Solutions for the Bedtime Wanderer

08/14/2013

IMG_2450

1. Consequences

2. Bells

3. OK to Wake clock

Consequences

Honestly, I can’t remember the first time Buzz wandered out of his room at night. I remember one night early on Jason and I were surprised when we turned off the TV and walked toward our bedroom at 11-something and found Buzz sitting on the toilet in the hall bathroom. He was mostly potty trained to it makes perfect sense but we were surprised that we hadn’t heard him or that he hadn’t called for help when he was done…he just sat there until we noticed him. We didn’t enact any consequences for leaving his room at first, only for leaving the house or for helping himself to things in the kitchen without checking with us first (this was to ensure he didn’t attempt the toaster or something else dangerous without supervision). But, that one time he did let himself out of the house we had several very serious discussions about why it’s not OK. A few times in the days to follow he let, or attempted to let, himself out of the house in the evening when we were home. That resulted in another serious conversation as well as 2 minutes in time out. Followed by another talk, because we were freaked out about what could have happened. That lesson was learned pretty quickly.

Bells

I started waking up at the slightest sound every night, afraid that Buzz was out of his room and could get hurt. (Reminder: he was 2.5.) Obviously we couldn’t lock him into his room. He was much too tall (the height of a 4 year old) for a crib or a baby gate to be a consideration. I was looking for an inexpensive solution so this is what I came up with: the jingle bell shaker from Ali’s musical instrument set hanging on the door handle with a pipe cleaner. I used a wreath hanger to keep the bells out of reach during regular hours and after he was in bed at night I’d quietly slip the bells on to the handle. He was not able to open the door lever in the morning without the bells falling to the floor. I think this was a set back to his night time potty training but we all started sleeping better.

IMG_2451

OK to Wake Clock

The bells allowed me to hear and wake up when Buzz exited his room but it didn’t help me recover my morning time. (See my previous post on boundaries.) The time that the bells hit the floor was still varied a lot, and often related to when my alarm clock went off in the morning. His room was right next to ours and he seemed to hear me open my eyes in the morning. I needed a way for him to know when it was OK to come out of his room. I remembered a friend writing about an alarm clock that lights up at the time it’s OK for the child to come out of his room so I asked for advice. Susan used this stop light design with her boys and it worked great. She also suggested the OK to Wake! clock but said that she had better success with the stop light since young kids seem to understand the red means stop, green means go concept better. I ignored her advice and got the more visual attractive clock. I’m a designer…I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. After reading a gazillion reviews. I decided to go one better than the OK to Wake! and I got the Teach Me Time Talking Alarm Clock. It has the same features plus some others. I will say – the clock face glows a lot even when the light is technically off so the change to on is subtle. If the child’s bedroom is not dark enough it could easily be unnoticeable. I’m not sure if Buzz ever totally grasped the concept of this clock but it gave me something concrete to show him when I took him back to his room and said “You need to stay in your room until 8:00 when the light comes on.”

IMG_2457

This is part 2 of a 2 part prelude to my post about transitioning Ali to her big girl bed that’s coming later this week.


Boundaries

08/13/2013

I don’t think much about my personal space—the imaginary hulu hoop sized air around me—until someone invades it. I’m sure it’s happened to you, too. You meet someone for the first time and within minutes she’s talking with her face less than a foot from yours. You take a step back but she doesn’t get the hint and moves towards you again. Similarly, I had boundaries in my life that I wasn’t aware of until they had been crossed by Buzz, our recent foster son. The two major ones were related to sleep/wake times. These are personal and different for every person, but I hope to encourage you if you have boundaries you’ve allowed other to cross – reclaim your personal space!

First it was at bedtime. Buzz would get very emotional and needy (AKA stalling…) at bedtime. In order to help ease his transition, I would put Ali to bed first and rush because he was a distraction to her. She would get upset but I knew she’d recover and go to sleep on her own. I’d end up reading him a couple more books in his room, saying night time prayers, letting him watch videos his mom sent saying goodnight, put on music and then, by his request “stay,” I’d set at the foot of his bed until he fell asleep. After a while of this, Jason challenged why I was doing this. It was dragging out his bedtime longer and later and eating up my very limited time at the end of the day for me (doing dishes, tidying up, writing blog posts, showering, laundry, spending time with Jason, paying bills, etc.). I started reducing the time I would sit in his room rather than waiting for him to fall asleep. 10  minutes. 5 minutes. I stuck at 5 minutes for a while and Jason challenged me again – “LIke a bandaid, ” he said, quoting Seinfeld, “Right off!” The first night that I kissed him goodnight and left his room without answering his plea to “stay!” he cried for a minute, then Jason went in and told him to stop and go to sleep. He cried for about 30 seconds more and then went to sleep. That was the end of that! I got my nights back. I also realized that it was unfair to Ali to be rushed to bed and to lose that one-on-one time at the end of the day. At that point I started alternating. One night I would read books to both kids in Buzz’s room, tuck him in and then go with Ali into her room to tuck her in. The next night I would read books to both kids in Ali’s room, tuck her in and then go with Buzz into his room to tuck him in. They both really seemed to like and understand this system and would always remember which night it was for books in which room.

IMG_9070 IMG_9112

The second area of boundary crossing was in the mornings. Parenting Buzz was our first experience with a kid who sleeps in a bed rather than a crib. That was a level of freedom around the house that required us to set boundaries for his safety. We were totally learning as we went. The first time he let himself out of the house during nap time was a huge eye opener. After some very serious talks and consequences, we didn’t have any repeat incidents, though we had to remind him several times (during waking hours) not to let himself out of the house without permission. He’s a smart kid but also very resourceful. The problem with mornings was that his wake times were all over the place. 5:30 one day. 7:00 another day. I’d have to wake him up at 8:30 another day. My pre-Buzz morning routine was to wake (gradually…)  at 6:30, spend time with God and a cup of tea from 7-7:30, take care of the dog and get ready for work from 7:30-8:30. Ali would get up around 8:30 too. Buzz’s random wake up times hijacked my mornings.  I lost my easing into the day, my alone time, my quiet time with God, my chance to take Lucy for a walk, my time to shower and get ready uninterrupted. (Side note: I’m very intentional about being the first one up so I can prepare for my day and prepare to receive my family in the morning.) It took me two months to realize that I didn’t have to give up my mornings. I was my choice. I am the parent. I could set a boundary line around this sacred time and enforce it. We got a special clock for Buzz’s room that lights up when it’s ok to come out of the bedroom. It took him a while to get the hang of it but it restored my mornings for the most part. I’d often have to take him back to his room, where he’d pout and fuss but eventually he would look at books or pick out his clothes for the day and wait until the clock lit up (at 8 am, if you’re curious).

IMG_9138

There were lots of other areas where boundaries were crossed and then more clearly established (just as with parenting any child) but these two areas were key to my sanity and my relationship with the rest of my family during the 3 months that Buzz was with us. They also gave me some wisdom and experience before we gave Ali the same freedom.

This is part 1 of a 2 part prelude to my post about transitioning Ali to her big girl bed that’s coming later this week.