Friday 2 January 2009


If you give a mouse a cookie

Once upon a time, we had a son that slept well. From when we sleep trained him at six months to the age of two years and ten months, he regularly slept twelve hours a night. Sure, napping was always a problem and stopped completely with the arrival of his sister when he was nineteen months, but we could always count on good nighttime sleep from him.

This all came to an abrupt end in Sept, when he figured out that he was able to climb out of his cot. We had just moved Maia from our bedroom into his, and with a captive audience, he found that by leaving his cot he was able to entertain her more effectively. He started turning on the light moments after we left the room so she could better see his antics. We removed the lightbulb. Dark did not deter him. He would empty all of the books out of his bookcase into her cot. We removed he bookcase. He removed all the clothes from their dressers into her cot. He would then climb into her cot with her and they would shriek with laughter throwing the clothes around the room. We could hear him in the middle of the night demanding, 'Maia, wake up!' for more playing. They were five hours down on their normal sleep patterns and the utter devastation in the room every morning was soul destroying. Maia was a total nightmare without her sleep. So I had to move her into my sewing room. I was so angry and upset I could barely cope.

Without his sister, he stopped trashing the room, but would continually leave. He still went to sleep without too much of a problem, but would 'visit' with increasing regularity. After we were in bed, he would sneak out and watch DVDs all night, or play with his toys. His daytime behaviour completely deteriorated to the point where he was so sleep deprived he was a crazed zombie lunatic. This is the clinical term. The living room light was made inaccessible, the TV unplugged. He still came out, but now woke us up and pestered us instead. The most outlandish demands were made in the wee small hours. Eventually he would climb into our bed, but not sleep. He likes to lie on top of my head.

Those of you who personally know Jamie, or read my blog, know that he has some issues with control. Specifically, he can't cope with not being in charge. This is compounded by his need to have incredibly specific things done throughout the day. A very regimented bedtime routine has evolved in response to his demands. Now he has become incredibly hung up on the number of songs (2), the number of kiss and cuddles (1) and me leaving (1). Before I have even sung the bloody songs, he is asking for more songs. After the kiss and cuddle, he is asking for more songs. If we ignore him and leave, he runs frantically after us, screaming 'I would like a song, I would like a song'. If we capitulate with a frustrated 'last one' through clenched teeth, secondary kiss and cuddles are demanded. Then more songs. If it's not the godforsaken songs, it's something else. Quite literally, one of his most frequent pleadings is, 'I would like something else'.

Bewildered about the title of this post? If you give a mouse a cookie is a book we read when we were in the States. Brief synopsis is a mouse, who wants a cookie, then wants a glass of milk, wants a straw, wants a napkin to wipe his mouth, needs to check a mirror for milk mustache, after seeing his reflection wants to cut his hair, needs to sweep his hair up, has to sweep the whole house up, wants to have a nap, needs a story before the nap, wants to draw a picture like the story, wants to sign his name, wants to hang it on the refrigerator, wants a glass of milk. And repeat. This is what it's like putting Jamie to bed.

Due to the escalation of the nighttime demands and hysteria, coupled with daytime demands and hysteria (and the not eating) we have recently returned to the play therapist. Yes, that's right... Jamie has a therapist, and yes, we are returning to her for a second time. I am mortified and ashamed that my three year old needs a therapist, but I am trying so hard, I want things to be easier with him and for him. Steven and I are at odds about what to do. I am in the camp of ignore him 100% completely, return him to bed. Steven is of the camp of sing the flipping songs, it takes less time before he stays there and actually falls asleep. The play therapist has categorically advised the ignore and return method, and after a disasterous New Year's Eve culminating with me standing in the doorway with my back turned for 45 minutes (after 90 minutes of putting him back from me and songs from Steven) I made Steven try the ignore and return method last night.

He got hung up on wanting more milk. Milliseconds after being put back in bed he was up and chasing us towards the door, sobbing 'I would like milk. I would like milk'. Sometimes we made it through the threshhold, sometimes he caught up before we even made it out the door. Time after time he was returned to bed without a word from us. It's not a game, it's no fun for him, he's hysterical. Steven and I took turns. About two and a half hours in, he changed from milk to cuddles. There is nothing more heartbreaking than hearing him scream, 'Mum, I need a cuddle, it would be nice!' over and over again. After three and a half hours and more than 300 trips back to bed (I'm not joking), he was in such a state that he wouldn't even lie down, he made himself rigid. He was throwing his full body weight against the door if it was shut and was hitting himself in the face. I could not continue, I stood at the side of his bed and he literally keeled over and fell asleep after 15 seconds. I spent the following four hours googling 'toddler won't stay in bed', 'toddler anxiety disorder', 'toddler OCD' and 'mum loses it, emigrates to Brasil'. I am jet lagged, I could not sleep. Just as I was drifting off at 3AM, an apparition appeared at the side of the bed. 'I would like milk, I would like milk' he said. 150 times. He lay on my head. We fell asleep at 4:30. At 9, I awoke to the sounds of 'I would like milk, I would like milk'.

