In which gorillas interrupt my sleep

September 10th, 2011

Is there any sound less welcome at 2am than that of your three-year-old’s bedroom door opening as she charges out of her room, headed for yours…for the fifth time that night?

All of a sudden, bedtime is an issue in our house again.  Back in March, shortly after Miss Mouse migrated to her big girl bed, we had some trouble with bedtime.  Or rather, I did.  She was always good for Josh.  But since then, we’d gotten into a great, fuss-free routine.

Said routine is now gone.

These days, when I try to put Miss Mouse to bed, I am met with whimpers, sobs, pleas to stay, and wide-eyed assertions that the moment I walk from her room, a band of gorillas will attack her.  Or maybe just one really mean gorilla.  It’s sometimes hard to decipher her stories when she’s worked up.

I manage to extricate myself and flee.  She gets up 10 seconds later and stands weeping on the top of the stairs.  I put her back to bed.  She gets up.  And….repeat.  It can take upwards of 45 minutes to get her into bed for good.

Sometimes, the cycle repeats itself in the middle of the night, too, which is particularly wearying.  On Thursday night, she got up five times between midnight and 2am.

My problem is that she’s playing the “I’m scared” card.  It’s hard to tell if she’s serious.  If she actually has a bad dream (which she occasionally does), then I want to comfort her and hold her and make her feel safe.  If she’s just trying to avoid bedtime, being too solicitous is just asking for trouble.

At bedtime, I’ve taken to giving her Tinkerbell doll a set of marching orders, delivered in serious tones.  “Now, Tinkerbell, will you stay awake all night to guard Miss Mouse?”  (Tinkerbell nods.)  “Will you allow any gorillas to enter this bedroom?”  (Tinkerbell solemnly shakes her head.)  Then all three of us practice our anti-gorilla speech together.  “No gorillas here!  Go back to the zoo, gorilla!”  (Said with ferocious scowls and much finger shaking.)

Sometimes the routine helps.  Sometimes not.

I need my sleep, but at the end of the day, I’m a softie.  For years (yes, years) I slept on the floor of my parents’ bedroom most of the time, waking in the middle of the night and carefully hauling all my bedding into their room.  I got really stealthy and they generally didn’t even know I was there til morning.  They were pretty good sports about it and I’m inclined to take a similar approach.

Anyone got any good tips for banishing the bedtime fears of a preschooler?

3 responses to “In which gorillas interrupt my sleep”

  1. Isa says:

    nope, but I stand by the 'sleep on the floor by mom's bed' approach. Maybe some bananas in the far corner of the room to distract the gorillas?

  2. G'Mom says:

    Once, we locked the door so you couldn't come in. The hysterical fit you threw was enough to convince me NEVER to lock the door again! Isa – I like the idea of a banana in the corner.

  3. Kate says:

    Isa — Great idea with the bananas. I'm going to try it!

    G'Mom — I actually remember that. I was absolutely terrified. It's probably the reason I'm so hesitant to not let her in. When she panics, she totally loses her mind. I hate to see her like that…

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