We continue to have sleep problems with Dylan, and I’m finding it really difficult to nail down exactly what’s going on because they’re ever-changing in nature. First he was resisting bedtime altogether, then he was sick, then he was fine but waking up because of an intermittent cough, then he was resisting naps, then he was waking up at 5 AM, then it was 3 AM, then there was this miraculous night when he slept just fine and because I am indescribably stupid and constantly believe whatever stage we’re in at this exact moment in time is what it’s going to be like FOREVER I was all, yayyyyy, sleeping problems fixed! And now for the last few nights he’s been waking up at 1 or 2 AM, completely wide-awake and cheery and ready to have a lengthy, spirited discussion about donkeys.

Basically this child is like a round-bellied, pudge-knuckled virus who continually mutates in order to more efficiently fuck with its host.

We all seem to be getting enough rest somehow, but man, I have to say I do not enjoy a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed toddler in the wee hours of the night normally devoted to REM cycles. A sleepy, just-needs-a-little-comfort warm ball of koala-clinginess is one thing, but a double-espresso Chatty McDonkeytalk is something else entirely. Last night I rocked him, sang to him, gave him milk, and eventually—judge me if you must—drugged his tiny ass with Benadryl in a frustrating two-hour stretch from 1-3 AM, while all the while JB issued forth great peaceful blubbery snores until I slid back into bed and “accidentally” kicked him, hard, in the meat of his upper thigh.

I’ve noticed that the person who gets up tends to run out of patience with the blatting child far before the person who obliviously sleeps through it all. Funny how that works, right? I was lying there staring at the ceiling mumbling, “What the fuck is his problem? Why won’t he sleep?” and JB yawned and theorized that maybe Dylan was just a little thirsty and didn’t know how to say so, at which point I exploded in a series of hisses.

“What do you mean, can’t say so? Have you not heard this child ask for milk? HE KNOWS HOW TO ASK FOR MILK. HE ASKS FOR MILK ALL THE TIME. It sounds like this: BABA? MILK? BABA? MILK? It’s the thing he likes to repeat the entire time you’re pouring the milk in the cup just to drive the point into your throbbing skull, IS THIS RINGING A BELL. And by the way I already gave him some goddamned milk while you were lying there sawing logs like a tranq-darted grizzly bear, motherfucker.”

(I will grudgingly acknowledge that I am not necessarily at my personal best at 3 AM.)

Now that we seem to have passed the very worst of the All Tantrums, All the Time stage, there is so much about Dylan that is deeply, almost painfully enjoyable right now. His tiny helium voice, his openmouthed excitement, his desire to be held and cuddled, his bustling rear end as he runs from one distraction to another. His mad dance skills. His love for reading along with Mouse Mess. His rosebud mouth and delicious soft cheeks.

It’s enough to make a person entirely resistant to the notion of him ever getting even one single day older, except for the faint and necessary hope that someday, just someday, he’ll start sleeping through the fucking night. Or at least be old enough to fasten to the bed with canvas restraints and a nice sturdy ball gag.


79 Responses to “The consistent character flaw”

  1. Tony on October 14th, 2009 7:17 am

    *In Darth Vader voice* The Elephant Seal is strong in this one.

  2. scantee on October 14th, 2009 7:34 am

    Wow, this is exactly what I’m going through with my almost two year old. We have tried EVERYTHING, including another round of sleep training, and nothing has worked. Like Dylan, his problems are a moving target: sometimes it’s hard to get him to sleep, sometimes its that he wakes up a million times during the night, sometimes its that he only wakes up once but is up for hours, sometimes its that he wakes for the day very early, and on and on and on.

    I think I could deal if it weren’t for the fact that I am due with my next babe in a few weeks. The thought of managing two kids with sleep issues makes me almost cry. The only good thing is that my husband handles most of my son’s wake ups, I seriously don’t have your kindheartedness to let him sleep through the wake-ups. It’s not as if I get to sleep while he’s up with him but at least I get to lay there.

    By the way, our current round of sleep woes started when my son moved to a regular bed after crawling out of his crib AND learned how to open doors. Now that he can go and do whatever he wants at night he is an absolute nightmare. Things to look forward to!

  3. Jenny on October 14th, 2009 7:35 am

    These are my favorite posts. They make me laugh out loud. I feel bad for you, but so happy that I’m not alone.

  4. Another Jenny on October 14th, 2009 7:54 am

    I so completely feel your pain…my daughter, who will be three next month, has never slept well. Last night we didn’t get her to sleep until nearly 10 p.m. (after starting “bedtime” at 7:45), then she woke at 2:30 and 6 a.m. and only wanted mommy.

    I keep telling myself it’s a phase, but son of a gun I’m tired!

