As Muffin and Squeaker have gotten older, Michael and I have reveled in the advances that they've made in language and dexterity. In general, the changes the girls have undergone have made our lives easier. For example, it is simpler to help resolve a tantrum when Squeaker can tell us what is causing her to be upset. But every now and then, these advances make our lives more complicated.
Last Thursday, Michael and I put the girls into their cribs around their usual 7:00 time, and they complained (as they often do) that we limited the number of books we read to them to about ten. Squeaker in particular wanted us to read more books; she loves books and regularly wants 25-30 books in her bed at night. But it was late, and the girls need their sleep, so after we had done our usual nighttime ritual, we said goodnight and left the room. I was in the kitchen when I heard Muffin and Squeaker's bedroom door open. I knew I hadn't opened it, and I doubted Michael had, given that he was in a different part of the apartment. So I was very surprised to see Squeaker walking down the hallway, crying for Daddy.
Michael and I have had the discussion a couple of times about when we should move the girls out of their cribs and into beds. Knowing our children, however, we would like to keep them in their cribs as long as possible, because they feel comfortable and secure in there. They love being in their cribs, and in fact they will sometimes choose to play together in one crib. As we have friends whose kids are older than our girls who are still in cribs, we saw no reason to rush toward getting them into beds. After Muffin climbed out at 11 months, we got her a crib tent, and not long thereafter we got Squeaker a crib tent as well. With the girls zipped in and secure, we had no fears of them climbing out and falling down.
But then we went to the girls' cousin's bar mitzvah in Maryland, and the hotel cribs were open. It took the girls a couple of nights in the hotel, but the girls got used to sleeping in open cribs. So when we came home, the girls were still willing to sleep with the tents on the cribs, but they no longer wanted the tents zipped. Since they had learned to sleep well within the tents, we figured there was no reason not to try having them sleep with the tents unzipped, and the girls were fine.
Around the same time, we began letting the girls climb into their own cribs at night. We have a chair in their room that is the right height for them to climb onto, and over the past few months we have added a couple of stools to their room that they can use to climb up onto the chair if they want to. With the sides of their cribs lowered, it's a simple climb into the cribs. And with the sides pulled up after the girls have climbed in, they would have to work very hard to get out, even with the tents open.
Or so we thought. As I mentioned, apparently Squeaker was sufficiently upset on Thursday night that it was worth it to her to try to get out when Mommy and Daddy did not come quickly enough to satisfy her. Since her crib side was all the way up, I can only assume that she climbed over and lowered herself onto the chair that was next to her crib. After her escape, my first instinct was to move the chair. But then I had a second thought that it was likely she'd try to climb out again even if the chair was not there. I didn’t want Squeaker to fall and really hurt herself, so we left the chair in place.
We explained to Squeaker that climbing out was not acceptable, and we hoped that was the end of it. But then on Saturday night, Michael and I heard the girls talking in their cribs, and then we heard them giggling. The giggling was louder than the talking had been and sounded closer than it should have. Since I had made it clear to Squeaker that I would zip her tent shut if she climbed out again, Michael volunteered to check what was going on with the girls. He started laughing almost immediately upon walking into the room, and soon he reported back to me that Squeaker had, in fact, climbed out. The shocked and sad expression on her face when Michael walked in, he said, clearly indicated that she knew she had been caught. He added, though, that Muffin admitted that she had been the instigator, asking Squeaker to come out and play with her. We made it clear that if Squeaker climbed out again I would zip her crib tent, and then we left them to go to sleep.
While I don't doubt that Squeaker will try to climb out again, she now knows that there will be consequences. And Michael and I have begun discussing in earnest the timetable for moving the girls into beds. We still want to keep them in cribs for as long as we can, but I think the day will come soon that we will have to bite the bullet and admit the girls are no longer going to be sleeping in cribs.
This week’s column is written by Nomi S. Burstein.