Adventures in Bedsitting

Buoyed either by unflinching optimism, sheer stupidity, or some parental urge to hit the self-destruct button, we nixed the boys’ cribs and switched them into toddler beds.

I think this photo says it all.

Dylan is simultaneously delighted to be in his fire truck bed, and thumbing his nose — okay, picking it — at our thought that they’d be ecstatic to lie quietly in them.

The thing is, I’m not sure why we did this, in the end, except that it was one of two looming milestones and we sure as hell aren’t that excited about the end of diapers (seriously, think about it: In diapers, your kid can just sort of… roll with it… through any long car trip, restaurant meal, Gymboree class, museum excursion, park outing, flight, etc. No diapers means chaos). Our kids weren’t climbing out of their cribs. They would often go into hysterics at being put in there for naps and nighttime, screaming and holding out their arms for us and looking as pathetic and put-upon as two dudes could, but after five minutes of us ignoring them it would give way to laughter, chatter, and passing toys back and forth. This then led to one more crying jag once the better negotiator (Liam) ended up with everything — including all blankets and pillows — in his crib and then thoughtfully fell asleep, leaving Dylan with nothing. And occasionally they’d try and climb into their cribs, or stand on a truck in their crib and lean cutely out, not boosted enough to topple but still not wisely. We were probably on borrowed time. Apparently once Mohammed sees the mountain, Mohammed decides to hightail it there so as not to prolong the suspense.

Unless that mountain is a training potty, in which case, Mohammad camps out somewhere near the mountain for as long as possible until a pack of rabid wolves chases him the final 100 yards.

So we ordered the beds before Thanksgiving, then found a bunch of excellent reasons why we shouldn’t assemble them yet: We didn’t want to ruin Thanksgiving, we didn’t want to ruin Christmas, we didn’t want to ruin our lives, we didn’t want to ruin Finally one Friday night a couple weeks ago, Kevin and I looked at each other and shrugged and said, “Well, whatever, now’s as good as time as any.” Note: This is probably dumb. Prepping your kid, getting them excited about proper beds, showing them books about it… that is probably the recommended way. But we knew our boys lit up like firecrackers when they got to climb around in our bed, contrasting with the theatrical tragedy of when we put them down in their cribs, so we figured they were trying to tell us something. In retrospect, I suspect they were saying was, “SUCKERS.”

The dudes could not have been more delighted. They wanted nothing more than to spend all their time on those things. Most parents have a problem with the kids not staying in the room; ours are perfectly thrilled to do that. They just won’t stay in their  beds. As soon as the lights go off and the door is pulled to, they think that’s CARNIVAL TIME.

“BYE,” Dylan said pointedly, waving us out the door as they burrowed under their covers. As soon as we were gone, or in one case before my second foot was even fully out the door, they were up: golfing, shooting basketballs around the room, trading beds, laughing, scampering. Every time we went in the room and got them back in their beds, they’d look at us and go, “Night night, BYEEEE,” and the cycle would continue. The first night, they didn’t pass out until 12:30. And when they woke up at 7:30, they padded into our bedroom — we handle mutual sleeping time by closing their room off to the rest of the house, but leaving open the doors to the jack-and-jill bathroom that connects our rooms, so that if they wake up they can only come toward us and thus guarantee we’ll hear them — with looks of utter AMAZEMENT on their faces, like, “WHAT IS THIS WONDEROUS FREEDOM.”

The second night, after they quieted down at 10:30, Kevin went in and found Dylan passed out across the foot of Liam’s bed, and Liam passed out on the wood bedroom floor, peering out under the closed door (which he had slammed himself; while we’re still awake, we close off the bathroom and leave the main door ajar, again to force them toward us if they decide to escape). I have to note, at this point, that he wasn’t screaming or calling for us. I think he was just staring out under it because he could. They love to do that. They are peeping Toms. Our friend was changing her clothes in the guest bathroom and Liam peered under the door and said, “Shirt off,” and our friend said, “Um, can he see me? Because that IS what I was doing.” I am raising creeps. Can we call them curious? Let’s.

Even if they’re yawning their faces off, they never stay in bed the first, oh, four times. It’s like the freedom to get up is more important than their utter inability to see straight. It’s the same at naptime, when they often don’t fall asleep until close to 3 p.m., assuming they do at all. Last night, Dylan finally went at about 10:30 and Liam spent two hours tossing and turning. I was spying on the monitor, so I would intercept him before he came outside, although half the time he would climb into Dylan’s bed and kneel over him and do things like yank the pillow away and then be like, “Dyyyyylan, why sleeeeping?” Or he wanted to read a book. Or he claimed he needed a diaper change (he didn’t) and then asked to use the toilet, and then sat down for a nanosecond before standing up and announcing, “I’m done.” Or he’d decide he needed to change his pajamas. The poor kid was actually trying to sleep and just couldn’t. So he wanted his buddy to get up and keep him company, and that is NOT HAPPENING on my watch. Although I have hallucinated that a few times — the other morning I heard noise at 4 a.m. and thought both boys were up, but in fact, it was just Liam and then a pile of blankets on the floor.

