Why Won't My Toddler Sleep? Because He Wants To Do These 18 Things Instead
As I lie awake next to my toddler in his "big boy" bed, my patience starts to wane. Bedtime seems endless. Hell, it is endless. And after two years of sleep training, sleep regressions, illnesses, and my formerly sweet and snuggly baby turning into a playful imp each night, I can safely say that I'm over it. Honestly, why won't my toddler sleep? Why?! Turns out, the answer is as simple as it is entirely unhelpful: there are a slew of things my kid would rather do.
Part of the problem, it seems, is that I've indulged in his dreadful sleep habits. And, as a result, my child has essentially sleep-trained me, rather than the other way around. Out of exhaustion and desperation, my partner and/or I have resorted to lying or sitting with our son until he falls asleep. And while it used to work fabulously, now we're nothing but a captive audience for his bedtime antics. Instead of hearing his snores, I hear him adorably singing, pretending to read, talking to his stuffed animals, or babbling incoherently about what could possibly be astrophysics or politics or an ode to our cate (it remains to be seen).
And then, of course, there are the nights when my precious child will do literally anything to interrupt the process of falling asleep. He will try, on purpose, to disrupt our carefully designed bedtime routine, including but certainly not limited to: getting out of bed, pinching himself, and even literally pulling out his hair to stay awake. If I try to doze off in his bed or the chair in his room (usually after he has decided to inexplicably wake up at some ungodly hour, like 4:30 a.m.), he will pile his toys on me or climb on top of me or simply yell at me, just to make sure that I can't sleep either.
It seems my toddler will do anything to avoid falling asleep, including the following:
Having toys in his room was a comfort at first, but now it's just a distraction. Now he thinks bedtime is playtime. Lucky me.
When we first moved our son from his crib to a "big boy" bed, snuggling him to sleep seemed like an ideal way to do bedtime. Over a year later, he's happy to snuggle four hours on end... he just doesn't fall asleep.
It's so weird to watch, but I've watched my toddler literally pinch himself to keep himself from dosing off at bedtime.
You don't have to fight sleep, baby boy! Just let it happen.
Climb All Over Me
I love snuggling with the precious child that I grew inside my body, and trust me when I say I adore him and that time I have with him more than life itself.
I do not, however, enjoy being used as a human jungle gym at bedtime. I repeat: I do not enjoy a tiny human climbing all over my face.
Ask For Something
All of my kids are experts at asking for one more thing. They're particularly good at making sure that thing is hard to say no to, like another book or son or kiss goodnight. It's manipulation, I tell you! And you better believe it works.
There's nothing more adorable than my 2-year-old son singing. Unless, of course, it's two hours into bedtime and he's doing it to stay awake.
Watching my toddler practice "reading" his favorite books is adorable. Less so after bedtime, when my patience is low and anxiety is high, but adorable nonetheless.
I love my son, but when it's my night to manage bedtime I am generally pretty touched out by then. He will touch me to stay awake, and I will end up feeling anxious as a result.
If my partner or I try to leave the room during bedtime, and before my son has fallen asleep, chances are high that my son will cry.
I know I should suck it up and try again to sleep train him, but it's so hard.
I have the terrible habit of using our hours-long bedtime routine to catch up on social media. The alternative is sitting with him in the dark, listening to him whine, which we should all objectively admit is horrible.
Of course, as soon as my son sees my phone he wants to take a selfie. And, of course, I let him, because I have zero willpower during this ridiculously long bedtime routine and our pictures are cute as hell.
The other day, at daycare, my son's teacher asked me if he always pooped at nap time at home. You guys, I am so happy he doesn't just do this to me. He seems to save up the worst toddler poops and farts for when I am lying next to him at bed- and and nap-time.
Toddlers are weird, my friends, and mine is happy to let his freak flag fly the highest during bedtime. He will do yoga poses, play with my feet, and lick me like a puppy.
He will literally pound on the walls, yell, and clap to keep his tiny tired body awake.
My husband calls this particular noise our son's "sleep cry" — the sound he makes when he's exhausted but does not want to sleep. It's so grating, especially when I have him snuggled close and he's playing with my face.
My son is always hungry when it's time to sleep. Maybe it's all of his pooping? I mean, I don't know. I'm not a doctor... just a sleep-deprived mom.
Stand Up In Bed
My sleepy son will stand up, half-awake, and shake himself or bounce on the bed to avoid falling asleep.
So, I tuck him back into bed and we repeat 100 times a night because I'm nothing if not a sucker for routine... apparently.
Turn The Light Off & On
I think I might have to disconnect the light in my son's room, because my playful 2-year-old will happily spend house flicking the light switch on and off.
Keep Me Awake
Middle of the night wake ups are par for the course in our house. Unfortunately, if I get up with him, my son will do anything to keep me awake — including all of the aforementioned things.
OMG I miss sleep.