Step One: Do not ask me.
Step Two: Be afraid.
Step Three: Don’t be super pregnant, so you can handle the crazy with the appropriate amount of perspective and alcohol that the situation will require.
Over the past five months, we’ve been slowly redecorating the guest room as Ellis’ big girl room. I planned on not making Ellis move to her new big girl bed until the room was completely ready. I wanted her to feel proud of the room and embrace it as her own, so she wouldn’t feel displaced when some mewling, wrinkled, pooping thing stole her crib.
But the day we finished painting and reassembling the furniture, she grabbed her blanky, pacifier and pillow and put them on her big girl bed. “I sleep here now!” She told us.
People always tell you that kids will let you know when they are ready to make transitions. “Just follow their cues,” is advice I frequently hear from serene moms who stand like an oasis in a screaming pool of 9-year-olds. “Kids will tell you.” This, as it turns out, is complete crap. Based on Ellis very clear signal, it seemed she was ready. So, we jumped into it, like suckers. Sure honey, we will listen to a two-year-old who has a total meltdown when forced to choose between yogurt and cereal for breakfast.
It should not surprise you that the first three weeks were hell. The first night, I was awoken at midnight, 2, 2:30, 3, 3:30, 4:30 by little icy fingers on my arm and the words, “MOMMMMMYYYYY I WAKE!!!” whispered into my ears. I wet the bed a couple times. We bought a baby gate.
The baby gate kept her in her room, but that was when she turned evil. On day three of our transition, I woke up at 4:30 to the pounding of tiny feet on the wall. When I came into the room she had knocked down several pictures and one had shattered in her bed. She was lying in bed surrounded by shards of glass. Miraculously, she was fine. But it was one of those parenting moments when you feel completely inadequate and you both want to yell at your kid and hold them close while you sob. I put her back in her crib that night, but I never went back to sleep, I was too busy feeling the mattress for bits of glass.
After that, we took down the pictures, and regrouped. We decided on a plan that required firm discipline (since she was clearly intent on self harm) and rewards. Naps would be rewarded with an episode of “Curious George” or Mickey Mouse, at bed time we’d discipline if she got out of bed (with exceptions for poop and shards of glass, of course).
This kind of worked. But not really. It was the third week and I was still getting up between 2-3 times a night. Nap times involved temper tantrums and screaming for two hours or more. I was sick of constantly fighting my child and one Sunday, I lost it. I came downstairs sobbing. When Dave asked what was wrong, I yelled that I was tired, I wanted waffles and some peace and quiet around here.
Dave went out and bought a princess bed tent. That worked like magic for two weeks, until she started disassembling her bed tent on top of herself.
Finally, one night at 2am, after I was awoken by Ellis again shouting, “OH NO, I BROKED IT!” I ripped the bed tent off the bed and told her, “Shut up! Go back to sleep and stop trying to kill yourself. ” It’s not my finest hour. But she did go back to sleep. Then, I ordered a toddler alarm clock.
The toddler alarm clock turns green when it’s okay for the toddler (or as I like to call them serial killers in training), to wake up. The first nap time with the clock, Ellis stayed in bed, but I could hear her barking orders. “Turn geen, clock! Turn geen!” The clock didn’t heed her, she fell asleep. No fighting. No tantrums. No coaxing or wheedling or tears. Bed time was just as effective.
I’m probably going to build a shrine to that clock and make it my god.
It’s been over a month of adjustment and learning and crying and hoping that DHS doesn’t come to call. But she is transitioned into her big girl room. In summation, here are all the things you will probably need if you plan on moving your child to a big kid bed.