When he makes up his mind about something, there is no changing it. Unfortunately, that thing is usually refusing to go to sleep.
My mother says she has never seen a child stay awake for so long out of sheer stubbornness.
She tells me when I pick up Wyatt in the evenings whether he has had a nap that day. It’s pretty obvious when he hasn’t because he is shedding crocodile tears for no reason at all.
More than once, he has fallen asleep on the two-minute drive between her house and ours. I swear I could detect a slight smirk as he slept content in the knowledge that his Nana had not won.
It’s hard to remember the days when he slept 20 hours out of every 24.
His baby book has an entire spread devoted to pictures of Wyatt napping with various family members. I got so many of him and Zac conked out together with their heads leaned back and their mouths wide open that eventually I stopped taking them to leave room for other photos.
We had a few methods for getting Wyatt to go to sleep as he got older, including taking turns walking the floors with him.
Zac also liked to rock in our recliner with him and sing. Since he didn’t know any lullabies, he serenaded our son many a night with Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page.”
Unfortunately, the most effective way we ever found of putting Wyatt down was with a bottle.
I understand this is frowned upon by pediatricians and childcare experts, but he had to be fed and the sucking always soothed him off to sleep. Telling new parents to not do something that fulfills one of their child’s basic needs and has the added benefit of getting him to stop screaming is simply ludicrous.
However, choosing the easy way out had unforeseen repercussions.
Because we never laid Wyatt in his crib and let him learn to go to sleep on his own like we were supposed to, we became dependent on the bottle as well.
When we started having to make two bottles back to back on some nights to get him to stay asleep, we got serious about taking him off of it.
Surprisingly, Wyatt didn’t put up much of a fuss. This was our chance to establish a new, pediatrician-approved nighttime routine.
Instead, we found a new crutch – the television.
We didn’t exactly encourage Wyatt to crawl up on the couch next to me each evening and fall asleep while watching TV, but I’ll admit we weren’t disappointed when he started doing it after the bottles got packed up.
We fell into the habit of letting him pick a “Veggie Tales” video to go to sleep to each night. After “Veggie Tales,” we moved on to his favorite movies. They carried us through a few more months, but recently the movies have stopped working.
My struggle became both getting Wyatt to go to sleep and Zac to stay awake so we could steal a few seconds together at the end of every crazy day.
I think we both reached our breaking point one night at 11 p.m. when neither of us could keep our eyes open but our son was still going strong. In fact, he was teasing us with the “tickle monster” routine that Zac uses on him during playtime.
Our current course of action is something Zac refers to as “the sleep fairy.”
We turn off the TV and all the lights except a small nightlight at the end of Wyatt’s toddler bed. He lies down with his stuffed animals and we both lie down in the floor next to him.
If Wyatt puts himself to sleep and stays there all night (letting him join us in our bed is another bad decision we’ve been dealing with lately), then Zac slips a small toy under his pillow in the morning.
So far Wyatt has accumulated several miniature dinosaurs, two cowboys and an Indian.
It’s pretty obvious that he doesn’t understand how or why the toys are appearing, but the look on his face as he announces what the “sleep fairy” brought is priceless.
To be clear, I am not condoning bribery as a parenting tactic, and the Cohron family sleep fairy will be retiring any day now.
Zac and I will never claim to be perfect people or parents. However, I’m proud to say that we work together to figure out what’s best for Wyatt and to find ways to adapt when we make the wrong decision.
And, finally, we can sleep with ourselves at night.