Sleep Thoughts

Sleep thoughts are spreading throughout the whole land.
The time for night-brushing of teeth is at hand.

From Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book

We launched Project-June-Will-Sleep-in-Her-Own-Bed-All-Night the very night we got back from the beach. The night I spent migrating back and forth between the bed and the air mattress and trying to think of some other place I might get some rest put me over the edge. We’ve been meaning to do this for a while but there were always other Projects. For much of the winter, I was nudging June to wean (she finally did at the end of March) and then in May we made the ill-fated move of starting to potty train her. I don’t even want to report on the status of that Project, except to say we are on another break, a longer one this time, and we’ve started discussing with Lesley how we will proceed with the at-school portion of her training in September, because it looks like there will be an at-school portion, barring a miracle between now and the second week of September. Lesley will meet us where we are and she says not to look at the first day of school as a deadline, so we won’t.

So with weaning complete and potty training on hiatus, that left getting June out of our bed at night. But what I was really waiting for all this time, even more than a convenient time between other transitions for her, was an opening, a hint of readiness. When Noah was two and three-quarters, and like June starting the night in his own bed and then joining us in the middle of the night, he suddenly went from waking every night to sleeping through the night about half the time. We had no idea why it happened, but we pounced on the opportunity and decided to stop co-sleeping with him. It seemed like a convenient time because I’d only have to take him back to his bed and convince him to stay there every other night or so instead of every night. And I hoped that once he was in the habit of sleeping in his bed all night, he’d stop waking up during the night all together. Well, it didn’t happen that way. He continued waking at about the same rate for the next two years. It was toward the end of my pregnancy with June that he started sleeping through the night most of the time (80% to 90% on average—and, yes, I kept records—stop laughing at me). The improvement in his night sleep started several months after he officially stopped napping and right after he finally stopped falling asleep in his tracks in the late afternoon once or twice a week. (He used to nod off while I was reading to him or during Quiet Time, the forty-five minute period of solitary, quiet play that replaced his nap during his last year of preschool.)

The first night back from the beach, two Saturdays ago, I told June that she was old enough and big enough to sleep all night in her own bed and not come to Mommy and Beth’s bed. She looked alarmed and said she wasn’t big enough, she was too little, she’d do it tomorrow. No, tonight, I said, and waited for the tantrum. It didn’t come, but she looked so sad I wanted to tell her to forget all about Mommy’s silly idea, of course she could sleep with us. Instead, I steeled myself and put her to bed. I wondered if it would be harder than usual for her to fall asleep, worrying about the new sleep regime, but she’d had only a short nap in the car coming home from the beach and she dropped off pretty easily.

She woke around eleven-thirty and came to our bed. I picked her up and carried her back to her own bed. I got in with her and stayed for twenty minutes, until she was almost asleep again. Then only ten minutes after I’d come back to bed, she was standing at my bedside table again. I was about to open my mouth and tell her she needed to go back to bed when I saw she was looking for a pacifier. She found one on the table and went back to bed herself, without a word. She slept there the rest of the night.

Beth and I were pleasantly surprised but she said we “shouldn’t be lulled” into a false sense of complacency.

“I’m not lulled,” I said. She said if it lasted a week, she’d be convinced June was really on board.

It’s been nine nights so far and most nights June wakes once, sometimes twice, and I go lay down with her. These wake-ups can come at any time during the night. The hardest parts were the two times she woke around 5 a.m. because when that happened, neither of us got back to sleep and I knew if I just brought her to our bed as soon as she woke up, we would have slept some more. On the bright side, she slept through the night (i.e. until 6 a.m.) twice and she hadn’t done that in almost two months.

So, I think it’s going pretty well, better than I expected. I am not up as often during the night as I was when I was constantly being awoken by June kicking or rolling into me, but the wake-ups do last longer because I have been taking her to bed and cuddling with her a little before I go back to bed. Also, she’s waking up a little earlier in the morning than she did before. In terms of overall quality and quantity of sleep, I think it’s a wash right now for me. Beth says she’s sleeping a little better. I’m hoping it’s a step, though, to better, more uninterrupted sleep for everyone. We have some challenges to overcome in the near future. We’ll be spending a week in West Virginia with some friends of Beth’s in several days and June will have to sleep all night in an unfamiliar bed. Also, she’s become insistent on Beth staying in the room after I’ve left her. This actually started shortly before we started her new sleep routine, but I think knowing she will be sleeping alone in the bed all night has heightened her reluctance to sleep alone in the room. It’s always two steps forward and one step back.

