Tuesday, January 19, 2010

She's Clever - and Unimpressed with the Rules

In the old days, Helen loved sleeping. In fact, I could count on her for 12 hours from the time she went to bed at night. Mostly, this rocked.

Then she took notice of the toddler bed in her room, and even though I thought it was a terrible idea to move her to that bed, Ed thought it was a great idea. And, for the record, Ed and I took the same sides when we moved Connor from a crib, and Ed was totally right that time. Connor hated his crib from the moment he was put into it until the moment he was freed from it. Helen though, she loved that crib.

Coincidentally, when Helen started noticing the toddler bed, a friend of ours was very close to delivering her own baby, and was interested in our crib, so the deal was sealed. Helen moved to a bed, the crib moved to our friend's house.

It turned out to be a huge mistake. She started sleeping less, and eventually refused to sleep with her door closed. Helen seems to be a rather light sleeper, so regularly she awakens at night. For the past couple of months (give or take a month, I seriously cannot remember - it seems like forever) when Helen wakes in the middle of the night, she comes downstairs and asks to get into my bed "please please", and then sleeps until Connor comes down in the morning and wakes her up.

When Connor started coming into our room at about this age, I would simply walk him across the hall, lay down with him, and then return to my room when he fell asleep. That was a nice feature of our old house. But Helen? Well...it's so hard to walk all the way upstairs in the middle of the night - especially in the winter when it's cold - so Helen gets to just pile in. And some nights she would sleep very unobtrusively, and those nights were nice. But other nights she would head butt either Ed or myself and kick the other one All NIGHT LONG. That sucked.

Every night at bedtime, Ed or I would tell Helen she needed to stay in her room all night long and every night, she would look at us and let us know it would be fine if she came downstairs. She would even tell me after she finished nursing "I come down to your room tonight". And even though I would attempt to convince her otherwise, it was in vain. The exception to this pattern was the big FAMILY DATE NIGHT when I came upstairs with her cat's shoe that she thought had been lost. That night, she looked up and said "Thank you mommy. I won't come downstairs tonight. I sleep all night in my bed."

So I told Ed he was in charge of getting Helen back into her room since I was always the one who took Connor back to his room, but that was a disaster and went nowhere. Ed would sleep on the floor in her room and Helen would just move to the floor to sleep with Ed. Next, we tried the "wake-up" light. This is a nightlight on a timer that turns on when a reasonable hour has been reached. Connor has been using a "wake-up" light since he was 21 months old. The first night we used it with Helen - Wednesday, she actually slept until after 7:00 the next morning. When I went into her room Thursday morning, she popped out of bed and shouted "I did it!". Naturally, Ed and I congratulated ourselves for being brilliant parents and settled in for some long nights of sleep in the near future.

Only Helen had different ideas. Thursday and Friday nights, Helen came down to my room claiming she broke her light and it didn't work so she could sleep in my bed. I was too tired to argue. Remember that long climb up the stairs? Saturday night, when Helen came downstairs I decided to take her back upstairs and lay down with her. After she fell back asleep in her bed, I went to turn the light on, so that whenever she woke up, it would be on. That way, she would learn that it did, indeed, turn on - and hopefully develop a little faith in the thing.

Only when I went to turn it on, it was unplugged. Strange, I thought. I plugged it in, went back downstairs, and told Ed what I'd found. He said he'd seen the same thing a few days ago, and figured our au pair had unplugged it.

In not much more time, Helen came padding down to my room and told me that she had broken the wake-up light and that it was not working and that it would be OK to sleep in my room. I wanted her to see the light I had turned on, so I went upstairs and lo and behold, the thing was off - and unplugged. I plugged it in and showed her "Look, Helen, the wake-up light is on! You can come down and snuggle in my bed." Helen exclaimed "Yay, I can come down to your room!" and came downstairs. On the way downstairs, she told me that she unplugged the light and broke it! And she said this with a glint of victory in her eye.

Sunday morning, my au pair told me that when she had come in Saturday night, she heard a bunch of noise in Helen's room. She peeked in and saw Helen plugging and unplugging the light, fiddling with it, watch it blink on and off, and eventually toss it on the ground. We put two and two together and learned that indeed, Helen had been telling the truth the night before. She had actually reached behind the shelf that had been left ajar and unplugged the light. Helen knows she is absolutely not allowed to unplug things, but unlike Connor who actually follows rules, Helen runs on more of a "if there's no one to witness the crime, it didn't happen" way of life.

But, I like to think I'm smarter than a two year old, so I got a new extension cord that is more difficult for her to unplug. I moved a shelf in front of the thing, and put the light on that shelf so Helen could see it but not reach it. I told her I had gotten her a new light and that it was not broken, and that she should NOT TOUCH IT.

And Monday morning? She slept until about 8:00. And then she came down and snuggled for a bit before going out to play with Ed and Connor.

But Monday night? I went into her room around bedtime only to see her trying to reach behind the shelf to fiddle with the plug and have her tell me "I'm goin' to break the light so I can come down to your room tonight".

Would it be possible for her to unquestioningly follow even one rule in the house?



  1. Seems to me your mother would make some sort of comment about having a child just like you...or something like that. :)

    That Helen is just a cutie - you can't help but smile!

  2. You gotta laugh though! So tenacious!