It has been a rough week in the sleep training realm...but the fact that I'm writing this before 11pm is evidence that things are improving. After 3 weeks of gradually distancing ourselves from Jadon during the final stage of the bedtime routine, I finally took the plunge last Saturday night to move from comfy chair in his room to leaving the room completely. It was an unplanned step stemming from Jim needing to go to bed because of his early morning preaching at church the next day and my being in the middle of taxes and really, really wanting to get them done.
So I tucked Jadon in and told him I would be right down stairs and then left the room (conceding to light on and door open). This actually went a little easier than I expected, with Jadon only coming out to check on me three times...and finally falling asleep by 11:30 pm (and yes, I did finish my taxes...at 2 am...which wasn't so bad because we actually got a refund this year, woohoo!).
Since i made the plunge, I knew I needed to stick with it, and the next night went similarly--about 3 escapes and asleep by 11:30. (nap time went even better, because I was able to exhaust him completely beforehand!). I was considering this fairly successful, because his resistance level was minimal...but the 11:30 time definitely needed improvement.
So night 3 I started setting more boundaries/consequences...which is when things started getting rather horrible with my little strong-willed child. We spent the next 3 nights with an hour and a half of tears and still no sleep before 11. It was heartbreaking! And again, I don't feel like most of the tears were manipulative, rather a little boy's earnest pleas for comfort. So just like when weaning him from the bottle, I tried to figure out how to tailor the cry-it-out approach to my own comfort level. It was still agonizing, but I stayed in the doorway of my room, speaking encouragement and praise to him, occasionally going into his room to retuck him in or soothe his tears momentarily or reassure him how much I love him and how proud I am of him and how much I can't wait to cuddle with him in the morning. Ugh! I hated it. (This totally reassured me that the cry-it-out method wouldn't have worked for jadon when he was an infant...unless I was okay with 2 hours of screaming for a week, which i wasn't...and which most books don't even advocate.)
It's amazing how self-aware Jadon has been throughout all of this. The first night of tears, toward the end, he finally sobbed, "I can't fall asleep! I need help!" At first I thought this might be a ploy, but then, as I watched him laying there trying to keep his eyes closed, I realized that he really hasn't figured it out yet. It is so hard for him to sit still, and laying still enough to fall asleep is even worse. Which is why he will go, go, go like the energizer bunny without seeming at all tired...until I strap him into his car seat and he passes out within seconds. That's why it has always been so much easier for us to cuddle him to sleep, where our arms can gently help him calm down. So as I was watching him try that night, he sat up and said, "mommy, I need *hugging his arms to his chest and bopping his shoulders up and down*" Again, at first I just thought he was being silly, but then after he repeated it, I realized he wanted me to bop him to sleep, something we haven't done for probably over a year! Amazing how he remembered that as one of our go-to sleep solutions for him! (and again making me glad I hadn't made him cry it out and letting him have that as his memory!!)
The next night, he asked for help again in falling asleep, this time following the request with "mommy, sh!" Seeing as I hadn't been talking anyway, I remained quiet, at which he kept repeating, with increasing urgency and tears, "mommy, shhhh! Mommy, shhhh!" I finally realized he was asking me to shush him to sleep, another one of our go-to's. Fortunately, for this request, we have a little stuffed monkey that a friend gave us that has three sound settings, including one that sounds like a waterfall...or shushing! It's not as good as mom, but jadon is getting used to it.
The next couple nights were Jim's turn, and jadon was asleep by 10:30...with no tears...but Jim stayed in his room until Jadon was almost out (cheater!) and Jadon was exhausted from minuscule naps...but regardless of the reasons, I appreciated the break.
Tonight--day 8--went hugely better, with only two excursions to our room and one whimper. As I tucked jadon in the second time...with basketball monkey blanket hugging him under his other covers, and garbanzo the giant gorilla hugging him, and sound monkey shushing him...Jadon put on his brave face and closed his eyes tightly and said, "Jesus in my heart," which is what I told him a few nights ago in the midst of the heart-wrenching tears. It might not be theologically correct (yet!) but I had comforted him that Jesus was in his heart so he didn't need to feel lonely or scared. He could feel his heart beating and know that Jesus was with him. And apparently it stuck! And that warms my heart beyond words!