She Says… Wakey Wakey and My Stylish Valentine

Oh, friends. So much to catch you up on, once again, and no time to do it. I have been starting my days too early (more to come on this later) and burning the midnight oil working for the last few weeks/months straight, and I’m burnt out. BURNT. OUT. The end is in sight, but I’m still a few weeks from becoming a normal human being again; which in turn means that this blog is a few weeks from being regularly tended. But I’ll be back, yo. Soon.

In the meantime we are back in a phase of early wake-ups thanks to a little 3.5 year old alarm clock who sometimes goes by the name “Owen”. I’ve been doing this parenting thing long enough to realize that everything is a phase (EVERYTHING), so I’m doing my best to just ride it out. But man, when I turn off my laptop at 11:30pm and then hear cries/the pitter patter of little feet/doors slamming/toilets flushing at 4:30am, it makes me a little bit cranky.

And by a little bit cranky I mean a lot.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Remember when we got the “OK to Wake” clock? And then we went through a phase when it had to be removed from his room because he was too anxious/excited about it turning green and it was actually causing him to wake up earlier? We made it through that phase after a while and the clock went back in his room. It worked beautifully until a few weeks ago when the same thing started happening. He nudged the “rules”. He began asking if he could wake up “a little earlier” to read books before his light turned green. Or he would get up at 5am to go pee and then hear cars outside and make the logical assumption that since other people were awake, that it was time to wake up. And his clock was about to turn green. And then his active little body could only sit still or “read books” for so long, and he was popping out of his bed, slamming doors, running down the hallway to peek under our door to see if our light was on, etc. For some reason, the clock has made him ask more questions than having no clock at all. And now that he has some understanding of time and how to tell time, NOT having the clock seems to leave him confused and anxious as well.

Inevitably these early morning shenanigans have woken up Emmett, and despite our best efforts (demands) for everyone to stay in their room and quiet until “the light turns green” (we still have never given in to going downstairs before the clock turns green), we’re in a dark, dark place filled with 4am potty trips and crying and negotiations/deal-making.

On one hand I wonder if he’s currently getting too much sleep. He goes to bed at 7:30pm and is almost always asleep by 7:45pm. He’s exhausted at this point and I really can’t see forcing him to stay up any later. He’s also still napping during the day (usually 2.5 hours, but recently I’ve cut it back to 2). Again, he’s usually exhausted midday and still crumbles to pieces if he misses his nap (and HELLO! I love and need those 2 hours of him napping as much as he needs them sleeping), so I can’t see doing away with it quite yet. In the past, MORE SLEEP has always beget MORE SLEEP for him. So I hesitate to change his schedule and take away sleep if what he really needs is more sleep. With Owen, more sleep has pretty  much always been the cure for… everything. But it certainly seems like his body is ready to get up for the day at 5:00am on average. And that’s just a wee bit too early for me.

On the other hand, I wonder if some of these issues are stemming from a yearning to understand time and how to tell it. I wonder if giving him more information about time will help, or hurt. I really don’t know, and I don’t know what a 3.5 year old can really grasp or understand.

Fancy Day-4

It’s a good thing he’s so darn CUTE.

Fancy Day-3


Fancy Day-2

That’s his outfit for “Fancy Day” (his school’s alternative to Valentine’s Day) that he chose all by himself. No, he wouldn’t let us iron his pants.

I’m sure the sleep thing will pass, and one day when he’s a teenager and I can’t, for the life of me, wake him up to get him to school, I’m sure I will look back on this and laugh. Given the millions of other things that are battling for my attention right now, I am trying not to waste too much brain space on stressing about an issue that I have very little control over. But seriously? I would like some SLEEP.

Tips? Thoughts? Helpful tactics you have used? We already do ALL of the sleep tips like totally dark room (we have sliding shutters that seal out the sunlight like he’s locked in a windowless jail), sound machine, etc. Should I just abandon all “rules” and let the kid wake up whenever he wants? Honestly, I would consider that if he could do it without waking anyone else up, but I’m not sure that’s possible…



18 responses to “She Says… Wakey Wakey and My Stylish Valentine

  1. We are going through the same thing! Plus multiple night wake ups and a 5 month old who isn’t sleeping at all. So.Tired. Sorry, that’s not helpful at all,,,

  2. I feel you on being tired. Ella is our good sleeper these days but she stays up, quietly in her room for upwards of an hour after we do the bedtime thing on some nights. She’s in bed by 7:30 but will read in her room until 8:30 or so. She wakes up about 7-7:30 and is still napping for 2 hours during the day. I don’t know if you have an flexibility with him at school, but maybe moving naptime back an hour so that he’s waking later would help him stay up a smidge later, leading to a later morning?

