Sweet Madeleine is my amazing and mesmerizing seven and half month old daughter. About a week ago, Maddie’s parents ran into a scheduling conflict. Both of us had previous engagements right smack in the middle of the baby’s bedtime on the same night. So the answer was easy, one of us would have to skip our event.
But before taking that step – we pondered the pros and cons of bringing in a third party to put Maddie down to sleep. It was gut check time – Were we really ready to turn Maddie over to a family babysitter?
Our throats went dry as we pondered the possible outcomes.
- What if the baby’s inner honey badger strikes?
- What if Maddie became inconsolable?
- What if she goes medieval on Ahmadinejad?
Silly stuff to be sure, but we never expected to even consider a move like this so early in the game. So I made the call to my Mom and asked her if she could entertain the princess for a couple of hours. My parents jumped at the offer, but I wondered if I was putting too much on them.
Maddie’s other grandmother, MiMi, has fought the good fight many times and successfully put the baby to bed. But in each case, we were staying with her or she was staying with us. This time we were calling in reinforcements during Maddie’s witching hour.
During a typical day, from about 5am to 4pm – Maddie is pretty peachy. She has her moments, but the girl is in a perpetual good mood. But once the day starts winding down, I like to use a saying I learned while living in the Deep South – She gets snakes in the head. Simple translation, my honey bunny morphs into the honey badger. The bottom lip replaces her smile, her laugh is drowned out by grunts of protest and a crying fit or two is not out of the question.
My parents showed up bright-eyed and busy-tailed just before 4pm. Things went swimmingly from the start and Maddie was more than happy to have an extended audience. So far, so good!
We all ate dinner together, but the time for me to leave was fast approaching. I could feel the doubt creeping in, but I didn’t want to get melodramatic. I gave Maddie a bath and set her up on my mom’s lap for a final bottle before bedtime. Maddie started a little bit of crying and fussiness and I could feel my will weakening. My mom assured me that all was well, but Maddie was eyeing me suspiciously.
I left the house peppered with guilt, only to find out later that my fears were unfounded. The evening was a great success as my wife arrived home to find a quiet and orderly house where Maddie was sleeping without a care in the world. Maddie’s grandparents made all the right moves and Maddie proved once again that she is AWESOME!
Maddie, my precocious 6-month-old daughter, decided that tonight was the night where she would exert her will over her father and the entire household. Her strategy was sound, stand your ground, stay awake and defy those parental bedtime guidelines.
Bedtime is rarely a problem in our household as long as Maddie gets a decent nap during the day. Sadly, that did not happen. Maddie’s DOC Headband is giving her some skin issues so we had to go back to the headband technician at 1:30 this afternoon. The timing could not have been worse. We missed out on Maddie’s primetime naptime and that set the stage for a nighttime battle of epic proportions.
At 7pm, Maddie and her father began our established nighttime rituals. Take a bath, put on the jammas, say goodnight to the house, kill the lights and drink one last bottle. Everything went off like clockwork, the baby was nearly sleeping in my lap as I gently laid her in the crib.
You would have thought I lowered her into a pit of alligators. She went wild, flailing and screaming and giving her dad a little bit of “HELLO DOLLY!” Fair enough, I lifted her out of that “Crib of Horrors,” and snuggled her into my arms where she was quickly falling asleep yet again. I lowered her back into the crib and again the invisible Gremlins shocked her awake.
Now my little angle is inconsolable and I know what she wants. Her every cry and whimper speaks loud and clear, “PaPa, why don’t you just snuggle me all night long and we’ll call it even.” Now don’t get me wrong, I normally let that sweet little girl nap on me when she wants to – but at night, she stays in the DANG crib!
So now father and daughter are stuck – locked in a battle of wills where only one person will get their way. I know, without question, that Maddie will sleep better in her crib, so I really have no choice. For her sake, I must prevail.
After two more failed attempts, I took my disgruntled bundle of love back out into the living room. She smiled longingly at her grandmother, begging to be released from her father’s evil grasp. I handed Maddie over to her grandma and the baby smiled at me triumphantly! But when MiMi tried to put Maddie down to sleep, once again all Hades broke loose!
I recovered Sweet Madeleine from MiMi and restarted the arduous process of putting my baby to bed. After 90 short little minutes and six failed attempts, the princess was finally sleeping in her crib. Free at last, Free at last!
Maddie has been schooling her father this week in the art of negotiation. These negotiating sessions have become part of our nightly culture when it’s time to put Maddie down to sleep.
We’ve had a few tussles, but I have enjoyed the upper hand in two respects. Number one is the fact that when it comes right down to it – the baby wants to go to sleep anyway. Number two is the excessive heat my body generates. As soon Maddie gets picked up, PaPa’s heat is already doing its part to induce drowsiness.
But last night, Maddie switched tactics and left PaPa at a distinct disadvantage. Just like we do every night, Maddie and I were doing a slow shuffle around our darkened house. I watch her very closely during this time, because those giant wide-awake eyes can turn on a dime and slam shut within seconds.
We were just completing our second lap when Maddie looked up at me with her biggest smile. Of course I was powerless, I smiled back, told her how much I loved her and was grinning like a jack-o’-lantern from ear to ear. I tried to shake it off, but I was in too deep. She gurgled a little bit and hit me with that same hypnotic smile. Again, I was putty – stuck in the moment of the gaze and those penetrating eyes.
OK – time to get serious, dig deep and let’s get that baby to sleep. But it didn’t take long to realize that as long as she was enjoying our stroll and giving me that perfect smile – we weren’t going anywhere for a while.
PaPa tried a few tricks of his own – he lightly blew on her – and she actually thought that was funny. Even stroking Maddie’s hair just added to her delight. We had been at it for more than ten minutes now – far past the usual time it takes to settle her down for the night, but I was loving every second of it. I wondered how long she could hold out when I noticed that she was already out cold.
I put her down for the night, but as I went into the other room, I caught myself smiling like a lottery winner with each step. My little girl is far too cute for her own good and it dawns on me every night that with her, we hit the jackpot!
It turns out that Gina and I have been using many similar tactics when it’s time to put the baby down at night. Together, we have perfected a new procedure to put the baby to sleep known as the every day I’m shuffling maneuver.
We both begin with a cool down session after the dinner feeding. A little bit of cuddling and soft words set the tone for a good night’s sleep for the baby. But then, depending on who is putting the baby to bed, Maddie will find herself if one of two scenarios.
- Step 1 – do not let your feet leave the ground.
- Step 2 – the pace of your movement must become unbearably slow.
- Step 3 – do not make any deliberate moves (going in a few circles is ok)
- Step 4 – patience is the key to a successful shuffle.
- Step 5 – once you complete the journey to the crib – KEEP SHUFFLIN’ (you are not done yet)
- Step 6 – Shuffle in place until you know the baby is ready for the put down.
- Step 7 – before you put the baby down, already have your exit strategy planned. Accidentally kicking the crib or moving a door can destroy a well-executed shuffle.
If you follow these careful steps – Maddie will sleep peacefully until the late-night dinner bell chimes in her stomach. A special thanks to Aunt Jacque and LMFAO for providing the clever catch phrase for this early evening activity!