It’s a brave new world that’s come with some residual crabbyness due to boys who generally aren’t as rested as they could be, but I will say this: They never scream when we put them down anymore, and Dylan wakes up about 50 percent less in the middle of the night begging for milk. Possibly because of those extra exertions, but still. Eventually they will learn, right? … Right?

I hope so, because the big struggle is that lately, one of the first things they do when they’re alone is remove all their clothes. Diapers included. And that is a first for them. (We also had to remove the diaper pail, because their favorite hobby was putting things in it that don’t belong there, and in one case, dismantling it.) Something about being in these beds has, I guess, triggered their desire to change their own pants. So far, this only once has ended in a messy, smeared disaster, and I’m grateful I can still only count those troubles on one finger. We’re trying to apply consequences to this behavior — toys and other distractions get removed from the room if their diapers get removed from their bodies. This might backfire, but we’re not sure what else to do. I have heard the duct-taping-the-diaper thing from plenty of other parents, but it’s just not something I am comfortable with doing. And I don’t mean that in a judgy way. Whatever other people are good with is their business. It’s like wearing flip-flops. You want to, go for it. But it’s not for me, and here’s why: For one, it feels like a Band-Aid — instead of teaching them not to, you remove the ability to choose. I do’t want to hide a toy because the boys will not want to share it; I would rather make them figure out how to share it, and only remove it if they fight or pitch a hissy so that they understand that not sharing leads to worse things. I never took away their walker because I was nervous they’d run it into the wall, or lose their balance; rather, I showed them how not to run it into the wall, and helped them keep their balance, because isn’t that the point? To learn it, not avoid it? But for another, I just can’t reconcile wrapping duct tape around my kid’s torso, and having to cut them out and try not to  nick them while they wriggle. What if it gets on their skin? What if they pick at it, what if they have a reaction to it, what if somehow they can rip at it and start gnawing? My kids STILL put everything in their mouths. I just don’t know if introducing an extra component to this situation helps.

And not for nothing, my kids are resourceful. Escapists. I suspect if I strapped them into a diaper, we’d find out real quick how easy it is to pull one apart from the bottom and leave nothing but a sticky silver cummerbund.

Of course, all of THAT just makes me realize that Mount Potty is pretty much around the corner from here, and the boys might like to do some sight-seeing.

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6 responses to “Adventures in Bedsitting

  1. As an alternative to taping them in, have you tried putting the nappies on backwards? Especially if you only do it at nighttime, it might buy you a few weeks grace.

    Disclaimer : I have really placid girls.

  2. I am terrified of the toddler bed. My husband told me tonight he thinks it’s time to deep six the crib because my son is asking for one of us to sit on his bed (which obviously can’t be done if it’s a crib) at night. But ours never really learned to fall asleep in his crib. He sits in his glider chair with one of us to read books, then we turn out the light and he falls asleep in our lap. So maybe the bed will actually help him go to sleep on his own? Who knows. I’m amazed at how patient you are about the whole up until 12:30 thing.

  3. First, yes, they’ll learn. You’re being patient and consistent and allowing them to be their own persons and all those good things. (My son is eight, and has slept in his own double bed since he was three; went through the transitional changes you describe; now he sleeps like a champ.) Second, I’d never even HEARD of people duct-taping diapers — really? Really?? I can’t even…… that’s unbelievably cruel to me, with the cutting it off and sticky residue and basic You WILL Do What I Say And You Have No Option…… yuck. Anyway, two suggestions: for the getting naked, you could follow Dana Carvey’s example and have designated Naked Time. Worked for us; it has the added bonus of being a privilege you can threaten to take away (e.g. “I’ve asked you nicely three times to put your toy away and come to the table; if you don’t do it soon, then you lose Naked Time today.”) For the settling down to sleep, you could try low music. I have a CD of harp music that’s like Ambien for my son.

  4. Laughed until I cried, Heather. Your dudes are a pretty special pair. I love reading about them and picturing them in these situations.

  5. Ugh… Potty training has been 5 months of stress for me. My daughter was showing all the classic readiness signs at age 2 yrs 2 months, and even though we started in late July, she is STILL not completely there yet. I know all kids are different, but I think those readiness signs are BUNK. If you don’t think the dudes are ready, then they’re not ready. Don’t let anyone pressure you into starting potty training before you, the husband, and the dudes are all ready.

    I totally approve of your strategy of giving your kids the power to choose and decide– stick with it, and don’t resort to duct tape unless the smeary messes become a nightly/daily occurrence. And, keep up the hilarious updates!!!!!!!!!!

  6. My aunt said that she took footie pajamas, cut the feet parts off, and then put the pajamas on her kids backwards, with the zipper up the back. They couldn’t get out, and therefore couldn’t take their diapers off. I don’t know if that’s as problematic as duct taping, as far as the lack of freedom goes for the boys, but it’s my only thought to share. Our baby has been out of her crib and in a regular bed (of her own, not cosleeping) since about 8 months. She still hasn’t figured out how to get out of it, which I am very pleased with.