Posted by: laughs4dads | December 15, 2010

HOW TO: From Crib to Bed

In my last post, I wrote about how to get a baby to go to sleep in her crib.

However, there comes a time in the life of a child when she has to give up the comfort and familiar surroundings of a crib in favor of a new, unfamiliar bed.

The problem is that most parents have no idea of when exactly that time is.

And I am in no position to shed any light on that situation.

Rumor has it that the child herself signals her readiness for the big move by doing something dramatic like getting a concussion trying to climb out of her crib.  Casey’s daredevil friend, Benjamin, did this, but then, Benjamin would try to climb out of anything, including a moving vehicle, if he was not restrained. He is now 24, and amazingly unscarred.

Casey, on the other hand, was more of the shy, retiring type.  Although she’s become a lot more adventurous as an adult, as a toddler she was a bit of a wimp when it came to trying new things.  The most dangerous thing she ever did at that age was balancing herself precariously on top of a wall in our condo development and walking the length of it.  I should point out, however, that even though Casey went through the motions of walking a tightrope, this wall was actually about four feet wide and only about four feet high, and one of her parents was always standing two inches away, making this endeavor about as dangerous as trying to balance yourself on a sidewalk.

Obviously, if we had waited for Casey to pull a stunt like breaking out of her crib, we might have found ourselves in the position of having to ship the crib to her college dormitory.

The ultimate deciding factor in getting Casey a bed was that we were planning to take Casey on vacation and wanted her to be able to sleep in a bed at the hotel.  This was something Barbara was dreading because she had taken Casey up to Boston to visit relatives and Casey had slept in a bed there.  The only problem was it was Barbara’s bed.  And Barbara was in it.  Casey spent the evening tucking Barbara in and kissing her good night.  Barb did not get much sleep.

So, anyway, one Saturday the entire family got in the car to buy Casey a bed.  Casey enjoyed this excursion immensely, as each store provided a maze of mattresses through which she could lead me in a spirited game of “Gotchu.”  (In this game, I would chase Casey.  Forever.  It was a hard game for me to play, since the idea was to chase her but not catch her, which was difficult to do, since Casey did not run very fast.  If you’ve ever tried to ride a bicycle at one mile per hour, you get the idea.)

We were already prepared for a case of “sticker shock” because some of our friends had recently bought beds for their kids and had spent over a thousand bucks plus the mattress.  These beds were intricate modular units that included desks and bureaus.  I didn’t think Casey needed a desk yet.  I figured the nursery school she was about to start was unlikely to give her much homework.  We settled on a simple turquoise headboard to accent Casey’s blue eyes.  The headboard and mattress and box spring cost about $600.

What I didn’t know was that Barb now intended to redecorate Casey’s room in turquoise to match the bed.  That would cost about $2,000.  There was, apparently, no cheap way out.

Until the bed was delivered, Barb and I carefully tried to build up some hype by telling Casey what a big girl she was and what a truly momentous occasion this was going to be.  Barb even invented a little fairy tale about Princess Casey and her new bed.  We thought we were being so smart.  We thought we had created an atmosphere in which Casey couldn’t wait to sleep in her new bed. We thought we were going about this so expertly that somebody might want to write about us in a child psychology journal. 

And, sure enough, a week later, Casey watched with fascination as the delivery men assembled the bed.  Then she hopped right in and made herself at home, all the while exclaiming “Casey’s bed” with true pride of ownership.  We played in her new bed.  We read stories in her new bed.  There was only one thing Casey wouldn’t do in her new bed.

You guessed it.

We did everything we could to make the transition as smooth as possible.  We moved all the stuffed animals she liked to sleep with and showed her how much they enjoyed sleeping in the new bed.  We moved her pillow and her blankets.  We offered to sleep with her.  Nevertheless, come bedtime, we couldn’t even get her to lay down in it, much less go to sleep.  “Crib,” she screamed.  “Sleep in crib.”

Okay.  We weren’t going to make this a traumatic experience.  We moved everything back to the crib and Casey went happily to sleep.  We’ll wait till she asks for the bed, we told ourselves.

So, every night, we said, “Casey, would you like to sleep in your bed tonight?”  And she’d say, “No. Crib.”

We tried to tell her how advantageous it would be for her to use the bed.  “If you sleep in a bed,” we’d tell her, “you can spend weekends at grandma’s house.”

“No,” Casey would reply.  “Crib.”

Then we tried to appeal to her eye for interior design.  We bought a nice new turquoise quilt.  “Pretty,” said Casey when Barb put it on the bed.  That night, we said, “Would you like to sleep in your bed with the pretty new blanket?”  And, to our shock, she nodded yes.  So Barb took her upstairs and I sat downstairs and counted down from ten.  Just when I got to zero I heard “NO!  CRIB!”

One night I heard Barbara fall into that old vicious cycle of parental double standards.  She began using Casey’s friends as examples.  “Jenna sleeps in her bed,” Barb told Casey.  “And Ben sleeps in his bed.”  I sat there imagining the conversation 10 years hence, when Casey would want to get a piercing. “But Jenna got her tongue pierced,” Casey would say. To which Barbara would reply, as mothers have always replied, “If Jenna jumped off a roof, would you jump off a roof, too?” (As it turns out, I don’t believe Jenna got piercings in any unusual places. I’m also pretty sure she never jumped off a roof.)

Well, I don’t know whether or not it was the result of implied peer pressure, but Barb finally got Casey to lie down in bed one night.  Then Barb sat next to her in the rocking chair to keep her company until she fell asleep. 

An hour later, it was my turn to sit next to her in the rocking chair until she fell asleep.  I sang a lullaby and stroked her hair.  I told her my version of “Princess Casey and Her New Bed.”  Meanwhile Casey became fascinated with the shadows her hands threw on the wall in the glow of the nightlight.  An hour and a half later, Casey was snoring.

She slept until about one in the morning, when she discovered that one advantage of the bed was that she no longer had to cry to get our attention.  She simply appeared at our bed like some sort of miniature ghost and whispered “Mommy.  Daddy.”  Barb put her into the crib; mommy wasn’t about to sit in the rocker for another hour. 

The next night, armed with a stuffed kitty cat grandma had given her, Casey again retired to her bed, and Barb sat on the floor near the door to her room.  This was to relieve Casey’s dependence on having us sit in the rocker, but it was less comfortable.  An hour later, I took my shift on the floor, and listened to Casey talk to Kitty Cat.  And Baby, the Gorilla.  And Elephant.  And Bear.  And Panda.  When Barb returned, she found us both asleep.  And this time Casey slept through the night.

We seemed to be making progress, but it was still not ideal.  For one thing, we’d be missing a lot of television if we were sitting with Casey until 10:00 (this was before TiVo).  Barb shared with me a new theory:  “Maybe it’s wrong to move her old animals into the bed,” she said.  “She associates them with the crib.  Maybe we need to get her all new bed animals to sleep with.”

I anticipated spending $100 or so on new stuffed animals, assuming, naturally, that none of the 479 stuffed animals that Casey had downstairs would do.  No, these animals would have to be brand new, with no prior associations. 

And they’d most likely be turquoise.

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