But me holding Lily’s hand did no good. I asked her if her teeth hurt, she said yes, so eavesdropping Joe went down to get the Orajel. I put it all over her gums, which quieted her for a minute, and then the screaming began again. “You want a book?” I asked, like the sucker that I am. “Yes,” she said, of course.
So we read some “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” until she started fussing again and said, “Baby!!” “You want the Peek-a-Baby book?” I said. “Yes!” she said. I still hadn’t quite caught on to her game, amazingly.
Joe, while mumbling, “This is ridiculous,” went downstairs to get the book. I read it three times to Lily, and she was still unhappy.
I said, “Do you want me to sing a couple of songs?” When Lily said yes, I told her she had to calm down for me to do this. She didn’t calm down, and got more and more hysterical, so I said, “OK, you’re not calming down, so I’m just going to leave.” The screaming intensified as I walked from her room and shut the door. Fantastic.
Though Joe had planned to go to the gym after putting Lily to bed, I found him in his sweats downstairs listening to the monitor, and I said, “You can go.” Joe said he wasn’t going to leave me with Lily so beside herself, and I threw my hands up. “You were right. I don’t know why I didn’t listen to you.”
Part of it was probably motherly arrogance. I’ll comfort her – all she’ll need is me holding her hand, right? But I also wanted to let Joe get to the gym, since it’s so hard for him to get in a workout during the week.
So these were the good intentions paving my road to hell. But this was a time when Joe and I say that “Lily has left the building.” As in, she doesn’t even remember what she’s upset about anymore, and there’s no soothing or reasoning with her. She just has to get some of this anger out of her system, and then we have to give her a chance to recover.
After standing in the living room with Joe, listening to Lily scream through the monitor for a few minutes, I was about to head up to give her another chance to calm down, but Joe intervened. He went up, and she screamed for Mommy, and Joe said, “Mommy isn’t coming, but I’m here, and you’ve got two choices. You can lie down, and I can sing a couple of songs to you, or you can keep screaming and I’ll leave.”
With some gentle nudging, Lily got quiet, Joe sang to her, and that was it.
Hopefully, this isn’t the start of a trend, but rather an anomaly. If it turns out to be a trend, I’m from now on letting Joe take the lead on this and trusting his instincts completely. Since we weaned Lily from nursing, he’s been the one doing bedtime duty, so he knows more than I how she works each night.
Generally, neither father nor mother always knows best; but in select areas, we each cover our responsibilities pretty capably.