Sunday, April 3, 2011
Big Gurl Bed
My mother has been on my case to transition Sophia to a big girl bed, but I’ve been very reluctant to do so. Sophia likes her cozy little house, a crib with a tent over it that zips shut, and I like having a place to put her in from which she can’t escape. I adopted a don’t ask, don’t suggest policy…if Sophia wasn’t asking to move, I wasn’t going to bring it up. Then, about a week ago, something happened to change my mind. First, a little back story: Oddly, Sophia was dry all night before she was dry during the day. Since she’s been in underwear full time, she’s only had two nighttime accidents. The first occurred UIB, under the influence of Benedryl, (She had a viral rash that covered most of her body.) She slept so soundly that she peed herself while sleeping and never woke up. The second was completely my fault—I gave her too much to drink at dinner time and forgot to toilet her before bed. She was so ashamed when it happened….I swore I would never make that mistake again. Back to a week ago: I hadn’t been sleeping much and so I took a little OTC sleep medication (coincidentally, the generic equivalent of Benedryl), popped in my ear plugs, and tried to make up for lost time. In a dream and far away I heard a voice calling, “Mommy! I need to go to the bathroom!” By the time I realized that the voice belonged to Sophia, she was screaming desperately, “Mommy! Help! I’m pee-peeing! I’m pee-peeing in my bed.” I ran into the room, unzipped the crib tent, but it was too late. She was already midstream, crying hysterically. Unthinkingly, I picked her up and carried her to the bathroom, as she continued to pee—in the crib, on me, across the rug, onto the tile—where I placed her on the toilet, still in her pajamas and still peeing. Her silky polka-dot pants ballooned out as it captured her urine before it soaked through and into the bowl. Humiliated and filthy, Sophie continued to bawl. I looked at my watch. 1 am. I had work the next day, but there was no other option. I had to clean her and the mess up. Sophie hates baths, and, as it turns out, she hates them even more when they are given at 1 am, particularly after she’s traumatized herself by wetting the bed. I tackled Sophie first, then the bed, then the floor. And I said out loud, as I shook my first up at the sky, clutching my sponge, “With God as my witness, I’ll never clean up a mess like this at 1 am again.” And then I sobbed a little myself. In the nights that followed, before I had an opportunity to put together Sophia’s toddler bed, I slept very poorly. Kevin offered to listen for her as well, keeping the monitor on in proximity to his room. But I couldn’t sleep knowing at any moment we could have a repeat performance of that terrible night. Finally, the next weekend while Kevin was away on business, I had a couple hours to assemble the bed. When I was finished, Sophie was elated. She immediately set to making it, covering it with blankets, pillows, and her entourage of 58 stuffed animals. At 5:30 pm, she began begging to go to sleep. “Please, Mommy? Please can I sleep in my new big gurl bed.” I was encouraged by this. Fool that I was. Three hours later: Over the monitor, I heard Sophia jiggling her bedroom door handle, the patter of her feet as she made her way across the carpet to the top of the stairs, and then her voice, punctuated by sobs, “Mommy, I can handle it! I can!” Apparently, she could not. This was now the fifth time she had climbed out of her big gurl bed in the last hour, and I was not having it. The first three times, I patiently returned her to her room and shut the door. The fourth time I gave her a warning: “You get out of bed one more time, Sophia, and you’re telling me that you can’t handle it and you’re not ready for a big girl bed.” “I can handle it,” she assured me, and climbed into bed. The monitor was silent for all of five minutes. Though it pained me to go upstairs, transfer the mattress from her bed to the crib, and lift her back into it as she sobbed, I was relived. This wasn’t going to go on all night. Once inside her crib, Sophia seemed to be relieved, too. She stopped crying almost instantly, popped a thumb in her mouth, cuddled Snakey-Pie and went to sleep. It was the last I heard of her until 7 am. Thank god. When I dragged my ass in there the next morning to retrieve Sophie from the crib, she patted her big girl bed thoughtfully, “I’m not ready for the bed yet.” She told me, “maybe when I’m a bigger gurl. Maybe when I’m four. Much much MUCH bigger,” she stood on her toes and reached upwards with her hands to emphasize her point. Could it be that Sophie is reluctant to let go of this last vestige of her babyhood? For all of her posturing, “I’m not a baby. I’m a big gurl,” and insistence that, “I can do it myself,” might there be a part of her that clings to the comfort of having all her needs met by another? Autonomy comes with a cost—personal responsibility. I think, intuitively, she knows this. And so for now, two beds fill Sophie’s room, one that offers boundaries and another that offers freedom. Each night the choice is available to her. I am confident she’ll opt for the latter when she is ready. Until then, I’ll keep my night job.