When we moved to Florida, I knew that Evie would undergo an adjustment period, and I was prepared to help her through it. For a time she called our house “Daddy’s house.” One rainy morning she fell into a little heap in my lap and cried about missing her friends. She would not let me leave her alone at bedtime, begging me instead to sit beside her and hold her hand until she fell asleep. And there were temper tantrums that erupted from my sweet girl that were quite unsettling, unused as I was to a person being perfectly fine one moment and then writhing and screaming on the kitchen floor the next, surrounded by a spilled box of popsicles I wouldn’t let her have.
But, like I said, I expected all of this to happen. I waited for it. I girded up my loins and everything. Eventually, “Daddy’s house” became “my house”. What with the mom’s group we joined, her new preschool, the kids in the neighborhood and random people we meet at the mall, she’s made many new friends. And her unpredictable explosions of anger at the unbelievable injustice of actually being denied something have downgraded into calm, intellectual arguments concerning the logical disconnect of being allowed that very thing just the day before.
Yes, there is peace in Evieland once again. It is true what they say that children are great adjusters. After all, their size allows them to be picked up from where they are and put into another place, so they better know how to regroup. And Evie has always been at the forefront of adjusting. When I couldn’t stand being hooked up anymore to a contraption that made me feel like a cow, she happily went from nursing to a bottle. She transitioned from sleeping in a bassinet to a crib to a toddler bed seamlessly. And although we did have some setbacks with potty training, once I pretended to call her school and tell them she couldn’t come because she still peed and pooped in her pants, she adjusted to using the toilet pretty damn quick (Devious and cruel? Maybe. Effective? Absolutely.) Overall, Evie has always been the Great Accommodater.
But there is one area in Evie’s life on which she adamantly refuses to budge: going to sleep by herself. Before we moved, Evie was generally very easy to put to bed. We’d read a few stories, rock for a bit and then I’d tuck her in, sing her a song, give her a kiss, say goodnight and leave the room. I could sometimes hear her on the monitor, rustling around and whispering to stuffed animals, but within 10 minutes or so she was sound asleep.
Folks, those days are gone, baby, gone.
Nowadays, according to Evie, the worst thing that could ever happen to you is to be left alone to fall asleep by yourself. When we first moved in to our new house, I happily allowed Evie some latitude on this. Her room was new and unfamiliar. Hell, her life was new and unfamiliar. I would dutifully sit at the foot of her bed, holding her hand and patiently waiting for her eyes to flutter closed and for her little snores to begin. On the good nights, I could carefully sneak out of the room and Evie would stay in dreamland. On the bad nights, Evie would wake up every single time I tried to get up. Or I would almost get to the door, and the floor, which makes no damn sound anywhere else in the damn house except for right at Evie’s damn door, would creak and I would hear, “Mommy!”. There were nights when I had to send Gill up to pinch hit because I just couldn’t do it anymore.
But I figured all of this would subside. After a couple weeks or so in her new house, something in Evie would magically click, and things would go back to the way they were before, bedtime-wise. Okay, after a couple more weeks. Definitely by the end of next month. Labor Day, maybe?
Y’all, I tried everything. Reasoning and cajoling. Bribery and begging. Reverse psychology. Manipulation and anger. Nothing has worked, and Evie stands firm on her position to this day.
Early on in this battle, I thought back to past struggles I had with Evie’s sleeping. I have to confess that there were a couple of times when out of nowhere she would freak out at night in her crib when I left the room. After much research and hand-wringing, I decided to Ferberize her, which is a kinder, gentler way of making her cry it out. It worked a treat, and after of couple of nights, things went back to normal. I chalked it up to growing pains. Later, after moving to her toddler bed, Evie was delighted to discover that she could now get out of said bed, open the door and run willy-nilly all over the house. Not being so delighted myself, I put a childproof cap over her doorknob. I swear to you, all I had to do was look my child square in the eyes and tell her that now she wouldn’t be able to open the door herself anymore, and, y’all, she never even tried.
So, I thought about employing these methods again since they had worked to well before. First, there was putting the childproof cap on the doorknob. But, lucky us, we don’t have doorknobs. We have those elegant curved door handles which thrill children who can easily open every door in the house and infuriate parents because THERE ARE NO CHILDPROOF CAPS FOR THEM IN CLEARWATER, FLORIDA AND THE SURROUNDING AREA! I think I remember seeing some in Raleigh but a hell of a lot of good that does me now.