    It does kill me on the rare weekend morning that our 6 month old isn’t up by 6 am, that day is the one Ella will be up for the day at 5. Oh parenting. We’ll get sleep again some day.

  3. Have you thought about dropping the nap and putting bedtime a bit earlier? It sucks but that may solve the early problem. Good luck!

  4. Sounds like it is time to drop the nap. You have my sympathies! We moved bedtime up as early as possible…6pm if we could…and then were gradually able to push it back to about 7.30ish. It was a rough few months of adjusting though but eventually his body and emotions figured it out and he now sleeps a consistent 12-13 hours each night (on the cusp if five but dropped his nap right before turning 4). We still have mandated quiet time during 1-3pm where he is to play alone, quietly, read, lay down. We all need down time. I think daycare has a hard time with it because it is downtime for the teachers as well. I explain I don’t expect them to entertain or engage him but do ask that they allow books at his cot. Often he gets up after everyone is asleep and sits by himself to draw or use “table toys”. Good luck!!

  5. We’ve been battling this same thing. At it’s worst, my 3.5-year-old daughter was requiring multiple trips to her room at bedtime, then she was up calling for us at midnight, at 3 a.m., at 5 a.m., at 6 a.m. It was awful. And after one particularly horrific night when my 3.5-year-old woke up the baby with her carrying on at 3:00 a.m., my husband and I freaking lost it, there was a lot of yelling and crying involved (not proud of it, but ahhhh!), and then I found myself Googling about preschooler sleep problems at 4:00 a.m. Did you know it’s apparently common for kids to have a sleep regression at 3.5 years?

    What has finally solved the problem for us (at least for now) is a sticker chart. We couldn’t get her on board with the OK to wake clock—we ordered it, we tried it, but she was freaked out by it. That’s her thing with all of this—she claims she is “scared.” But she’s “scared” of everything she doesn’t want to do these days (go figure!) so I’m 99% confident it’s just an excuse. The one thing we did give in on was letting her sleep with the door cracked open. From the time she was a baby, we’ve always kept her door closed at night, but now we let her sleep with it open a crack. No lights on or anything, but for some reason having that door cracked makes her feel better. But on the most horrific night of all nights, even that didn’t make a difference.

    Hence the sticker chart. Now, every night she stays in her bed quietly from bedtime all the way until morning (when WE come to get her, not when SHE decides to get up), she gets a sticker. After every seven stickers, she gets a prize. And I’m talking piddly prizes—a pack of temporary tattoos, a new puzzle, a headband, pancakes for breakfast. Nothing outrageous. But it’s working. She’s stayed quiet every night since we’ve instituted it and it’s been two weeks. Two weeks of glorious sleep.

    I don’t know, it’s almost like she needed something else to focus on. Whatever was hanging her up from being able to sleep through the night, we were able to “reprogram” her little mind with the sticker chart to give her something else to think about. I know I’m “bribing” her, but I am looking at it as the same way we approached potty training. And hell, that worked, too. I don’t think she’ll expect stickers forever, because she didn’t expect M&Ms forever when we potty trained! Eventually, it just became the norm to go on the potty and the M&Ms were dropped. And even if the stickers DO go on for a long time, like I said, the prizes are manageable, so it’s a sustainable model.

    Good luck, I hope Owen turns it around for you soon! And I hope my own continues with the streak she’s having!

  6. Oh, and about dropping the nap. Our problems went on for weeks and there never seemed to be a rhyme or a reason… things weren’t any better or worse if she napped, didn’t nap, went to bed later or earlier, or anything. Because I wondered the same thing.

    How does Owen do on the days that he wakes up at 4 a.m.? Is he dead tired by 10 a.m.? Because Nora would be. I didn’t think dropping the nap was the answer, and now that we’re where we are, I think I was right. Everything has gone back to being great, and she’s still on the exact schedule she was before.

  7. Sounds like it is time to either drop or cut the nap in half, though I would wait until after the next time change (in a few weeks)…
    If he still wakes up super early then set up some rules. If you wake up you can play, quietly in your room, you can turn a light on a read some books etc.
    What my mom always did, was to say that we could get up and have breakfast/tv etc. BUT if we were loud and woke up anyone else, or her the next day we had to stay upstairs in our rooms until she woke up and told us we could go downstairs. I don’t know what you feel comfortable having owen do by himself in the morning, but that would be a good negotiating tool.

