Phase 1: Mama, Come Back!
Duration: ±2 months (yes, months)
Whereupon Riley commences screaming, "More hug! More hug, please!" as soon as I shut the door for the night.
This phase continues to some degree, but has mostly been alleviated by:
(a) simply going in and giving him one more hug, after which he falls asleep, and
(b) realizing that one of the reasons he wants me to come back in is that when I return, I bring the flashlight with me. He's obsessed with the flashlight. Now I just let him say goodnight to the flashlight the first time around.
Phase 2: Lovey, Overboard!
Duration: a few weeks
Whereupon Riley launches Froggie and Blankie out of his crib at five-minute intervals, then proceeds to shout, "Uh-oh, Froggie! Uh-oh, Blankie!" with increasing intensity.
This phase also continues to some degree, but has gotten much better. The dude needs his Froggie and Blankie; I'm not going to deprive him of his comfort objects. The night I tried to be all hardcore and say, "This is the last time I'm getting them for you!" he screamed—in that awful, truly terrified way, not in a fakey or annoyed way—for forty-five minutes before I stopped being a complete asshole and gave the poor, frightened babe his loveys back. At this point, some nights he doesn't do this at all, some nights he does it a few times. The solution has been:
(a) Return Froggie and Blankie in a silent and calm interaction. Do not engage, as engagement could be perceived as encouragement.
Phase 3: "Riley no wanna sleep!"
Duration: two very long nights so far
Whereupon Riley wakes up in the middle of the night, crying an awful terrified cry. Rather than being soothed by a hug and a reassurance that he is safe and I love him, the pitiful, scared crying continues along with proclamations that "Riley no wanna sleep."
The solution has varied each night.
Night 1: After back-and-forthing for about an hour on my usual schedule of "check in every ten minutes," I wrapped him in his blankie and rocked him in his room until he was very, very drowsy, then put him back in bed and he went right to sleep.
Night 2: After another series of back-and-forths, I tried rocking him, but he was seriously wide awake. And nervous. His eyes were like saucers and he was only calm when I held him. I asked him what he was afraid of, and he didn't have an answer; I'm not sure if he really understands that question. In any case, I was exhausted, he was definitely not going to sleep, so I took him to bed with me.
I really hesitated before I brought him in my bed. I was so worried about him "getting his way," so worried that I was coddling him, so worried that I was setting myself up for weeks—maybe years!—of sleeping with a wee boy.
I have this problem all the time with Riley. Temperamentally, he is totally different than I am and totally different than Maddie. Both Maddie and I respond well to tough love and clear consequences. If Maddie were throwing her lovey out of bed repeatedly, I'd tell her that the next time I wasn't going to come back and get it, I'd follow through, and that behavior would stop. With Riley? Not so much. What I'm slowly realizing is that all of these bedtime tactics are rooted in a need that he has for physical and emotional time with me. He needs more reassurance than Maddie does that I will come when he calls. He needs more snuggling and cuddles. He's not playing me. He's not yanking my chain. He's telling me what he needs. Frankly, he's begging for it. When I return his lovey and respond to his cries, I'm not coddling him at all.
And so I brought him in bed with me. Truth be told, I love having him in my bed. He was actually not very tired and spent some time laying on his back, looking around, blowing raspberries, and singing softly. He sat up a few times, and changed position. At some point, I went to sleep, and I guess he did, too, because I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to find him in a deep slumber. He didn't stir when I moved him to his crib, slept until 6:30 a.m., and woke happy.
What's the worst that could happen by bringing him to my bed? That he'll want to sleep there every night? Even if that's what happens, it won't be forever. It's not ideal, but it's fine. And if it's what he needs right now, then so be it.
As I've documented before, it's a lot of work for me to figure out what Riley needs and how to respond. It's often so fundamentally different from what I need and from what my first reaction is. It's hard to feel like I have two sets of rules to play by, that I need two separate (and very large) boxes in which to store my parenting tools. I'm constantly trying to jam everything into one box, to streamline, to simplify. I have to acknowledge that this is not always possible.