Thursday, July 24, 2008

Things that go bump in the night

I have this boy. He was the absolute best baby, a pretty easy toddler, but I think sometime in the last few months he was abducted by aliens in the dead of night and replaced with a three-year-old. I kid you not, a living, eating, fire-breathing three-year-old. We'd heard rumors and legends about such a creature, but we never thought we'd see one in the flesh, let alone find one living down the hall from us in the nursery.

This three-year-old is a foreign creature to me. The disobedience that so easily spews out of his fire-breathing mouth is unbelievable and never-ending. He doesn't seem to enjoy sleeping like he did before the supposed alien abduction (12-13 hours a night, 2-4 hour naps every afternoon), and his constantly-wiggling body can't seem to stay in his bed at night. No, it isn't a matter of his being too scared (remember, he is fire-breathing himself) -- it seems to be a matter of wanting to get out of bed to break every last little rule that we set forth every single night. Many times during the night this creature also has started uttering forth the most blood-curdling screams, ripping me from my dreams, stumbling down the hallway to his room, only to find him mad that he woke up and his music was not on (he falls asleep a lot listening to a bedtime mix CD I made) or simply wanting to get out of bed to read a book (I'm glad I have a little bibliophile on my hands, but notsomuch at 3 in the morning). It's become quite the "Never Cry Wolf" show most nights. Every time the screams happen, I think, I am not going down there, but again, this is not the normal fake crying uttered forth by most children, it truly is blood-curdling and sounds like something is dreadfully wrong. (Believe you me, I can spot the fake crying before it even starts. Fake crying has nothing on this mama.) This three-year-old has also been showing off his latest nasty little skill of taking off his overnight diaper if there is poo in it and climbing back into his bed naked and un-wiped, or he takes it off it has pee in it, puts his pajama pants back on and then puts the diaper back on, climbs into bed, and resumes peeing all night long. Either way, it is so not cool because I've been having to change the sheets almost every morning now, and again, I feel like Jacob wrestling the angel because his bed is one of the most difficult to change the sheets on.

Needless to say, I'm tired. (And yes, I can hear you all out there, howling with laughter at such an absurd and obvious statement, especially one from the parent of a three-year-old.) I didn't have to get up with him at night as a baby and toddler because he always slept through the night (I can hear you out there again, playing your world's smallest violins for me), so this getting up 3-4 times a night is killing me. And normally I pride myself on discipline, being extremely consistent with my boy and raising him so far to be a fairly well-behaved and respectful individual, but I am at a loss on how to handle this new nighttime routine. I have tried positive reinforcement ("if you stay in your bed tonight you will get a quarter to put in your piggy bank"), negative reinforcement ("if you get out of bed, turn on the lights, touch the CD player, get all your books out, etc., etc., you will lose any TV privileges and your beloved stuffed dog for the next day and night"), and other punishments, all of which seem to work for a short period, but never last beyond one or two days before he resumes his naughtiness.

Short of duct-taping him down in bed every night, putting a pad-lock on is body to keep the diaper on, and removing his voicebox (I kid, I kid), what else should I try doing to stop this madness? Any suggestions? Or maybe you've heard of facilities that take in these creatures and return them when they've grown into respectable four-year-olds? ;)

5 comments:

Thyen Party of Four said...

It's funny - I was just mentioning to my mom this morning, that I thought it would get EASIER as they got older .. ummm ... no ... not so much :)

Hang in there :) There are a lot of Moms out there with tired eyes, a collective sigh and warm smile - we've all been there in form or another!!!

Jennifer said...

Oh, my goodness that was to funny, yet strikes fear in me as well. My 19 month old has started waking up at night some times and my goodness the tantrums are driving me mad.

Louise said...

Why don't you borrow a couple of books on sleep behaviour for little ones. They can provide all sorts of reasons for this stuff. Maybe you should wean him off the music as it if he expects it to always be on it might be waking him completely not having it there. Having older children helps as I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel with my two year old who also has us up pretty frequently!!

Margaret aka Supermom said...

Ah... (grins!...) it all sounds like crud that I have seen and still see. The only thing I can say is that age four is worse. Anyhow, back to the issues at hand...Can you limit liquid intake after 5-6pm (might decrease the need to poop). Also try something like raisins or grapes earlier in the day, as they make kids have movements - a movement in the afternoon may mean none at night. How about quarters for him coming to get you in the middle of the night IF there is poo? I agree with Louise on the music. Night is for sleeping, not music. Either eliminate altogether or make that a naptime ritual only. Can he put a pullup diaper onto himself if he wants a diaper change (no poo)? What about pajamas that he cannot get himself out of? My now four year old is a pain in the neck, with a capital "P". I have resorted to removing nearly ALL toys and books from his room until he got naptime and bedtime behaviors aligned correctly. He cannot reach the light switches so he can't do anything while it is dark! I have made getting the toys back the reward for staying in bed, etc. I'd say too that teaching him about wiping his own bottom is fairly critical :-)
good luck...

katelnorth said...

Welcome to the unexpected truth that the terrible twos are a myth and the terrible threes are where it's at...

I was lucky with my lovely little boy, who kinda bypassed three and went straight to a fabulous four, but I did have two DDs replaced by aliens round about age 3 - particularly number 2. It's the sheer willfullness that gets you - the, as you so accurately put it, breaking of every rule JUST TO DO IT.

I can't really recommend any way to get through it other than patience, tolerance, restraint and to remember that duct-taping them down is probably illegal, as well as sticky...

We didn't have the toilet training problems you mention, so not really sure what to suggest about that - you've already tried what my first few suggestions would be. Good luck.

Oh, and you won't want to hear this, but although you get them back for a while after three, apparently when they turn 10 (girls, anyway) they are once again replaced by aliens - only these ones are stroppy and sulky and know EVERYTHING.