What started out as sage, common-sense, practical advice from my mother (oh wise one), "just put a sleeping bag on the floor next to your bed and soon enough she'll stay in her own room at night," ended up as a bad habit - literally overnight. A really bad habit.
Katie has always been my worst sleeper.
It's probably a good thing that she was my last baby and not my first. Oh no, my first baby slept like a little angel in his homemade bassinet - the stroller - next to my bed every night during his first few months. When he was ready (read: when I was ready), I wheeled him little by little from our room into his where he peacefully slumbered no less than 6 solid hours in a row each night. Oh yes. A perfect little sleeper was he and if I could have pryed myself away from the rocking chair in his room for a long enough time to get some shut eye myself, I would have been one very well-rested new mommy.
But, as it is with most first babies, I was addicted to him. The dopamine coursing through my body at the mere sight of his sweet face kept me by his side almost all day and all night. I couldn't get enough of him and I stood watch over his crib for hours - just watching him breathe.
Then came Wyatt. My "cranky" baby. Or so I thought at the time. It's hard to know what the true meaning of "cranky" is, when you haven't experienced Katie. But I thought, because he squealed and was always hungry (good lord, you would be too if you were born the size of a regular 2 month old), that he was a bit on the cranky side. So I adopted a method: the bounce and sway. It worked like this - Wyatt hated to be put down and even knew if you bent your knees a tiny bit in an attempt to sit. So, he wanted to be held all the time. And, you know he was a big baby so this meant extra work for my biceps (you should have seen my biceps back in those days...) as I bounced him gently and swayed from side to side.
He loved this.
We had to teach it to everyone we knew. Especially if we wanted to leave him with anyone and sneak out for "date night," which probably meant grocery shopping and hitting up the local Taco Bell afterwards.
And then, there was Katie.
I messed her up from the beginning.
She was beyond cranky and I seriously considered asking the doctor if there was a return policy during her 6 week check up. She cried, she fussed, she screamed. And if I didn't know what little baby girl screams would do to my nerves before then, I certainly had a quick lesson during her first few months of life. Nothing would work with her. Not the bounce and sway, not rocking, not swaddling, nothing. The only time it seemed like she stopped crying was when she was eating or sleeping.
And that's about it.
We finally figured out that she was colicky and I stopped having all dairy and all caffeine. Boy, those are days I surely don't ever want to revisit, no matter how adorable she looked in the pink corduroy jacket from BabyGap. And after a few weeks, she started to calm down a bit - but only a bit. The screaming remained, as did the resistance to all things sleep, unless you were holding her - then she'd sleep like a - well - a baby.
Basically, nothing has changed, except she's bigger now.
We thought we were making headwind, by getting her to sleep in her big girl bed for over a year, without a parent in there snuggling all night long, without a million prayers and bedtime stories (only the usual few), and without ten million stuffed animals arranged "just so." She was sleeping like a - well - a baby.
And then, Halloween happened.
You never know what is going to scare a kid, until it's too late. In Katie's case, it was an episode of "Ghost Hunters," or "Ghost Lab," heck - I don't really know, it was something ghost related and it was on Discovery Channel, during the day. Isn't daytime programming supposed to be safe? And of course, she was watching it with her older brothers, who sometimes forget that a 5 year old is in the room.
It's not their fault, it's just the way it is. I remember watching things I knew would frighten my little brother when I was about their ages and then I'd run out of the basement, turning off all the lights behind me and lock him down there in the dark - ON PURPOSE! So, I guess it could be worse. They could be like I was.
But again, It's not their fault.
It's probably just my payback...but I'll never know.
Point is, she got scared. So scared that she refused to stay in her room alone at night. And up until a few weeks ago, she was running into our room in the middle of the night, tigger pillow in hand, and grabbing the sleeping bag that I'd pushed under my bed that very morning with high hopes that it would not be needed that very night. Oh, I was so wrong!
This happened night after night after night.
I kept waiting for her to grow tired of it. I kept waiting for her to dislike sleeping on the floor, instead of a pillow-top mattress. I kept waiting for it (this magical plan) to work.
And it never did.
It was looking like the dumb sleeping bag was going to be a permanent fixture in my bedroom. Forever. Between her midnight entrances, my husband's snoring, and the dog wandering around in the middle of the night (his toes clicking on the hardwood floor making the most annoying sound in the world, ever)- I would never get any sleep.
This was definitely a problem.
And then I saw it.
The solution to my problem.
Or, at least, worth a try.
It was about 12 inches by 18 inches. It was white, shiny and came with dry-erase markers and little magnetic stars of different colors. It had blank spaces where you could write in your "chores" and the days of the week.
Before I could begin to concoct a story like I usually did while shopping with my husband and finding an impulse item to buy, he said "get it." He knew exactly what I was thinking and I'm pretty sure he wanted our little girl back in her own bed as much as I did, even though he pretended to be sleeping when she'd come in.
And you know what?
That stinking chore chart, the most basic of basic motivators for kids (how else would I have gotten through potty training?), worked wonders.
I didn't even have to sell my soul to the devil to get her sleeping back in her own room - only to Target.