While I certainly hope I don’t have to wait until June’s almost five for her to make a habit of sleeping through the night, I know if I have to, I can. As I recently told a friend who’s pregnant with her second child, most things are easier the second time around.

Last night I asked Beth if she missed June in bed and she said, “No! Do you?”

“Sometimes, a little,” I admitted.

“You’re crazy,” she said, and maybe I am. If June wakes early from a nap, I still let her come to the big bed and cuddle her back to sleep. When I’m not trying to sleep myself I love laying on the bed with her, our limbs entangled, smelling the warm, sweet scent of June, a mix of soap and sweat and whatever she ate for lunch. I don’t think I’m old enough or big enough to give that up quite yet.

Stay Beside Me All the Night

“I want nursies,” June said. It was 8:50 and I’d been lying in her bed with her for twenty minutes, waiting for her to fall asleep. I’m letting June self-wean and we’re almost there. I’m using the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” method, which works pretty much the way you’d expect from the name. We’ve been at it almost six months now and she only asks to nurse a couple times a week, down from twice a day when we started.

While I’ve been waiting for her to wean, I’ve gotten back into the habit of staying with her until she falls asleep most nights. I used to leave her to fall asleep on her own but now if I do that she automatically asks to nurse, so we’ve taken a step backwards in the sleep independence department. I do let her fall asleep on her own after she nurses if she does nurse, though, so she hasn’t gotten completely out of the habit. Right now she seems to need one form of comfort or the other. I can’t get away without offering one.

Tonight, though, I was afraid she’d need both. It was the first night of daylight savings time and I was trying to put her to bed what seemed like an hour ahead of schedule to her. We’d planned to split the difference by putting both kids to bed a half hour early on Saturday night, but we didn’t manage it.

After she nursed, I sang “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” before leaving. I use the Rosemary Wells lyrics (

Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Faithful friend with eye so bright
Stay beside me all the night
Tiny star my promise keep
Light my travels through my sleep

I left and let Beth know June was still awake. If I leave June awake and she starts crying for me, Beth goes in, fetches the pacifier if it’s gone missing, tucks her in and makes a quick exit. I was on my way to the shower when I heard her.

“Your daughter’s weeping,” I called to Beth. June’s diaper was wet so I lurked in the hallway, waiting for my turn in the bathroom while Beth changed her.

After I turned off the shower, I listened for June’s voice. I could hear her chattering away in our room, but I didn’t hear Beth. I wondered if she was in there or not. I peeked in. Beth was on our bed reading and ignoring June’s running commentary from her bed.

June still sleeps in our room. She starts the night in her own bed, and then when she wakes up she comes to our bed. Getting her to sleep the whole night in her own bed and someday maybe even sleep through the night are back-burner goals I’m hoping to give more attention once the weaning process is finished. I’m thinking it might help to move her out of our room and into Noah’s but that opens a whole other can of worms. Noah’s top bunk is littered with toys he doesn’t want June getting into and he sleeps on the bottom. He slept on the top for a couple months when he was six then decided he liked the bottom bunk better. So we’ll need to get him a new, safe place for his treasures, convince him to sleep on the top bunk and referee the inevitable extra arguments that will ensue once they are sharing a bedroom. Just thinking about it makes my head hurt.

June cheerfully observed that I was out of the shower. She asked Beth if she thought I would dry myself off and put on pajamas. Beth said she thought I would. Her prediction proved correct.

I looked at June, half-sitting up and staring at me expectantly. I sighed a little. “Do you want me to lie down with you?” I asked. She nodded.

I lay down in the toddler bed and curled myself around her. I sang the ABCs and several other songs I use as lullabies. Then I got up and left the room again. I emptied the dishwasher and then peeked back in the room. June was lying on her side, turned to the wall. I couldn’t see her face but she was breathing heavily. I was pretty sure she was asleep even though her hand was waving slowly through the air. Sometimes her body keeps going for a little while after her mind has drifted off. It was 9:55, just about her bedtime if we hadn’t changed the clocks. We hadn’t made any progress.

Like mother, like daughter: I was lying in bed awake until past eleven, trying to get to sleep. Normally I’m out by ten or ten-thirty at the latest.

June woke at 12:50. This was not unexpected as she’d been coming to bed around 11:50 the past few days. During the last half of January she was sleeping through the night about twice a week and I was pretty excited about it. In all of February, she only did in twice, but it was two nights in a row and there were a lot of close misses. She was making it to five a.m. pretty regularly for a while and I could feel the difference. I was a lot more rested when I wasn’t being awoken over and over by her flinging her limbs over mine or pulling the covers off me.

