Let There Be Light

For years my boys have slept with a lamp on in their room at night.  We’ve tried several times to break them of this habit, but to date have been unsuccessful.  If I’d known years ago that it would take years and years to break this habit, I would never have turned their lamp on in the first place.

It all goes back to 2007.  Brendan was 3 years old, and had recently moved from his toddler bed into a regular sized bed.  At first he loved his new big boy bed, and was completely content sleeping in it.  After a few months, however, he began waking up between midnight and 1:00 in the morning and coming into our room.  Every.  Single.  Night.  At that point our options became to allow him to crawl into bed with us, thus crowding us all to the point where Matt and I would get no further sleep (since Brendan kicked and squirmed and basically took up the whole bed); to take him back to his own bed, which became an hour long struggle as he screamed about wanting to sleep with us; or put him in our bed and have one of us move to the couch, which is what we usually did.

This went on for months.  Somewhere in the middle of all this, I got pregnant with Cameron.  Because I am a light sleeper and Matt isn’t, 99 times out of 100 if Brendan came into our room I was the one to get up.  So here I was, exhausted anyway from the early stages of my pregnancy, stressed because I was deep into my period of morning sickness, and not getting a full nights rest ever.  It finally hit the point where I just couldn’t handle it any longer.

So one evening I stormed down to the storage room and dug out the old toddler bed mattress.  I threw it onto my bedroom floor and told Brendan that if he woke up in the middle of the night, he could sleep there.  After that, things got a little better.  He still got up every night, but most of the time he didn’t bother waking us up.  He just crawled onto the mattress and went back to sleep.

That went on for a few weeks, and his appearance in our room began getting earlier and earlier, until (and I’m not quite sure how this happened) we finally started just putting him to bed on the floor in our room.  It was inconvenient to have him sleeping in our room, as it limited our ability to watch TV or read after we’d retired to our room for the night, but at least all three of us were now getting a full nights sleep.  Because once he moved into our room, he stopped waking up in the night.

For the short term, we didn’t do anything about it.  We just enjoyed the full nights rest that we were getting understanding that in a few months time we’d have a newborn again and our nights would be filled with crying , diaper changes, and bottle feedings.  But as my due date approached, it became apparent that we needed to find a solution quickly before the room became even more crowded with the baby’s bassinette.  Besides, I couldn’t imagine Brendan being able to deal with the baby crying every few hours and waking him up.  It’s bad enough to do it as an adult, and we’re the ones that asked to be put into that position.

Step one was convincing Brendan to sleep in his own room again.  We started by turning on a cartoon in our bedroom at night and getting him into the habit of watching it before he went to sleep.  Then after a while, we put a TV into his room and told him if he wanted to watch his cartoon that he’d have to go to his own bed.  That worked for getting him back into his room.

Step two was figuring out how to keep him in his own bed for a full night.  The movie worked to get him to go to sleep, but we were right back where we started.  For a very short while we tried turning a cartoon on in the middle of the night when he woke up, but we quickly found that he’d then stay awake and watch it which made him grumpy the next day.  Then it hit me that it was the light from the TV that he liked.  I didn’t have a night light in the house at the time, so I flipped on his lamp as a temporary solution.  Lo and behold, it worked.  He began sleeping through the night, and we had no more issues with a late night visitor.

And thus, sleeping with the lamp on had begun.  It’s hard to say if Cameron would have gone through the same phase or not.  Because of Kaylee’s impending arrival, Cameron moved into Brendan’s room to sleep when he was about 2.  So the combination of sleeping with someone else in the room and the lamp already being on prevented him from going through the same phase.

We tried extrememly hard to prevent Kaylee from going down the same road.  For a long time it was no problem.  We’d put her into bed, turn off the light and she’d go to sleep with no issues.  Then it started becomming an issue, so we got a radio and turned on some music.  The CD lasted a little over an hour, which was usually sufficient time to get her to go to sleep before the music ended on its own.  That worked for a while, but soon she was becomming more and more difficult to put to bed.

Then one night she finally said she wanted her lamp turned on, so we did.  And thus another bedroom had a lamp on all night long.  But this habit was still new, therefore it might be a little easier to break than the boys’ habit which is now going into it’s sixth year.  So we tried letting her go to sleep with it on, then turning it off when we went to bed a few hours later.  Nope, she woke up every single time.  Usually as soon as the lamp clicked off.  Okay, plan B then.  Get her a night light.

We found what we thought was the perfect solution at Target the other day.  It was $15, so a bit expensive for a night light, but from her immediate excited reaction we felt this would be worth every penny.  It’s an LED night light (which is why it cost so much) and they come in all different shapes.  We chose a cute little mushroom because the top of it was white which we thought would make the room a little brighter than some of the other options.  She loved it because it was little, and the base of the mushroom was pink.

We set it up on a little table next to her bed, and though she generally falls asleep with her head as close to the table as it can possibly get it seems to be working.  We’ve had the night light for close to a week now, and have not needed to turn on her lamp.  The only problem is because we have it on the table by her bed, she can reach it whenever she wants and when she’s down for her nap she has a tendency to get out of bed and play with it.  Thankfully it’s made of a rubbery material, and it turned on and off just by touching the top so she can’t really hurt it.

So the other day she was in her room supposedly napping.  I was in our room at the time and didn’t hear the commotion, but Matt (who was out in the kitchen) did.  He said he heard her crying and it sounded like she was struggling with something so he quickly went to see what was the matter.  The scene that met his eyes as he walked into her room was one so comical he couldn’t even find it in his heart to punish her for doing something she really shouldn’t have been doing.

The table that we have next to her bed has three legs.  They screw into the bottom of the table so that you can take them off when you want to store the table.  There is a tablecloth on the table, so in order to see that the legs screw in you’d have to lift the tablecloth and look at the underside of the table.  Which must be what she did.  Because when Matt got into the room he saw one leg of the table on the floor and Kaylee desperately trying to balance the table on the other two legs.

Since the legs are in a tripod formation, this was impossible.  And the table was akward and fast becomming too heavy for her to keep up.  Matt rescued her from her predicament, and fixed the table.  Then spent the next few minutes both laughing and consoling the poor scared baby.  We managed to get her back down for her nap, and she hasn’t played with the table since.  Hopefully that little scare was enough to teach her to keep her hands to herself, at least for a while.

We’re going to give the experiment a few more weeks to ensure it continues to work, but if so I think we’re going to try a similar tactic in the boys room.  The LED nightlight is brighter by far than a normal night light,  but still leaves the room much darker than the lamp does.  I’m hoping the boys can make the transition to night light as well.

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