Toddler Bedtime Hypochondria – And Other Excuses

Some toddlers don’t like to go to bed… Wait, who am I kidding… *most* toddlers don’t like to go to bed. Ours included.

Dealing with twins, you learn very early to be on a schedule. If you get off schedule you’re going to have a bad time. One might even say, we’re schedule Nazis. But, you gotta do what you gotta do. In fact, the girls are so used to this, that if we miss bedtime by even 30 minutes, they devolve into wailing banshees that no amount of coddling, cajoling, or threatening can stop. Every parent out there knows the joy of over-tired kids.

That being said, bedtimes in our house is a constant battle. They will be perfectly fine leading up to the ultimate event. They’ll eat their dinner (sometimes), get into jammies, read books, drink milk, sing songs, all the stuff we usually do. However, when it comes time to actually put them into their beds and close the door, all bets are off.

They often become (Alex especially) what I call “bedtime hypochondriacs.” They will complain about phantom maladies that up until this very instant they didn’t even think about. What follows is a checklist of every thing I’ve heard from them in the past few months at bedtime. Most of these would be preceded by an “ummm….” and a pause while they try to come up with the best one.

Toddler Bedtime Excuse Checklist

Section 1. “My ________ hurts.”

[ ] Tummy (the big one we hear almost every night)
[ ] Bum
[ ] Eye
[ ] Cheek
[ ] Ear
[ ] Hair
[ ] Neck
[ ] Throat
[ ] Arm
[ ] Hand
[ ] Finger
[ ] Fingernail
[ ] Leg
[ ] Knee
[ ] Foot
[ ] Toe
[ ] Toenail

You could also replace “hurts” with “itches” and double that list. We get that too.

Dealing with these “symptoms” is a delicate issue. They will usually just tell you about it, and perhaps demand a band-aid. But sometimes if they get too worked up about them, they will scream and cry even more. So, you have to play them right. I’ve found that telling them, “I’m sorry your _____ hurts. How about we try sleeping, and if it still hurts in the morning I will fix it, ok?” works best. This can be difficult to do calmly when you’ve gone into their room 5 times in the past 20 minutes. They will often reply, “But it really really hurts.” Child, I wish you could understand the parable about crying wolf…

Section 2. “The conditional requirements”

This section is all about their particular needs in their beds.

[ ] “My cover/blankie fell off” – they have to have their blankets juuuust right on their head or they’ll cry. This is the most popular one.
[ ] “Turn my pillow over” (An Alex one)
[ ] “Where’s my doggy/bear/baby?” – the toys in their bed
[ ] “Dropped/can’t find my bink” – Yes, they still have pacifiers. Pick your battles. This one will get ugly one day. We’re not up to it yet.
[ ] “It’s too dark/I’m afraid of the dark” – since when?
[ ] “There’s a dog toy on the floor” – why this will keep them from sleeping I have no idea.
[ ] “I’m thirsty”
[ ] “I’m hungry”
[ ] “I have to go potty” – even though we went potty not 8 minutes ago before we went to bed
[ ] “Dad, sissy woke me up” – Usually by crying about one of the other things on this list.
[ ] “I have a hair in my mouth” – This is a new one. Alex’s discovery. Very difficult to disprove, and she sells it well (reaching into her mouth to find said phantom hair). Usually “it’s deep in my throat” is added.

Most of these are fairly easy to remedy (not counting the hair). However, if you give into the hungry/thirsty ones, you’re in trouble. They will keep going to that well until you shut it down. Those require setup to defuse. Before putting them down, you gotta tell them “This is your last chance for milk. You’d better drink it now. No more”. Generally however, if you go in and get one of these, you can usually fix it quickly and get out.

Section 3. General Random Questions/Statements
This is the type of questions they will ask for no apparent reason, other than to postpone bedtime as much as possible and they’ve already used one or more of the above excuses.
[ ] “When are we going to Pittsburgh?” – We’re going for a family wedding in October. Unfortunately we told them about it.
[ ] “When is ________”? (holiday). Enter any holiday. Recently I’ve gotten Easter, Halloween, Christmas, St. Patricks Day, Valentines Day, Super Bowl.
[ ] “When are we going to grandmas?” – Even if we just came back from Grandmas.
[ ] Any other question or statement about recent events

These are by far the easiest to handle. Quick answers followed by a “now go to sleep” usually works.

The really bad nights are when they are just wired. They will NOT listen to a word you say. They laugh and talk and shout and cry and generally drive you absolutely bananas. There is very little you can do to either get them to sleep and/or keep your sanity.

Other bedtime techniques.

A few months ago, Jess realized that the girls love, and I mean LOVE, mini marshmallows. They would probably invade Poland if we promised them enough marshmallows. So, she had an epiphany. Give the girls 5 marshmallows in a cup by their bed. If we have to come in, we take one out and that’s one less they get to eat in the morning. It works sometimes. A good concrete thing then can wrap their minds around. “If I have to come in again, I’m taking a marshmallow” usually quiets them down. Unfortunately, not always, and you’ll find yourself threatening to take ALL of the marshmallows away. I’m not proud, but it happens.

Much in that same vein, we remind them of things they want to do, and if they don’t go to sleep they won’t get to do it. How well this works, I don’t know. The followthrough on that those isn’t as good as it should be.

Anyway, this is our nightly battle. Sometimes we win. Mostly, they win. Occasionally, they win big, and we spend an hour and a half repeatedly going into their room and slowly losing our minds.

The worst part is by the time we get them in bed, it’s 8ish. We’re usually exhausted and in bed by 9:30ish. So, we have at most an hour and a half a day to do anything other than wrangle kids or work. That is precious time that when they cut into you really feel it.

I should say, that for the most part, they sleep through the night. *knock on wood* The nights where we gotta get out of bed to tend to them are few and far between.

All things being equal I will take this 1000% more than those first 8 months of getting up in the middle of the night to feed them. Plus, I do have to say, sometimes they can be super sweet, like when they say, “I forgot to give you a hug” or “Dad, I love you.” It doesn’t totally make up for the other nights, but it helps.

Now, if we could just work on the occasional 5:20am “I want to wake up now” episodes…