Even though she was in our bed most of the night, she stayed put (either that or she was bothering Beth instead) and I slept pretty well. I woke at 6:50. I let everyone sleep another five minutes, and then I nudged Beth. “It’s almost seven,” I told her. Our human alarm clock was still sleeping. Beth went to wake him.

Soon I could hear Beth reading to Noah from his book of pirate stories and the two of them discussing which country their imaginary van would visit that morning (it was somewhere in the former Soviet Union). Their voices must have woken June because she started to stir around 7:05. We had a long, wordless snuggle, then I read her a book a couple of times and we stumbled out of bed around 7:45. Noah has two speeds: asleep and awake, but June needs to re-enter the world slowly.

Beth was reminding Noah to wear mismatched socks for Crazy Sock Day at school and exhorting him to brush his teeth. I was slicing mango for June’s breakfast and studying the calendar to see what we had on tap this week: a fundraising dinner for June’s school at a local Mexican restaurant, Math Night at Noah’s school, an afternoon play date with the Bumblebee. Another night was over. Another Monday morning was in full swing.

Two Years, Two Months, Two Weeks: A Toddler’s Day

The Wee Hours

June woke around midnight, got up on her knees in bed and started crying. I stumbled the few steps from our bed to hers, scooped her up and set her down on our bed next to Beth. I made sure she had her pacifier and offered her a drink of water before shuffling off to the bathroom. By the time I returned, she was nearly asleep again. At 1:30 she woke again. This time she was a bit more restless, rolling around and asking for her sippy repeatedly before she finally settled down and slept again.

This is how our nights go and have gone for so long that it took me a while to realize that June isn’t nursing at night any more. She appears to have night-weaned herself at least couple of weeks ago. I don’t know exactly when it happened because her night nursing has been sporadic for months so it wasn’t a sudden or obvious change. And I’m not getting any extra sleep as a result. Middle of the night requests for water and her “’fier” are just as frequent as ever.

I considered night-weaning June many times, but I always put it off because I was certain it would be a drawn-out and traumatic process. I also wasn’t sure it would help her sleep for longer periods because when I night-weaned Noah at eighteen months he continued to wake up just as often as he had been before. So, it wasn’t long and traumatic, but it hasn’t helped her sleep either, at least in the short run. It’s still a good thing, a necessary precursor to sleeping through the night…someday.


Beth and Noah left for work and school at 8:20 and by 9:00, June and I were out the door. We have an outing almost every weekday morning. It could be a trip to the library or music class, or a walk to the playground or around the neighborhood. This morning, though, I decided to stay home and mow the lawn. The grass was getting tall and the predicted high temperature for tomorrow is 98 degrees, so it seemed like a good idea to get at least part of the lawn mowed before the really hot and muggy weather sets in. June was happy to play in the yard until she discovered I had locked the gate between the side and back yard to keep her out of the wading pool while I mowed. She stood by the gate and cried, “But I need to go in the swim pool!” in increasingly desperate tones. Eventually she abandoned words all together and sobbed. I tried to calm her and had little success so I went back to mowing, deciding the sooner I finished the better.

By the time the front and side yards were mowed, June was calmer and the object of her desire had shifted to blowing bubbles on the porch. I glanced at the back yard, calculating how long it would take to clear it of toys and empty the pool (I didn’t want June in it unless I was within arm’s reach). I’d have to do all that before I could even begin to mow. I decided to leave the back for Beth. She’d probably be pleased and surprised I’d gotten any of the mowing done. I blew bubbles for June (she doesn’t have the hang of doing it herself yet). Then she wanted to swing, so I put her in the sky chair. I sang “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Clementine.” (For reasons I don’t fully understand, I have always sung my children songs about death while I push them on the swing.) June sang along, all smiles. She had traveled from despair to joy in a mere half hour. It’s not a long trip when you’re a little over two.


After Sesame Street, a bath, lunch and a nap, June began lobbying to go into the wading pool again. I meant to take her out there before Noah got home from school so she could have it to herself, but I kept trying to squeeze it in one more chore before we went outside. I folded a load of laundry, emptied the dishwasher and skimmed an article about the health benefits of green tea and printed it for Word Girl’s background files. Then, before I knew it, it was 3:15, time to wait for the school bus. I took both kids out to the pool together. There was the predictable splashing and laughing, but also a good bit of squabbling. When June wanted Noah to move she attempted to push him and had about as much success as you’d expect a 22 ½ pound person trying to shove one who weighs at least 55 pounds. She tackles him with gusto, as if she’s sure one of these days she will be able to take him. I have to admire her spunk, even as I strive to improve her manners.

