Getting Both Babies To Bed

Sleep for three!
Sleep for three!

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this more than a dozen times, but my husband Randy is an awesome and hilarious standup comic. Now that Abby’s no longer a newbie, he has to get back to performing in the evenings and I am completely on board with that. Except that standup is generally performed at night.

I am totally at ease with both girls alone except at the dreaded witching hour, which at our house lasts from about 6-9pm. Dinner is hard and getting Penny to sleep is harder. I have tried so many different tactics to get her to go to sleep on her own, and she’s just not there.

I know that I sound like one of Those Parents, but I swear to you this is not just a case of me being overindulgent. She is at an age where she is suddenly (appropriately) afraid of various things that didn’t use to scare her, like dogs or weird loud noises, and I tell you that when I go to put her down, if she’s not fully out, she panics. I don’t mean that she hollers and is pissed off, I mean she goes into full-on “i’m about to fall” clinging panic.

I know there are plenty of reasonable, kind parents who would just peel the kid off and walk out the door, and I had to do that last time, but it is awful and I do NOT think it’s healthy. There have been times when I’ve let her cry it out and it was fine, because she was just a little fussy and pissy, but this is just a hard age for her and all my instincts tell me that it’s not the right answer right now.

If Abby would just not choose that exact time to also have her only fussy time of the day, of course, we’d be fine, but I seem to end up with one of my daughters wailing. Plus me. Also wailing!

I had a discussion with Penny, saying that all the animals in her books go to sleep in their own beds and it’s so OK and great to do that, and the big round tears just splashed down her face and she put her arms around me and said “no, mommy, no.” Shook her head. “Mommy, no no no no no no no.” Not in a bratty way. In a mournful way. I don’t even feel like I missed some developmental phase with Penny where I could have changed the course of this; it seems like a classic case of different kids, different tastes.

Last night, as the hour approached when Randy would leave and I’d get the girls to sleep, my anxiety mounted, and I posted in an online forum, mostly to blow off steam. I figured I’d be roundly flamed for not being able to put one of the girls down for a half hour and deal.

Au contraire. Not only am I not alone, it turns out I’m not even all that unusual! One friend of mine had an au pair come in when her husband had to work late. Another had resigned herself to letting one of her two kids scream, and needed a shot of amaretto in her coffee to deal with it. Others had similar stories. None of them fixed my situation, but they all made me feel like at least I wasn’t a horrible freak-o bad mom for not knowing how to navigate this.

In the end, Abby fell asleep on me as Penny’s bedtime rolled around. I was able to read and snuggle with Penny while she snoozed, and rocked both girls in the rocking chair for a while. Penny tried gamely to sleep, but she couldn’t get comfortable on my shoulder.

“Should we try to put Abby down?” I asked her.

“Ah-yeah,” she murmured.

We padded into my bedroom, where I sorta-swaddled Abby (her arms don’t fit anymore) in her co-sleeper. Miraculously, she stayed asleep. “Ssh, ssh, ssh,” I whispered, holding my hands on her as I used to do on Penny. “Ssh, ssh, shh,” Penny echoed. We padded back to her room, climbed back into the chair, and she was snoring within minutes.

Of course, within minutes after that, my husband came home, peeked into Penny’s room, peeked into our room, and repaired to the TV to check the scores. All was well.