Goodnight, Sweet Dreams

Come, cuddle your head on my shoulder, dear,
Your head like the golden-rod,
And we will go sailing away from here
To the beautiful land of Nod.

–Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Our nighttime routine is sweet, though not exactly simple. When Claire protests bedtime (she’s in bed no later than 7:45 p.m.), we go to the routine written in words and pictures on the bathroom door. It removes the power struggle, to some degree, when we say, “Well, what does the routine say?” These are the steps: Read a story. Brush teeth. Potty. Bath. Put on jammies. Rock. Tuck-in. Next to these words are pictures I’ve drawn so she can “read” the routine for herself.

Daddy rocks Claire down four nights, and I get three nights. It’s a challenge, because she would rather I do every night. There came a time, too, when what I do with Claire became so integral to her relaxation that she began having trouble falling asleep the way Daddy did it. (That’s always been an issue — certain interactions between Claire and me become so ritualized for her that no one else can do it the “right way.” That happened feeding her bottle when she was about six months old.) So he has had to adapt and incorporate what she wants; it’s the rocking and tuck-in that is so important to her.

Before we begin we review the Sleep Rules if she needs reminding (i.e., if she’s been getting up out of bed “just because”):

  • Stay in bed.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Stay very quiet.
  • Go to sleep.

Then the non-rocking parent says “Good night, sweet dreams, don’t have bad dreams, I love you and I love you.” And Claire says it too.

If I’m rocking, I first ask Claire what her favorite part of the day was, and then I tell her mine. Claire then snuggles into me (or Hub), and several songs are sung, the same ones always in the same order: Husha My Baby (from our first Music Together class), Go To Sleep Little Claire (sung twice to Brahm’s Lullaby), My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean (first stanza sung twice), and the chorus to To Ra Loo. (And if she is sick or having a really tough time, the song lineup is much longer: Husha My Baby; Gaelic Lullaby; Su La Li; Go To Sleep Little Claire; You Are My Sunshine; Daisy Bell (without the second stanza); Home On the Range; My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean; Do Re Mi; To Ra Loo.) Then a few extra minutes of rocking and snuggling.

Then Claire gets into bed for tuck-in. I pull up the covers around her and say, “Claire, I love you. You are funny, smart, brave, strong, creative, beautiful, and fun to be with.” Then she’ll say, “Do Safe In Love.” So then I ask her (rhetorically): Do you feel safe in my love? Do you feel safe in Daddy’s love? Do you feel safe in Stella’s love? And so on for each grandparent, aunt, uncle, and her teachers. She also insists on Do you feel safe in your germs’ love? Do you feel safe in the love of all the wild animals? After all that she gets a kiss, and a promise from me: “I’ll check on you when I go to bed.” At which point she says “Good night, sweet dreams, etc.” and I say it to her. Then I quietly leave, and on most nights that’s all we hear of her until 6:00 a.m.

In December 2010 there was a time when she began getting out of bed and rocking at all hours in her chair because she had “thoughts to think.” We responded by removing the chair and ottoman from her room one night, and the wailing which ensued was loud, long, and almost insufferable. We returned it in the morning. It happened another night, and the chair went away. More crying. Finally we said, “We know you love the chair. We’ll return it. But if it’s too much temptation and keeps you from sleeping, it will have to leave your room forever.” She stopped doing it.

In December 2011 she began to get up and come wake us whenever she was awake, just because. For several nights this happened 8-9 times each night, starting as soon as we put her down, and often every half hour in the wee hours. We employed the gate (attached to her doorframe); we put the potty in her room and shut the gate. That generated a lot of tantrums at first. We told her if she stayed in bed, the gate would stay open. So now what happens is if she gets out of bed once, I’ll tuck her back in, and then I remind her if she does it again, I’ll tuck her in, put the potty in her room, and shut the gate. Sometimes she says she needs extra love, and that one extra tuck-in helps. Then I tell her, “You are loved, you are cozy, you are safe.” (Sometimes she gets out of bed five minutes after tuck-in saying, “I had a nightmare.” It’s pretty clear she hasn’t!) It works so far.

My daddy calls me sweetie pie.
He calls me honey bunny.
He also calls me poopsie,
which I think is kind of funny.

My daddy calls me sugarplum,
and also sleepyhead.
My silly dad forgets my name
when he tucks me into bed.

–Bruce Lansky

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2 Comments on “Goodnight, Sweet Dreams”

  1. acm Says:

    great pic! it’s so hard to get that sweet sleeping face.
    (especially if, as in our house, she wakes us up every morning! 🙂

  2. Kathryn Says:

    This pic is actually 2 years old. I caught it while she was napping as we visited a relative. Usually she’s the first one up in our house too!