June got out of the pool and commenced climbing up the incline of the slide. She’s a climbing fiend and loves to go up slides this way. Sometimes she turns around at the top and slides down. Other times, she will just climb down the ladder. She’s a strong girl and a stubborn one and she likes to do things her own way.

It’s partly that stubborn streak and partly the horrible time we had potty training Noah that makes us approach training June with such trepidation. June’s been telling us when she needs a change since she was eighteen months old (which is more than Noah did at two, or three, or even four). However, whenever I talked to her about using the potty “sometime soon,” she regarded me with incomprehension or skepticism, or she simply said, “No,” in a matter-of-fact tone.

Then yesterday as I was changing her and mechanically going through my spiel about how she’ll use the potty someday, she surprised me by saying. “June use potty. Sit on potty today.” Not one to let the window of opportunity slam shut, I waited until she’d had a dry diaper for a couple hours, then asked if she wanted to sit on the potty. She said yes and ran to the bathroom. I tried her on the child-sized seat that folds out of the toilet lid, but she was scared of sitting up there, so I fetched the potty from the basement. She didn’t like the feeling of sitting over a hole there either, so we compromised on a brief, bare-bottomed sit on the closed lid. She’s happy to sit on the potty this way and has done it several more times.

After Noah and June finished playing outside, she demonstrated her potty sitting for him. He was kind enough to cheer for her and she looked pleased. I’m not sure how to get her to sit on the potty with the lid open, but we have a trip planned to Target this weekend to look for Sesame Street underpants and reward stickers. I hope this will inspire her to take the next step.


There was a carnival at Noah’s school tonight, a fundraiser for the PTA. Our first stop was the dunk tank. While Noah waited in line for a chance to dunk Ms. C, his morning teacher, I bought pizza for everyone. Ms. C shook her fist at one of his classmates who’d dunked her, and pretended to be angry with her. Every time she went into the water, she splashed the watching, squealing crowd. Noah took his turn and failed to hit the target. The teacher handing out the balls told him his last throw was close, even though it wasn’t. We all went to sit on the curb and eat. I didn’t have a fork or knife to cut the pizza so I handed June a whole slice. It flopped in her hand as she tried to control it, but she finally found the right angle and she methodically ate all but a couple bites of the large slice, taking an occasional break to swig water from the liter bottle we were all sharing. She wanted nothing to do with her sippy.

When we’d finished, Beth took Noah to play some games and I took June to the smaller of the two bouncy castles. The kids inside looked older than June, but not by much, so I asked the attendant if it was okay for a two year old. She said it was fine if I was comfortable with it. I am working on being comfortable with June’s daredevil streak, her desire to climb higher and go down bigger slides than Noah did at her age. (I’m holding out on the big kid swings. They just don’t seem safe to me, so she’s only allowed in the bucket swings.) Of course, she does need limits. She fell off either the dining room table or a chair last month and bit all the way through her lower lip. Beth had to take her to the nighttime pediatric urgent care. Amazingly, she didn’t require any stitches, but this visit made a big impression. June still talks about it on an almost daily basis. Whenever she gets a bump or scrape she suggests we go to the doctor who will “help me feel better.”

Anyway, the bouncy castle was smaller than the one we have at home and the kids inside seemed pretty sedate. I was plenty comfortable. When it was her turn, June didn’t even bounce. She entertained herself by climbing in and out under the door flap until her time was up.

After she exited the bouncy castle, she dashed off to the playground. She climbed up the slide and slid down for a while. Then she spotted the monkey bars. She was particularly drawn to the triangular handles kids use to swing across the bars. She wanted me to lift her up so she could clasp one. I did. She wanted me to let go and let her dangle. I didn’t. Annoyed, she struggled to get free and when I lowered her to the ground, she took off running across the field. I caught up with her near the basketball courts where three groups of teenagers played three separate games. I thwarted June’s attempts to cross the courts without escort. I carried her, twisting and kicking, through the carnival games and finally found Beth watching Noah jump in the larger bouncy castle. My back ached. I set June down on the grass and Beth told her we’d be going home as soon as Noah got out.

“No!” she cried and sprinted off in the direction of the playground where we’d started. Some days are too good to relinquish when you’re two years, two months and two weeks old.