Without the childproof caps on the door handles, there is no Ferberizing. I mean you can try it if you want. If you do, send me a video of it so I can laugh at you. I will admit I tried letting Evie cry it out (with a three-year-old it’s more like scream it out), while holding the door closed. As I stood there, my hands white-knuckled on the door handle with Evie on the other side, screaming, crying and trying desperately to pull the door open, I’ve never felt more like Carrie White’s mother. I will not be doing that again.
I suppose I could order something off the Internets, but I’m loathe to do so. Call me crazy, but I think Evie is old enough now to do this herself, without childproofing products or sleep methods. Maybe I am crazy.
So, here we are. Evie in her bed, falling asleep and me, in the rocking chair, waiting for Evie to fall asleep. I refuse to sit at the foot of her bed anymore (1) because it makes too much damn noise when I get up; and (2) because it gives me the illusion of control in a situation where I have none. Do I think Evie’s trying to control me? Absolutely. Does that make me angry? Absolutely. I think every child does at least one thing that inordinately infuriates their parents. I am surprised at the amount of patience I sometimes have with Eve, but this particular situation sends me right up the wall. I couldn’t really explain to you why. I know a lot of parents who stay with their children until they fall asleep, and it doesn’t bother them. It bothers me. Maybe it’s because I know, I know Evie can fall asleep by herself. She used to do it EVERY NIGHT. Maybe it’s because I’ve tried everything in my arsenal to get her to comply, and she hasn’t. This means I’ve failed, and I don’t like that. Maybe it’s because I’ve put in a full day as Evie’s mom, and now I’m ready to punch my timecard, go downstairs and have some Katie time.
It’s probably all of those things. But, because Evie won’t budge, I have to reconcile myself in some way to the situation while it remains a situation. I’ve thought about it a lot while swaying back in the forth in the rocking chair, waiting for deep breathing to come from under the blankets of the pink toddler bed across the room. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
1) When Evie naps nowadays (which is rare because I’ve learned that an exhausted child at bedtime means less time in the rocking chair) she goes down perfectly by herself. It’s just like the old days, and I have to wipe a tear from my eye as I reminisce. So, I know she still can do it at night. Here’s the rub: Evie Langston has a good reason not to. I don’t know what that reason is, but I know that she has given up offers of boxes of toys because of it. The reason is very important to her. Is she scared? I don’t know, but she hasn’t said so, and I’m not opening up that can of worms in case she’s not. Whatever it is, it’s a good reason to Evie, and I’ve decided to respect it.
2) Some may think me too dramatic and a pushover for deciding to “respect” a three-year-old’s wishes. “You’re the parent! Show her you mean business!” Imagining what others might say about the situation made me finally realize something, though. As soon as I start letting those voices invade my head, I second-guess myself and start letting the imagined opinions of others steer the ship. Looking back on times in my life when I let this happen, I always feel regret that I didn’t take the wheel and do what I thought was right. Because no one knows the relationship that Eve and I have better than…Eve and me. And since having her, every time I’ve gone with my gut and done what I thought was best, things have always worked out really well.
3) Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, I will not be sitting in that godforsaken rocking chair waiting for a 16-year-old Evie to fall asleep. Things will change eventually. I don’t know when or how, but I have faith that they will. Last night I tucked her in, said goodnight and walked out of her room. I stood on the other side of her door to see what would happen. It actually took a minute before I heard the soft, quick swishes of her feet on the carpet, coming to get me. No whining, no crying. Just coming to get me. Probably I’ll keep trying that until one night I’ll walk out and she won’t come for me. And that kind of makes me sad, and is another reason I stay in the rocking chair. I joke about it all the time, but one day Evie really will be gone and out of the house. She’ll spread her wings, leave the nest and won’t need me to sit beside her anymore and hold her hand. That day will come. Do I want to look back then to now and see myself frustrated because she wanted me with her for 15 minutes while she closed her eyes and slipped away from the day? I think you know the answer to that question.
4) Have you ever tried sitting in total silence for 15 minutes? No TV, no laptop, no distractions, no nothing. Just you and yourself, thinking thoughts. It’s actually quite nice.
So, if you happen to look up at the clock tonight and see it’s 8:45, you’ll know where I am. Rockin’. Thinkin’. Waitin’. Puttin’ my baby-girl to bed.