How do you sleep train a seven year old? First let me answer the question of WHY one would need to sleep train a seven year old.
Because, ladies and gentlemen, I am lazy and have spent the last seven years doing whatever would grant me the most sleep. There it is.
So, after seven years, it occurred to me that perhaps if I suffer through a few nights of inconvenience I will reap the reward of better, longer, more comfortable sleep for all of us.
The problem, you see, is that for, well, forever, Olivia wakes up in the middle of the night, realizes she’s not touching me and seeks me out, coming to the side of my bed, whispering, “Mom? Mom? Mommy?”
I roll over, see her there and, in my hazy laziness of just wanting to go back to sleep, pull her into the twin bed in which I sleep (because I’m Lucy Ricardo and it’s 1959.) She then demands that I take her nasty pull up off and she strips out of her pajamas.
Umm. Not the most pleasant way to spend a few minute each and every night. Not to mention that once she is in bed with me, now that she’s GIANT, or, well 48 pounds and 48 inches tall, there just isn’t that much room to spare and I spend the rest of the night on my side, which ends up making my hip or my should ache.
Not a good situation and one that I am ready to fix.
How, though? I can’t exactly put her in her bed and just put up the baby gate. Wait. Can I do that? I’ve considered it but I fear the commotion caused by that would wake everyone up and no one wants that.
So we’re going to start slow and see where it takes us. I’m hoping it takes us all the way to everyone going to sleep at a decent hour, sleeping for seven or eight or even twelve hours each night and not waking up to bed hop.
So one afternoon during our snow days last week, I was making the beds and both A and O were in the room with me.
I mentioned to Olivia that it would be great if, when she wakes up at night, she just rolls over and goes back to sleep.
She smiled at me and said, “La la la.” She says that when she’s uncomfortable with a conversation.
I pressed on. “Livie,” I explained, “I love you but I don’t like to share a bed with you. It’s not comfortable with me and it makes me grouchy in the morning when I don’t sleep well at night. You guys don’t like it when Mom is grouchy, right?”
She nodded wisely and went back to doing no-handed somersaults onto the mattress that sits on the floor of the room she and her sister share with me.
That night, as usual, around midnight, Olivia sat up in the bed she shares with Alyssa and called out, “Mom?”
I whispered back, “I’m right here, just lay down and go back to sleep.”
She laid back down. Hooray, I thought. Except, wait, what was that sound? Sniff…sniff…sniff, sniff, sniff.
Damn. I called out, “Okay, come on over.”
She traverse the whole six feet that were separating us and climbed into bed with me, but only after taking off her pull up and her pajamas. I pulled her close and whispered that it was okay, no one was mad at her and we’d try again tomorrow.
So, night one? Fail.
The next night, she didn’t wake up until 4:30. I told her it wasn’t morning yet and to go back to sleep. And guess what? She didn’t cry or sniffle or anything. She rolled over and went back to sleep.
The third night, she woke up at 11:30. Oh, hell no! I thought. Instead of calling to her from my cozy bed, I got up, crossed the room and knelt down beside her, telling her quietly to just lay down. I rubbed her back for a couple of minutes, whispering that it was still very much night time and she needed to go back to sleep.
This has been the routine on and off for the past week or so. If she wakes up, I go to her, settle her back down, rub her back or her hair for a few seconds and then whisper that I’m just going to go use the bathroom and I’ll be back soon. After walking away, I detour to my bed and we all settle in for the rest of the night.
It’s sort of slow going but the sleep I am getting is better than it’s been in years. I don’t have jabby elbow and knees in my back, I don’t have a palm on my face. I don’t have a hard head between my shoulder blades.
If this works, I think both A and O might actually be in their own room in, oh, a year or so. It could totally happen.