Posted by: Hannah | 10/17/2010

on the edge

It’s 2AM and I’m up again.  For the last two months, Thing #2 has developed this habit of night waking.  Not just waking.  But whining, and crying, and demanding drinks of water, to have his stereo on, a different stuffy, his blankets tucked (or untucked) on whims.

At first this was happening at 5AM, which was ungodly but manageable, and I’d get him what he wanted and we’d all go back to bed for another hour or so.

Then it started happening at 3AM, and again at 5AM.  Which was horrid because once I’m hauled out of bed, it takes me a good solid hour to get back to sleep.  If I’m lucky.  So for the last six weeks or so I’ve not been sleeping much past 3AM.  After usually only getting to bed in the first place around midnight.  I’m one of those people that needs at least six hours’ sleep to maintain a grip on sanity.  Seven is better.  After eight, I’m a lovely person.

After three, I’m borderline abusive.

My temper is short.  My impulses are erratic.  My patience is non-existent.  And I’ve had a terrible week – because now the whining starts at 11pm, before I even go to bed, and continues every two hours until I finally give up and start my day, bleary-eyed at 6:30, making a bowl of Shreddies and pouring out the first of endless cups of milk that will have two sips taken before getting left on the table to sour.

Thing #2 is two and a half.  And I’m broken.

I love him.  Right now and for several weeks, I do not like him.  I’m not alone.  Thing #1 burst into tears the other day after another one of his little brother’s tantrums and wailed “He’s not like my little brother anymore!  He’s not right!  I can’t like him!”  And we just had an epic battle that ended with him sitting on the back porch in his pajamas.  At 2AM.  There was a spanking.  There was a solid half hour of his screaming “I said YES MOMMY” at the top of his lungs because I refused to sit next to him and watch him go back to sleep.  Hubby didn’t help me.  He didn’t even get up.  It was me and that kid and I’m not proud of the way I handled it at all, and now he’s asleep and I’m sitting up in the dark, telling this story I am ashamed of in the hopes that maybe, when I reread it tomorrow in the cold light of day, that I can figure out a way to deal with this kid’s moods and his stubbornness in a rational way that works.


Turns out when you have a hysterical two year old on your hands and nothing else will even get them to stop screaming long enough to draw breath, taking them outside at 2AM and saying “OK, if your bed isn’t to your liking you can sleep in the yard” will actually shock them into silence.  I know that this isn’t effective parenting.  I don’t know what is.  He’s not in a crib anymore so I can’t just leave him in the crib until he screams himself to sleep – someone has to get up with him because he can open his door, and it’s not safe for him to be wandering the house at night.  I can’t let him co-sleep because he’s one of those toddlers who kicks, and turns horizontally, and shoves, and pushes and thus no one in the bed gets any sleep at all (him included).  I tried putting a little bed on the floor next to ours, because I remember Thing #1 going through this phase at around this age, and we had a deal that he could sleep in our room as long as he started the night in his own bed and didn’t wake anyone if he got up in the night and switched places.  It worked.  It’s not working this time.  If I ignore him, he screams.  If I tuck him back in and tell him “nighty-night”, he screams.  If I say “please dear, everyone is tired and it’s sleepy time now” he screams “NO MOMMY YOU NOT TIRED ANYMORE” over and over again until I could get in the car and drive, either to Mexico or head first into a tree.

Please, I’ll take any suggestions.  ANYTHING.  I’m getting desperate.  I feel very alone in this.  Sleep deprivation from dealing with an infant is one thing – it’s a head grind, sure, but you expect it.  Sleep deprivation from a very verbal two year old who bloody well knows that it is bedtime… it’s awful.  AWFUL.