  5. Cookie on October 14th, 2009 8:15 am

    Amen to that. Sleep. I miss it so much. Nick consistently wakes up sometime between 1 and 3. Sometimes he also wakes up earlier and later. Some night he’s up for the entire time between 1 and 3. Usually he’s pretty easy to get back to sleep, but sometimes he’s ready to play. Other nights he’s impossible to get to sleep and we spend an hour trying to calm him down. Last night he wanted to get up and get dressed instead of going to sleep.

  6. Anonymous on October 14th, 2009 8:33 am

    For the last 3 nights we have been up for an hour or more at 4am listening to angry screams. We are trying to stop bringing my 16 month old son into bed with us (cause no one sleeps then) Last night I was sitting next to his cot listening to him crying and shaking with anger….punctuated by periods of quiet when he puts in this soother for a little suck and some pitiful breath catching sobs.(You know the ones!)Then just when I think he is drifting off to sleep he remembers why he’s awake and so pissed off and starts again. I got back to bed a little after 5am and then he woke again at 6am…so defeated and exhausted I brought him back to bed where we all slept like the dead for a whole hour before the alarm went of at 7am.

    Don’t start me on the creaky floorboards that wake him up everytime I try to sneak out of his room in the middle of the night!!

    Love the blog btw.

    Your boys are very cute!


    PS It will be better tonight…we have to believe that :)

  7. Scott Dierdorf on October 14th, 2009 9:22 am

    I am going to make a “Chatty McDonkeytalk” t-shirt for a certain pre-schooler that lives in my house. Still LOLing.

  8. Marna on October 14th, 2009 9:22 am

    What’s the pediatrician say? Have you had him in perhaps for a sleep study to rule out something weird?

  9. Andrea on October 14th, 2009 9:28 am

    Oh I feel for you…and I really don’t have any advice because I’m living it myself, but one thought did pop into my head. Would Dylan understand if you told him he could be awake and play quietly in his crib, but Mama was going back to sleep? Or would that just cause a shit storm? Good luck, and if you find something that works, PLEASE share.

  10. patois on October 14th, 2009 9:48 am

    I could sleep through anything. Alas, my husband could not. So I went to drugging him with Benadryl instead of name-the-random-sleepless-child.

    (And a sleep study really makes me laugh. I’m sorry. It does. I’m a bad person.)

  11. Robin on October 14th, 2009 9:54 am

    If I didn’t already have one of my very own, I would request an action figure of Chatty McDonkeytalk. Brilliant.

    I can’t even write about our sleep issues anymore because I’m so brain-dead I can’t remember what they are.

  12. MichelleH on October 14th, 2009 10:10 am

    I feel guilty for being the commenter who resented your fun life the other day- in my own defense it was because this is my life too. Day in and day out I am either not sleeping or spending my waking hours devising strategies to get more sleep. And I’ve only been doing it for 13 months, you’ve been at this one way longer. I have not resorted to the Benadryl, but believe me when I tell you I will NEEEEEEEVER judge you for it…

    I feel like I am not at my personal best ever, these days. I know what you mean in your follow up comment about JB. My husband wants to help but the fact is, I am more efficient at taking care of it, so his radar starts to lapse into “I’m not needed here” mode and then he is snoring as I stomp through the bedroom all night. Then I resent the hell out him and am a bitch to both man and child the next day and the cycle continues… Grasp every bit of fun you can, because I know what dealing with this is like and it suuuuuuucks.

    It truly is weird how they can do all this and be so utterly delightful and fun with all the new things they are doing and how entertaining and funny they are. This has to be some sort of evolutionary thing-otherwise I’m sure I would put him in a basket and send him down the river.

  13. Courtney on October 14th, 2009 11:09 am

    OH man, you guys are having a rough fall, between puking and sleep training relapses. Ask you morther, is this karma coming to get you??? What did you do to deserve this 3am bushittyness?!

  14. Maria on October 14th, 2009 11:26 am

    I can’t count how many times I’ll tell Tony what a rough night I had with the kids (usually just the 23 mo old) and his response is, “oh really?”. So frustrating. But I’m in the same boat as you. Is it worth it to wake him up when I’m already awake? Why should we both suffer? We’ve gone through quite a few spurts of these…it gets better, then worse, then better again. Question though- you’re not far off from that time, so maybe right now it’s his 2 year molars slowly creeping their way in? That’s what I was telling myself last night when I got up SIX TIMES with my little dude. That’s right Husband, SIX TIMES.

  15. meagan on October 14th, 2009 12:05 pm

    i would say either keep him from napping during the day or wake him up after a very short nap to help further sleeping at night. also once u know he’s ok in the bed when he wakes just let him cry it out. that’s what i eventually had to do with my little girl. i had to just sit in bed and repeat to myself she was okay just bugging me for attention. also if u want to do the let them cry it out thing ear plugs come in very handy.

  16. Amy W. on October 14th, 2009 12:23 pm

    I’m right there with you. My 2 1/2 year old woke up at 3:30 this morning. Was so disruptive at our Music Together class that we had to leave. And refuses to nap today.

