There is a new weapon in the war against Evie waking up too early. We have finally resorted to the supernatural.
Evie has always had trouble staying asleep, some of which has been documented here. Through various tricks and subterfuge, we have sometimes managed to make her sleep in later (by later, I mean 5:30 or 6), but just when we start to congratulate ourselves on our success, she will start a push to get up earlier and earlier. It was in the middle of one such push, that we decided something new had to be done.
The problem is that Evie (and all toddlers) love routines. Everything that happens to her, she tries to incorporate it into a routine. Sometimes this can be used to our advantage, like the routine we use to get ready for bed, and sometimes it hurts us. In this case, her preferred routine was to wake up at about 5, and then have me come in to tell her it was too early. Then we repeated this at 5:40, 5:50, etc. until Sara came in to get her up around 6. She loved to talk about how daddy came in and told her to go back to sleep. And as time went on, the wake ups became earlier, more frequent, and she became more reluctant to go back to sleep.
I started trying to explain to Evie about the clock, and how she can’t get up until the first number is 6. She seemed interested, but I think it was a little much. It was hard to know that the first number was the important one, and the other numbers didn’t matter in this case. Also, Sara pointed out that she wouldn’t be able to understand that 5 is too early, but if she woke up and it was 7, that was okay. So Sara had found some toddler alarm clocks online that you can set to display an icon, such as a sun, when it was okay to wake up, or a moon if it was too soon.
Rather than spending money and buying some specialized clock, we realized we could make do with what we had. We used an extra light timer we had lying around, and we hooked that up to a set of ghost lights that we had hung in her room as a Halloween decoration.
I can’t begin to tell you how fantastically this has worked. She has been sleeping in (or at least staying quiet in her crib, which amounts to the same thing as far as I’m concerned) until 6:30 every day for almost two weeks! And she’s so excited for the ghost lights to come on. The first day, by the time we got into her room, she was literally jumping up and down and pointing at the ghost lights in glee, yelling, “Mommy! Daddy! The ghost lights came on! They said boo and I woke up!”
And this is despite the fact that Sara and I continue to botch the job as much as humanly possible. On the first day, when success was the most important, we accidentally set the time wrong, so that the lights came on like 45 minutes later than they should have. This meant she was yelling for us to come in and we were cringing in our room, trying to decide if we should go in or wait. After that, it took a couple more days before we managed to get the timing right. The timer is not digital, and there is a lot of ambiguity about the time it is displaying.
All in all though, it has been amazing. It has probably been one of the single most effective tools we have used to keep her in bed until a reasonable time. And now that we have the system in place, we are able to adjust her schedule by subtly adjusting the timer over the course of a few days, without her noticing. This is how we moved her from 6 to 6:30, and also how we managed to control the time change without disrupting her sleeping schedule.
The downside is that we’re stuck with ghost lights in her room for the foreseeable future. But maybe someday we can find some other kind of fun light to switch off to.