My last two posts on boundaries and solutions for bedtime wanderers were the groundwork for transitioning Ali to her “big girl bed.” With my hindsight glasses on from my experience with Buzz and with him back at home with his mom, I was ready to make the leap with my two-year-old daughter. She wasn’t climbing out of her crib, which is when most people make the change, but I was ready. I wanted to transition her before potty training and I wanted to make both transitions during a down-time as far as foster care goes (AKA no other kids in the house). I opted to do this even though Jason has been touring in Europe and I was on my own to deal with wandering, boundary breeching and whatever tantrums might ensue. It’s been 12 days so I feel confident calling it a great success and sharing what I did.
The morning after Buzz left, on Saturday August 3rd, Ali and I had breakfast and then I got out the tools and instructions for her crib. I showed her the illustration in the manual of the crib with sides and the crib with the side off like a day bed, ever after referred to as a big girl bed. She was game. It took me 15 minutes max. to take the crib side off and replace it with the side rail. Mostly she watched a show in the other room and came back just in time to “help” me tighten the last bolts. I moved it into place, made her bed and arranged her stuffed animals. She loved being able to climb right onto it all by herself. She immediately pretended to go to sleep. She posed for pictures. She was thrilled. Yay!
We had some errands to run and on the way home Ali fell asleep in the van just a few minutes before we got home. I told my mom it was a gift from God! I plopped her right into the big girl bed and she stayed sleeping. I grabbed some pillows and blankets from another room to make a cushy landing on the floor in case she rolled out. I kept waiting and listening for a thud and crying but it never happened. I even snuck in to take some pictures. Two hours later I heard her calling me, “Mommy?” She was standing in the hallway looking confused.
I was bracing for bedtime the first night so we started a little early. I explained how the OK to Wake clock works. She seemed interested but I knew without seeing it in action it would be hard for her to understand. For the first time, I was able to sit in her bed with her to read books and say prayers before bedtime. When I kissed her goodnight and left the room she immediately started crying and jumped up. (Side note: she had been loudly protesting bedtime for several weeks so this wasn’t a surprise.) She opened the door and came out into the hallway. I took her straight back to her bed and gave her simple, stern instructions. “It’s time for sleeping now. Lie down and go to sleep.”
Three minutes later she came out into the hallway saying, “Mommy?” I took her back to her bed again. More sternly this time: “Stay in your bedroom. It’s time for sleeping. No crying. I’ll see you in the morning.” When I left this time I put the bells on her door handle so I’d hear if she opened the door again. She cried for less than a minute and then fell asleep.
One hour later I heard her crying and rushed in concerned that she had rolled out of bed. Nope, she was just sitting up. I said, “It’s time for sleeping.” She laid down and I covered her with a blanket and turned her music on. She started to cry again as I was heading for the door. “No crying,” I said. “It’s time for sleeping. I’ll see you in the morning.” She quickly fell asleep and didn’t make another peep until morning. She got up and came looking for me about 10 minutes before the Ok to Wake light was set to come on. She had never seen it work so I waited in her room with her until it changed so she could see the difference. She’s been very excited about “light! change!” ever since.
(Side note: I know I’m a mean mama for telling her to stop crying. But you know what? It works.)
The next day God blessed me with another easy transition from car seat to big girl bed for nap time. Bedtime went even smoother the next night. As the days have gone on we’ve had much less crying and fussing at bedtime. I love being able to sit in her bed and snuggle with her while I read books and say goodnight. The mornings have still been a little sketchy. Some days she’s been waking up pretty early and not able to wait until the light changes. She’s so sweet and cute when she cracks her door open and sticks her face out, saying “Mommy…how are you?” Nap times have been going very well, too. The light does not change when it’s OK to get up from nap time so I’ve explained that she needs to stay in her room until I come get her. She can call me or she can look at books quietly. I’m kind of amazed that it’s working, honestly! One day I went in and she had turned her Acoustic Lullabies CD on and she was looking at books. Just. Like. I. Suggested.
We’ve only had one little problem. Last Saturday morning shortly after I woke up I could hear her up shuffling around in her room. It was 7-something so I was just happy she was keeping herself busy while I scanned my Instagram feed. A few minutes later I heard paper ripping followed by “oh no!” and then more paper ripping. When I got to her room she was holding part of a page of a library book in her hand. Oops!
But overall, I think the transition has been going awesome! I’m sure there are a million variables with everyone as each family, kid, parenting strategy, bedtime routine, etc. is different. This is what we did and I’m thrilled. It was easy peasy. I took a few pictures of her room yesterday since I’ve moved things around a little bit. Now I’m pondering when to transition her to a twin bed. There is no rush unless we get placed with a baby and need the crib.