    I have had two shots of rum chased with Juicy Juice (and normally, I can barely finish a beer). So, just got done making an appointment for myself with a therapist because I think I’m going out of my freaking mind right now.

    Oh, and my husband, while pulling his weight in the night-waking department, still just doesn’t get the pressure-cooker of emotion, conflicting will, and lack of sleep going on while he’s at work.

  17. Erin on October 14th, 2009 12:51 pm

    I just want to say thank you for letting me laugh at your expense. Not at the toddler-awake-in-the-night aspect, but the wit with which your shared it.

  18. Rachel on October 14th, 2009 1:12 pm

    Thank you for this post! We spent two hours wrestling with our 14 month old daughter during the wee hours last night. Like you, we’ve tried everything, and we cannot get her to sleep through the night consistently for ANYTHING. Sometimes it really feels as though I’m losing my mind. My husband often wonders what is wrong with our child and why she won’t sleep, but it’s so nice to know that we are far from the only ones out there with this struggle!

  19. Sarah on October 14th, 2009 1:47 pm

    – Use a sleep sack so he can’t throw his covers off and get cold. (Halo makes nice big ones that will fit him and even makes up to a 4T size sack now).
    – Get rid of bottles. This worked really well for my son (16 months). He was waking up to have one. After a few weeks of not giving him any night bottles he slept much better.
    -Don’t get him out of bed after you put him down for the night. Lay him down, pat his back, but don’t talk/sing/engage him.
    -Split the night into 2 shifts. My husband takes the early (until 3AM) shift, and I take the 3 until morning. If he does wake up we know who is dealing with it. (And sure, I do have to wake my husband up for it, but it really solved that laying there feeling that “I should just go do it” feeling that I had before we split the night. I am oddly able to go back to sleep now knowing that it is his part of the night shift, even if I do have to poke him to wake him up).
    -Move dinner a little later and see if a full belly will keep him sleeping longer.
    -Turn the heat down in the house. The cooler it is the better my son sleeps (especially with the sleep sack on).
    -Turn the monitor down. You know he is ok once you’ve gone and checked on him. He is alright to discuss donkeys on his own or cry a bit. He won’t hurt anything or himself in his crib.

    Loved this post. Hilarious!

  20. Diana on October 14th, 2009 2:39 pm

    Not much to add, except: You are a doll of a mum, and a great GREAT writer too! Lucky JB and sons!

  21. Kami Lewis Levin on October 14th, 2009 5:26 pm

    yup. And just to add to the fun, try traveling with the kids, on a plane, to a different time zone. That’ll really be a riot. Sometimes in the wee hours I feel like my baby (19 mos) is my nemesis…Go the fuck to sleep!

  22. Catriona on October 15th, 2009 4:53 am

    Sorry your little ones have been so barfy sick. Hope it’s not H1N1 – we three had it and it was notsomuchfun. Sending healthy vibes your way.

    Oh, and Chatty McDonkeytalk? Priceless!

  23. Gleemonex on October 15th, 2009 7:15 am

    “And by the way I already gave him some goddamned milk while you were lying there sawing logs like a tranq-darted grizzly bear, motherfucker.”

    Oh my GOD — this right here! Simultaneous laughter/groans of painful recognition.

  24. victoria on October 15th, 2009 8:44 am

    Maybe it takes a clueless childless commenter to ask this dumb question, but I’ll do it anyway: “Since you know he’s healthy, why not leave him alone? He’ll eventually fall back asleep.”

    If the baby monitor is keeping you awake, then turn it off. (Before they were invented, people used to raise perfectly healthy kids without them. Turning it off once in a while wouldn’t make you a bad mom. Or, at least, not to me.)

  25. Laurie on October 15th, 2009 5:34 pm

    You are, as always, hilarious! You’ve definitely captured the night-time moments/feelings/frustrations/love… I hesitated to comment, because I’ve got a non-sleeper too. He’s 3 and a bit and has only slept from 7 to 7 four times!! As he gets older the wakings are less bothersome. It also is not such a big deal as he is an only and we don’t mind bringing him to bed with us around midnight. Keeps the rest of the night quiet. sigh…

  26. Jen on October 15th, 2009 8:01 pm

    Oh man. My husband likes to groggily roll over and say “What’s her problem??” LIKE I KNOW??? IF I KNEW, SHE’D BE BACK TO SLEEP NOW, WOULDN’T SHE?

    Definitely meat-of-upper-thigh-kick-worthy.

  27. Kirsten on October 16th, 2009 2:27 pm

    Thank you for making me feel less alone as I navigate through this same terrain. “double-espresso Chatty McDonkey-Talk” is the only thing that has made me smile this week. It’s Friday.

    The end.

  28. Penny on October 16th, 2009 2:50 pm


    The idea of a “work/life” balance is a joke – there is no balance to it, it’s more like a seesaw perpetually in motion.

  29. Penny on October 16th, 2009 2:51 pm

    Oh, oops. I commented on the wrong post. I meant this for your work-family post.

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