From a young age both my children settled into easy bedtime routines. Bath, bottle, Iggle Piggle, snuggled up in their cots by 7pm.Wine in my hand by 5 past. Watching my youngest go from baby to toddler I knew the bedtime battle phase was coming but by god I'd forgotten how painful it was.
The toddler definitely has the upperhand in this game. Without the restriction of the cot they are free and making the most of it. Their motivation is only wavered by tiredness so if; they've had a nice long daytime sleep, gained their second wind after not enough sleep or simply don't want to be away from you (Awwww) you're in for a battle. They have nothing to lose. The end result will be the same for them. Either now or 30, 60, 90, 1 million minutes later, it's irrelevant to them. They aren't thinking about how they really should go to bed as they'll probably be up several times in the night and possibly for good at 6am so to get some zzz's would be useful. They have nothing important to do the next day and lets face it can have a little snooze when they're feeling sleepy from all that nocturnal larking about.
You on the other hand have a lot to lose; your entire evening, bed space and sanity. I start each bedtime positively, desperately hopeful that this will be the night peaceful bedtimes return. I do wonder if toddlers can smell fear so I remain smiley faced and try to banish the feeling of dread that creeps over me as Iggle Piggle waves his goodbye. 'Bedtime' I say with feigned cheeriness.
On a good night my youngest settles down in his bed after a story nicely. Leaving his room is the mission. Silently sitting listening to his breathing, sucks on his dummy and sleepy shuffles I assess what level of sleep he's at. Is it safe enough to attempt to move? The key is patience. When you think it's safe, wait 5 more minutes. When you do move, think snail speed. Pausing after each step/crawl. There are many obstacles to overcome. If noisy floor boards and dis guarded toys aren't enough my body has now decided to join in the game with creaking joints and cracking knees.
Top tip, prepare your exit. Clear your path pre bedtime so you don't accidently set off any musical toys. Leave the door open a crack so you don't have the added hurdle of the squeaky door handle which can easily undo all your work. Finally, let your partner know that under no circumstances should they enter the room to 'see if you've fallen asleep because you've been there for ages'
On a bad night my youngest won't even entertain looking at his bed never mind getting in it. Acting like he's auditioning for a Red Bull advert these evenings really are disheartening. A battle of wills, a stand off between you and your stubborn toddler. Cries of protest and crocodile tears at being put to bed. Once you've accomplished/worn him out to stay in bed you've then got all the above to get through. Nice.
Some evenings it's all too much. You've playing the waiting game, you've done the bad cop back to bed routine and quiet frankly you've had enough so the big guns come out. The Car. This is my last resort when all else fails. When I'm completely worn out, mentally and physically, the car journey can bring it all to a swift end. If that was the end till morning it would actually be slightly bearable but oh no a game of musical beds during the night awaits.
A month in and I know I need for my own sake as much as my sons to get him into a bedtime routine again. One which doesn't involve me sitting by his side whilst he sleeps, chauffeuring him round in his own private sleep mobile or having my bed space overtaken by a cute but starfish snoring toddler. So my husband and I have decided tomorrow is the night to start operation 'no nonsense back to bed'. Ekkkk.
Toddler bedtimes aren't for the faint hearted. It is a stressful affair. A rollercoaster of emotions. I know it will naturally become easier. With middle of the night waking less frequent and your evenings gradually given back. Along with your bed space and sanity but for the time been, armour up and go forth to bedtime battle.
Between the 5th and 11th of September PANDAS are launching and hosting the first Pre & Post Natal Depression Week in the UK. http://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk/pndaw2016/
My blog next Friday will be for PANDA so take a look on my facebook page for details on how you can get involved. I'm sure many of you are aware simply sharing stories can be a great help for parents to know that they aren't going through struggles alone so your support on this would be greatly appreciated :) https://www.facebook.com/reallifemanicmum/