Careless Whispers of a Toddler’s Bedtime

“There’s poop in here. I see poop. Mommy, poop. AN ANT! MOMMY, THERE’S AN ANT! TIMEOUT! POOP AND ANTS IN TIMEOUT!”

It took almost a full two and a half years, but our first daughter has finally (yet reluctantly) accepted that she sometimes has to sleep. Before this past month, Eliza would whimper or full-on cry each and every time her mother or I put her down to bed. It broke my heart in the beginning to leave her bawling in her crib as I walked out, but I eventually moved past it once I realized the little trickster would say or cry anything for an extra 15 minutes awake. But, like I said, she has seemingly moved past this extraordinarily long phase and is generally content to drift off while she cuddles up with her dolls D.J. and Kimmie (yes, I’m a 90’s child and now all of my daughter’s toys and dolls are named after Full House characters).

Riding a wave of excellent nighttime routines with no tears for the last few weeks has been an enjoyable time, especially as we’re trying to work her 10 week old baby sister into a nighttime routine that squeezes more than 90 minutes of shuteye into the overnight window (my poor wife). Toddlers, however, are little whirling nightmares allergic to consistency, especially when that consistency relates to sleeping, eating, behaving well…so pretty much everything I suppose. My wife and I had a good run of a few weeks of easy bedtimes and now I’m wondering if perhaps we didn’t celebrate it enough.

The game has forever changed at bedtime. The sobs, tears, and whimpers pleading for “Cuddle? Cuddle?” as we tiptoed out of the room has been replaced by an entirely different behavior. Eliza now uses her bedtimes to release all of her spare thoughts from the day, elevate her boy-who-cried-wolf entrapments, and form deeper emotional connections with the assorted stuffed animals she can see from her crib. This led us to the epic “There’s poop in here. I see poop. Mommy, poop. AN ANT! MOMMY, THERE’S AN ANT! TIMEOUT! POOP AND ANTS IN TIMEOUT!” rant that came during yesterday’s naps. My wife, trying to nurse the baby, ran into the room expecting a diaper explosion with hordes of ants attacking the mess; instead, she found a grinning toddler holding her clean diaper and lecturing her stuffed lamb Opal about not listening. No ants were found either but perhaps she had already repelled their attack.

After a quick re-tuck-in, Eliza’s mind and mouth were back off to the races, where she refreshed the room on her thoughts on poop, ants, and timeouts, while also venturing into some new topics of exploration. “EAT ALMOND TURTLE”, “NOT LISTENING IN THE STREET TIGER”, and “STICKERS AND JUICE FOR DADDY’S PEE-PEE IN THE POTTY” were some of the new highlights. And no, those lines aren’t worth exploring further. She continually lectured her stuffed animals, sang God Bless America, faked another diaper blowout, counted to ten in Spanish, and threw in an eclectic mash-up of toddler gibberish. This was all for her nap time, and she went a full 1 hour and 40 minutes without sleeping. This girl never misses naps and she blabbered and giggled to herself for nearly two hours without a moment’s pause.

My wife and I tried to feign some anger or disappointment about her not settling down, but it was honestly one of the most entertaining stretches of her life thus far. Her imagination carried her little conversations into all sorts of odd places, and my wife would randomly hear a select word or phrase here and there that we didn’t even realize she knew. Those toddlers capture so much more than they let on during the normal course of the day. I swear I heard her mutter my credit card number as well, but my wife thinks that’s just paranoia.

This seems like such a silly and trivial progression within her path through toddlerhood, but we found it so amazing to hear her mind unfiltered. I mean, she’s normally quite the loudmouth for us, but she says much different things when by herself than she does with an audience. She played on so many expressions and words that she’s rarely heard, all while adjoining them together into a unified message for her poor stuffed animals. There were several timeouts and many more warnings about not listening; poor Elmo still hasn’t recovered from the tongue-lashing he received from Eliza.

My little girl is growing up and her creative mind is currently on overdrive. This means a little less sleep for her parents (so what else is new?) and a harder bedtime routine, but we’re thrilled to have front row seats outside her bedroom door to the one woman show where we listen to our daughter work through all the miscellaneous thoughts in her head. It’s glorious…I just wish fewer of these thoughts involved poop, you know?

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