  8. By the way, his classmates nap but they all have bedtimes in the 9-10pm range. I would rather no nap and fast asleep by 7pm any day considering I can barely stay awake at 9pm and do not even want to think about having to be patient and do a bed time routine at that hour.

  9. Sorry to say, this really sounds like its time to move away from napping. This nighttime negotiating sounds so familiar. Seriously, once you get through the phase of cutting ou the nap you will be getting soooo muh more sleep. The next month will still suck during the daytime (fortunately daycare will manage it most days!) but but nights will turn peaceful. At our house h moved her bedtime to 7 and even started sleeping in til 7 about half the time!

  10. Most articles I’ve read say that between the ages of 3-6, children require between 10-12 hours of sleep every day. He’s sleeping, on average, 9 hours at night. Add in a 2 hour nap during the day and that brings him to 11 hours of sleep per day…right where he should be.

    If you don’t want to drop the naps, I would push his bedtime back just a little bit and see what happens. When he eventually drops it on his own, he will go to bed earlier again. My 5 year old pretty much sleeps a solid 12 hours at night, and has been since he’s been about Owen’s age, but mine stopped napping at around age 3. They really do get exhausted early without the nap.

    I totally feel for you though. Lack of sleep has got to be one of the worst things ever!!

  11. My not-quite 3 year old gets up around 7 and doesn’t go to bed until after 9. The earlier we put her to bed, the earlier she wakes up. We also had a brief period where she dropped her nap and not only was she hellishly tired, she also slept LESS at night. I second the pushing his bedtime out. When my daughter gets cranky at night we let her quietly read, color, or if all else fails – let her watch a show. I’d much rather her zone out for awhile at the end of the night then wake me at 5am!! Good luck – as with all things parenting, I’m sure you’ll figure out the trick (the no-napping thing was about 3 weeks of hell for us before we got it all sorted out!)

  12. Oh my! I feel your pain and totally remember all of this! We went through months of juggling sleep issues with both kids probably right around this age. And yes, there is a fair amount of a “stage” in it, but as others have said, it is very possible that you need to just cut down on the napping time. Don’t cut it out, just cut back. As someone else said, he is getting the right amount of sleep, just not quite where you want it (as in, he’s getting up really early whereas you’d like him to sleep later). Dropping the nap was a process that took months and months for us. And included slowly cutting back. And dropping it for a while, then going back to it, then finally dropping it and dealing with a VERY tired child for a while, making us wonder if we did the right thing. I remember not being able to go out around her usual nap time because she’d fall asleep in the car. But with us, it was her inability to fall asleep at bed time and not waking up super early. Although we had that too! It sound like recently you’ve cut back the nap a bit–what if you tired cutting back to 1.5 hours? See what happens? And don’t forget, it takes time for them to adjust so don’t assume if he’s really tired for a few days that you did the wrong thing. Try it, give it a week or two, and if it still isn’t working then maybe that wasn’t the solution. I also like the sticker chart idea. Reward charts ALWAYS work in our house, for any issue. Well, they work for a short amount of time anyway. But often enough time to fix a problem. His internal body clock at the moment is most likely stuck in a habit and by cutting back on the nap and rewarding for staying in bed and trying to go back to sleep might help him break the habit! Or it might not:) Who knows? It’s all one big experiment anyway isn’t it? Good luck Kate!

  13. Oh–didn’t mean to make my last post anonymous by the way–just wanted you to know who left it!

  14. As others are saying, sounds very familiar and like the beginning of the transition to not needing the nap anymore. It was a long transition for us, including: bedtime battles/stall tactics/negotiations, napping every other day to every three days to now once a week max, MULTIPLE night-wakings, early morning wake ups, etc. etc! BUT, once it was all over, we moved to a glorious 6:45pm bedtime (now bedtime is a little more flexible and can be as late as 7:20, but at the beginning it was definitely before 7pm). You know where to find me if you want to discuss further. My suggestion would be to cut the nap to an hour-ish and see what happens. Hang in there!

  15. Eli started waking up early a couple of months ago, too. Not quite that early, but too early for my liking! We had a rule for awhile that he couldn’t get up until the sun came up, but not that wasn’t really fair, considering the sun doesn’t come up the same time all year, and some days it’s rainy out and there is no sun. So, we put a big ole digital clock in his room as soon as he learned his numbers and told him that he wasn’t allowed to get up until the first number is 7 (unless he has to potty, of course). It’s worked pretty darn well.