  1. The reason I subscribe to your posts is because you tell it like it is – you go into that dark tunnel of the early years of motherhood and see it for what it can be: exasperating, maddening, exhausting and bone-chillingly lonely. Especially in those early hours of the morning when sanity has not set in yet. I have been there with you. In my first book: It’s a Mom: What you should know about the early years of motherhood – I talked about these feelings exactly. And I got a lot of resistance from mothers out there who did not want me to. My advice to you is this: Let it go. Let the “shoulds” go. Go into his bed and cuddle with him. Just chill. No more “he SHOULD be sleeping on his own.” He is clearly not ready. Try leaving after 30 minutes. If not, just relax your body into his and SLEEP. YOUR SANITY AND LOVE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN A SLEEP SCHEDULE. Forget what you “ought” to be doing. Work from your heart instead. Put it off for another month. And then see. Moment-to-moment. Shocking a baby and shocking mommy has more long-term negative effects. Enjoy cuddling with him! How delicious!!!!!!!

  2. Oh, and about the tantrums. Try meeting him with your voice and body. Time Outs work – but only so much. When toddlers are screaming and letting it all hang this means they are not able to contain themselves. So go upto him the next time and just coo and caa and soothe him. Just stroke him and keep saying, “shh, shh” – he will calm down. Sometimes our children react even stronger to OUR REACTIONS. Try meditating and breathing with him next time. I know…you want to say, “WHAT???? I want to smack someone on the head!!!!” Try it.

  3. you know, i haven’t written a book on this, so i got nothing to sell you. i will say that it doesn’t sound as if cuddling with him at 2 am and thereby ensuring he’s up screaming for it again the next night is what you (or i, i can only really speak for me here) would consider delicious.

    i will say it sounds as though you’re both sleep-deprived and exhausted and it breaks my heart, the place this post was written from and i send you love, heaping love, and no judgement. i will also say it sounds like you need some help from Daddy, to take a few nights and maybe see if he can interrupt the battle of wills that is probably a part of this, through no fault of either yours or the little guy’s. and i will say – at risk of being judged myself – that our kids’ door had an old hook and eye latch on it when we moved in and there was a brief period after the transition from crib to toddler bed where we used it. because it created a limit that was not about wills but physical boundaries.

    i think cuddling toddlers IS delicious. but not at 2 and 3 and 5 am on a daily basis. i think that’s torture.

  4. I feel like I am at the beginning of this nightmare. Felix has just figured out how to open his door…and has recently become “afraid of the dark”. He comes into the room several times a night…and is willfully resisting naps….for the first time since infancy.

    Today was an epic battle of wills…between him and I. After crying for about an hour….it took me another half hour…to convince him to stay in his room for a nap….frankly I wasn’t sure what I was going to do if he came out again….so far so good. House seems quiet…I have both dogs kenneled….because of deathly fear that this kid wakes up before it’s time.

    no answers over here….just understanding and empathy….

    too bad we’re not in the same city….we could have a 3am mommy club!

  5. Thanks, Bon & Nat. It is, indeed, about as far from delicious as can be imagined. Because I am home with him all day, I feel like he gets enough cuddling during waking hours – and I know that this 3AM business is a habit. After all, he’s been sleeping peacefully and well in his own room since he was a very small infant.

    I did talk to Daddy this morning about needing to intervene. I explained that I know the limitations of my temper and self-control, and that it is indeed a battle of wills (it’s like you live in my house, Bon) – and that he needs to interrupt sometimes before it gets out of hand.

    Funnily enough, kiddo and I had a talk this morning about what happened – and hand to god, he said “I sowwy bout dat, momma”. So, tonight we try again. I’ll be going to bed at, like, 9PM so I have a good solid base of sleep before he wakes up.

    And I may put a hook and eye on the door. I’m thinking being confined to his room with its toys, books, and stuffies is less potentially damaging than me being in there and fighting with him – or him falling down the stairs in the middle of the night.

  6. Ditto on the hook-and-eye suggestion. A friend of mine took her kids to the dollar store and selected a set of five toys that they had to earn by staying in their beds all night. In the evening just before bed they would choose the particular toy they wanted, and in order to get that toy in the morning, they had to stay in their beds through the night. So – bribery. That’s all I’ve got. (It did work though.)

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