I had a list of things I was going to accomplish with Elisabeth once we moved back to California and before the baby came:
1) Potty Train
2) Transition to Toddler Bed
3) Wean from Pacifier
Then we actually got to California and I realized I was too pregnant and tired to deal with any of those things. Sure, we put Elisabeth in the Big Girl Bed, but it has been two months and she still gets out of it unattended, and I still occasionally put her back in the crib on nights she is particularly uncooperative, or nights I am particularly exhausted and can’t handle lying with her for an hour. I know. My inconsistency if probably not helping the situation.
And sure, Elisabeth uses the potty sometimes. We were on a roll when I introduced itty-bitty cookies as an incentive, but then Elisabeth got over the “potty cookies” and opted to go back to the diaper. The girl is smart – I upped my game and started using M&Ms. The “emma-emmas” were a big hit at first. She was back on the potty. But then one M&M per pee wasn’t enough. “Two emma-emmas?” she would try to negotiate. That’s when I threw in the towel. Stay in diapers till you’re 12, for all I care!*
As for getting rid of the pacifier – yeah, right. My half-assed attempts at potty training and establishing a bedtime routine were far too draining to even think about pacifier weaning.
Then I hit 34 weeks. And I panicked. Six weeks! Only six weeks till baby arrived and I had accomplished nothing with Elisabeth! I had squandered a precious seven weeks and the time to buckle down was NOW.
I made a plan of attack: Get rid of the pacifier first. I was already staying with Elisabeth until she fell asleep every night, so I could provide her with whatever comfort she needed in the wake of her loss. And it would be a great, great loss. Once she had adjusted to sleeping without her pacifier, I would work on getting her to sleep – by herself – in the big girl bed. There might be a few rough nights at first, but surely Elisabeth would adapt to these changes fairly smoothly.
I should know better by now.
I decided last Thursday night would be the night. My dad was out of town and my mom was going to be out late – I didn’t want any grandparent interference. They see the pacifier as a harmless soothing device; I see the pacifier as stacks of future orthodontia bills.
Elisabeth and I had talked about how the “pacis” are for babies and she’s a big girl now. She even once – unprompted – threw her precious paci in the trash after she said the babies needed it. (Unusual logic, but I went with it.) When bedtime arrived hours later, I found her digging through the trash. I decided with Elisabeth, we needed to go cold turkey.
Thursday night came, and as we climbed into bed, she asked for her paci.
“The pacis are all gone. Remember? We had to give them to the babies.” I said in my most sympathetic voice.
Elisabeth made some form of agreement before moments later asking, “Paci? My paci?”
We went through this dialogue a few times before Elisabeth realized there really were no more pacis. She whimpered and cried. For like, a minute.
Then she started talking. And talking. And talking. And singing. And talking. For two endless hours.
It dawned on me that she didn’t need the pacifier for comfort as much as I needed the pacifier for her to SHUT UP AND GO TO SLEEP.
At first her stream of consciousness was cute. “Sweet dreams, sweet dreams, sweet dreams. And then it rained and rained for 40 days and nights. Sweet dreams. Sweet dreams.” Thanks for that Biblical interjection, Elisabeth! Or when she put her face up to mine and said, “I love you mommy.” Isn’t she sweet?
But then the talking just didn’t stop. It turned into: “I need water.” “I need my baby doll.” “Where’s my water?” “I need lotion.” “No lotion!” “I need more lotion.” “I need to go potty.” (Now she needs to go potty? Highly suspicious…) “I need covers.” “No covers!” “Rub my back.” “Noooo, not that way!” “Rub my tummy.” And on, and on, and on. At first I tried to appease her, but she was clearly un-appeasable. So instead I lay next to her and contemplated smothering myself with a pillow.
Now, she had been itching her skin and head like mad (hence all the lotion). At 9:00, after about an hour and a half of her shenanigans, I decided that she must certainly be suffering an allergic reaction and was in need of medicinal intervention.
Enter: Benadryl. Judge me if you must, but I was desperate. And I mean, she was really itchy. And she really needed to go to sleep.
Elisabeth gulped the medicine eagerly. “I need more medicine,” she declared. I was desperate, but I was not that desperate. “You don’t need more,” I replied. “I feel better,” she decided. Fan-freaking-tastic. Does that mean you’ll go to sleep now?
I settled back down next to her and stared at her, waiting for her eyelids to droop. Come on, Benadryl! Work your magic!
Turns out Elisabeth’s will power is stronger than Benadryl’s medicinal power. It was another thirty minutes before Elisabeth finally succumbed to sleep.
I had prepared myself for tears. I was ready to cuddle and comfort my sweet girl as she mourned the loss of her pacifier. If she needed to cry herself to sleep, she could do so in my loving arms. But I had not prepared myself for this verbal assault. Oh no, she caught me off guard with her incessant chatter. Well played, Elisabeth. She talked so tirelessly I almost retrieved a pacifier I had hidden (just in case). But she would not break me. Not this time.
The next night my parents took her out to dinner while I stayed home to rest. Nana and Baba got a little too friendly with the sommelier and ended up staying out till well after 9:00.
“She needs to go bed! It’s so late” I shrieked at them when they finally got home with my daughter. They hadn’t been around the night before – they didn’t know what I was in for.
“It’s late. She’ll fall asleep right away,” my dad reasoned.
“Or she’ll stay away for another two hours and none of us will get to bed at a reasonable hour,” I replied.
I was right. And this night was worse than the last. Sleep deprivation from the night prior coupled with the late hour made her entirely unpleasant. At first, she wasn’t too terrible, making me laugh as she belted out, “The Rainbow Connection” at the top of her lungs. Then she began using her foot as a musical instrument, sticking it in and out of her mouth to make a popping sound. She thought she was soooo hilarious. But soon her singing turned into whining. “I cwanky. I cwaaaaanky!” she wailed at one point, tossing and turning on top of her pillows. Then close your eyes and be quiet! I screamed. In my head. I screamed it in my head, I swear.
The grandparents and I all took turns with her before she finally fell asleep with her Nana at 10:30.
10:30. No two-year old should be awake until 10:30. It’s not fair to the parents. Especially to the pregnant moms who can’t go break into a bottle of wine afterwards.
It has been a week now. She has stopped asking for the pacifier, but she is still taking 1-2 hours to go to sleep every naptime and bedtime. That is, when she naps at all.** Do the math – that’s 2-4 hours per day I spend trying to coax the dear girl to sleep. TWO – FOUR HOURS! I need those hours! Those are my sleeping hours, my eating ice cream in secret hours, my catching up on Scandal hours!
What’s a mom to do?
No, really. That’s not rhetorical. What’s a mom to do?
*I’ve heard good things about a 3-day potty training “boot camp.” But I looked into it and it seems that you basically let your kid run around naked for three days peeing and pooping on everything until they get the point to go in the toilet. Ew. Like I’m said – I’m too pregnant to deal with that.
**If my daughter phases out her nap right before the new baby arrives, I will cry. A lot.