  16. We’re still having some sleep issues, too, so I’m not much help. I think Ryan is trying to drop the nap on his own, which is freaking me out cuz it seems like he still really needs it. (And, well, *I* still really need it, ha.) Good luck. I hope this phase lets up for you soon!

  17. @Jessie, Oy, I feel your pain. Hang in there.

    @Jess, Isn’t that always the way, that if one isn’t up early (for once), the other is? It’s like they plan it. A later bedtime MAY work, though I really enjoy having the time with my husband after Owen’s bedtime and I go to bed so early that it’s not my preference. But I guess I can’t have it both ways.

    @Liz, Have I thought about dropping his nap? Only every day for the last month or so… 🙂 Yes, it’s on my mind. But it doesn’t feel quite “right” at the moment since he’s still so exhausted an even asks for his nap in the afternoon currently. I know I may have to push him a little, but if the rest of his life is any indication, getting LESS sleep is not the answer. We will see — we’re in the process of cutting his nap back to 1 hour and we’ll see where that leaves us.

    @NOLAGirlie, That sounds like a wonderful schedule you have there — I hope we can get there (without too much pain!). How do you manage so much quiet time? What does he do?

    @Heather, Well, I guess it’s helpful to know that it’s “normal”, but I still want to know how to get past it 🙂 Hearing your story is extremely helpful!!! He finally made it to the right time this morning, so I made a huge deal of introducing the sticker chart. Fingers crossed. We haven’t done a sticker chart since before Christmas, so perhaps it will be just the trick we need right now. Thank you!

    @Caroline, You’re totally right about the time change — this time it could work in our favor! I also love that idea your mom had. That could definitely work here (not going downstairs quite yet, but I could let him play in the playroom next to his room as long as he’s quiet, etc.). Thanks!

    @Lia, Glad to hear it has been a good transition for you! I am still a bit hesitant because he really seems to still need the nap at this point, but we’re trying to cut it back to 1 hour for a few weeks and see if that has an impact (plus a sticker chart… for whatever that’s worth at this point!).

    @Jennifer, So good to hear. He’s always been on the very upper end of those sleep charts, so I’m happy to cut the nap back and maybe push bedtime a little and see what that does. Like a mad scientist!

    @Karen, Thanks for the tip! It is really interesting to hear what works for others in this situation. Owen has always been one who would wake up earlier if I put him down late (like, maximum sleep deficit), hence the early bedtime. But clearly that isn’t working at the moment, so pushing bedtime back a little may be just the push he needs.

    @Lily, Great, great suggestions. Thank you. I agree, I don’t feel comfortable with dropping the nap at this point, especially since we’re not even fighting about the nap. He asks to go down most days. The last few days I have woken him up after an hour or 1 hour 15 minutes, so we’re going to do that consistently for the next few weeks and see what happens. Someday I’ll have to give it up, but I’m hoping that’s not right now.

    @Casey, I’m so glad the clock is working for you! We’ve gone back and forth with the clock, and for whatever reason I think recently it’s been causing more trouble than help. We removed the clock and any other distractions from his room, shortened nap and added a sticker chart, so fingers crossed!

    @Meg, Thank you! I still need his nap time like whoa. I know I’ll have to give it up at some point, but I always thought he’d be one of those kids falling asleep in elementary school because he loves naps so much. Can’t say that I blame him 🙂

  18. Can you get books on tape (CDs!) at the library? He LOVES them…you know all the accoutrements…CD player, headphones, cozy on his bed with a book following along. My kid likes gear. Anyway, that was what we started with to keep him in bed for a while for quiet time. But really as long as he was in his room playing quietly I didn’t care what happened in there! When his brother needed to be in his own bed for naps and moved out of the travel crib in our room (ah the shuffling that goes on in a tiny 2 bedroom apt in the city) I set him up in our bed and he’d bring his books to follow along with. Now he is great about just playing on his own and letting me have some space/time. Developmentally it is on the horizon for Owen, I promise! I also think his teachers at school really helped him figure out ways to quietly entertain himself during naps.

    And getting to a point of no naps was rough, let me tell you. He was an emotional wreck by 5pm and I wanted nothing to do with him. I could not get him in bed fast enough. But he adjusted. Some days he would end up taking a nap, and I didn’t ask his teachers to keep him awake, I just asked that they not rub his back or really in any way insist he be still, close his eyes, etc.

    Good luck. I hope you figure out something for your little family. Sleep disruptions are the worst! But he IS soooo cute!

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