Today, we wouldn't let him watch any TV or DVDs (this is very important to him), explaining that when he stayed in his bed at nighttime he would be allowed to watch his programmes again. We discussed numerous times today why he wasn't getting to watch TV, explaining that bedtime was important and that he needed to stay in his bed. I ran through his bedtime routine, saying, 'I will do this, and say that, and sing this, and do that, but when I say night night it's time to stay in your room'. He agreed to all of this and seemed to comprehend. He received new DVDs for Christmas from Uncle Darren and Auntie Jennifer, and was told he could watch them tomorrow if he stayed in his bed. This was exciting to him and I had high hopes for tonight.

But tonight he fixated on 'I would like to talk to you'. He had nothing to say but kept repeating that phrase over and over. Put to bed, he immediately got up and chased me to the door. We only managed 30 minutes of return and ignore before I, in despair, stood in the doorway again until he fell asleep.

So what's the point of this overly long post? Frankly, it's a cry for help. The only time I have to work on my business is at night when the kids are sleeping, and now he's not sleeping I'm struggling to get anything done. And I'm struggling not to resent him, first I lost my sewing room and now my sewing time. As hard as it is to share with the world how rubbish I am at this parenting malarkey, can anyone offer any advice?


  1. Wow!.. I saw your post on craftster & after reading your post.. ahhh!.. Someone else that beats their head against the wall too!.. Thank goodness there is another out there - granted I dont have it nearly as bad as you.. but I know how you feel!.. (the jacket is amazing by the way!).. Our all but 3 year old boy (we have 4 children - 9, 5, 3, 1) he's been a troublesome one since birth.. that look on his face when he popped out the hole was enough for me!.. up 4-5 times a night since birth.. until he hit 2 right before his brother was born.. finally started sleeping through the night.. like night & day.. still miserable as can be at times.. wakes up crying.. screaming.. nap.. wakes up screaming.. temper tantrums like you wouldnt believe.. repeats the same thing.. over and over and over.. really.. the head beating on the wall might feel better than the pounding in my head.. he's always woken up like clock work every morning.. 6am.. & the baby has followed suit.. 6:15 he's ready to go.. leaves no time for anything.. by 9pm im exhausted.. no time for sewing.. no time for anything crafty.. no mom time... it gets old quick!.. love em to death but there is a point where you wonder what happened!.. Needless to say.. I may not have the advice you're looking for.. but know.. across the pond.. I sit as frustrated as you!
    -Erika (craftsomnia) on craftster

  2. I'm so sorry I don't have any advice, just huge sympathy. I just wanted to say that you seem to be doing everything right and you are a good mother - you must remember that. Also he must still be jet-lagged which will make it worse.

    By the way, the mushroom booties on my niece - soooo cute!

  3. OH! what a nightmare! so sorry you're going through this. I don't know if it will help but a book that I used as a good reference was "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" you don't have to read the whole book, it's sort of a reference, it will ask you "if your child is ___ age and doing XYZ read these pages" it has been a godsend for so many people I know. I think you're on the right track with the therapist and returning to bed, as painful as it is. (111diana777 - from Craftster)

  4. Thanks so much for taking the time to post comments.

    Erika, it's nice to know I'm not alone although I'm sorry you have a difficult child too!

    Nickyp, thanks for passing on your sympathy. I'm glad you like the booties, the mushroom ones are porbably my favourite!

    Diana, thanks for telling about thast book, there are so many sleep books out there it's hard to know where to start! I have read a couple and they are so contradictory... *off to check amazon*

  5. I hope that last night was a better one. I would think this ironic if I wasn't so frustrated that our 2.5year old is wandering about the house (8.30pm) and when challenged accuses me of frigtening her. It is hard to be kind to her when I'm totally knackered and just want five mins when I'm me....worse It's my falt because she's poorly I let her have a little sleep this afternoon-NEVER AGAIN!

  6. Oohh poor mom, sorry you are havin sooo much troubles. We went had troubles with our oldest and now my 4 won't go to bed without me snuggling her to sleep (but she still sneaks in my bed in the middle of the night).

    My advise...follow your heart AND your head. You love him but you can still do some book work for more help.

    Good luck!

  7. hey amanda, its your SIL liz here. im sorry you're having so many troubles with jamie & sleep. i dont have much valuable advice (sorry) but with conor we let him cry it out and had to keep putting him back in his bed when he got out. its so much harder when they are jamie & liam's age. much more complicated. i'd be pulling my hair out too. i hope it gets better.

    it was great to see you all. happy new year :)

  8. Amanda, I linked here thru a tutes site, but your post reminded me of my 12yo dd (thank God she likes to sleep now.) She has bi-polar disorder, which in children is often manifested in extreme (with a capital EEEEE!) control issues. Persistent was her strongest characteristic - she never gave up on anything - ever. We only got peace for naps and bedtime when we took her door off and replaced it with a "dutch door." Basically, just a door only 4 feet tall, that we could latch from the outside, so it was locked, but we could see over the top to talk to her. DH made it from an old door. She didn't like it, but got used to it. We used it for about a year till the problem resolved. I finally discovered her diagnosis online when she was 6 and she started on Lithium. A lifesaver for us and her. She is so much happier today. God Bless you.

  9. Thanks again for all your comments, sympathy and advice! After another week of out and out warfare (including a gate being erected last night), it's just broken my heart and spirit seeing him in that state of rage and anguish. Tonight I went against all the professional advice I've received and read him stories until he fell asleep. He went off peacefully and hasn't ventured out yet despite falling out of bed...