Peter Pan may ask us to believe in fairies, but I’m putting all my bets on Figment, Epcot’s purple symbol of imagination. Because he truly can do magic. And not the cutesy, fluffy stuff – real magic, with real impact in the world. Because Figment made it possible for my kid to sleep.
As I’ve mentioned previously, Sprout was not a good sleeper. Far from the worst, but past his first birthday, he was still fighting bedtime with all his might and waking up multiple times in the middle of the night. At 10 months, he could fall asleep on his own when we left the room, but then that all went to hell when I went on a trip for work. At 14 months, sleeping through the night was still an occassion to be celebrated.
These habits started to worsen as we approached our Disney trip. While he had taken to sleeping on his stomach, he also needed me in the middle of the night to hold him. With his increasing height, these two requirements were often in conflict, resulting in random nights when it would take more than two hours to get him back to sleep. Out of desperation, I tried pulling him in bed with us, but he just took that as an opportunity to climb on Chris’s head. I was getting increasingly desperate, especially after he acted like a rabid raccoon and we had to resort to cry-it-out at my grandmother’s house.
When we returned from vacation, we had to address the issue for the sake of everyone’s mental health. I restarted sleep training, instituting a version of the Sleep Lady’s solution. While I think she seriously over-promises on results, the basic technique makes some level of sense. Every few nights, I moved further away from his crib, from the armchair to the doorway to the hallway before finally just leaving the room. I would comfort him every few minutes, but not allow him to fall asleep in my arms.
But unlike the first time I did this technique in the spring, he was still upset when I left the room. I’d be back in there comforting him every three to five minutes over and over again. We had a similar situation in the middle of the night. That was particularly rough because it was so tempting to let him fall asleep in my arms. While I could have made those intervals longer, I wanted to minimize the pain of transition as much as possible for both him and me.
This is when Figment worked his magic. I assumed a lovey was a lost cause, as we had tried a couple and he just ignored them. The Sleep Turtle had been helpful, but that helped calm him down rather than comfort him. But I noticed Figment was the first stuffed animal Sprout really showed affection towards. He hugged and even carried him around, a hilarious sight considering that Figment is about half Sprout’s height. Perhaps if he loved Figment during the day, he would help him go to sleep. The worst that could happen is that he’d ignore the toy and I still wouldn’t be getting any sleep.
Needless to say, my random hunch was far more right than I ever would have expected. The first night I gave Sprout Figment, he hugged him and closed his eyes. Just like that. There was no standing up and yelling, no angry protest, just peace. I might have gone in once to comfort him, but it was minor compared to what it had been.
Since then, Sprout has been both going to bed easily and sleeping through the night consistently. Even when he’s totally wound, he immediately relaxes when he hugs that dragon. He still wakes up once in a while if there’s a specific reason, like his leg being sore after he got his vaccinations. But those are rare and his schedule returns to usual once they are over.
Of course, this isn’t perfect. Since I started writing this blog post yesterday, he had a lot of trouble getting to sleep the last two nights. But even this is different – he was attempting to get to sleep and just wasn’t been able to. Before, he’d start wailing before I left the room; now he’ll be quiet for about five minutes and then complain once he realizes he’s having problems. The last few nights, we think it’s been teething, as he passed out almost as soon as I gave him Ora-gel.
While I can’t completely explain Figment’s magic, I have a couple of guesses. I think there’s a certain amount of newness that Sprout’s other stuffed animals don’t have. He’s seen most of those since he was born, so they became background furniture. In contrast, we got Figment just around the age where he was starting to hug stuffed animals. There’s also his size. Because we were worried about suffocation, our previous lovies were relatively small. In contrast, Figment is big enough that Sprout can wrap his really arms around him. Lastly, there’s just something in the power of imagination. I knew if I imagined hard enough, he would someday sleep. I just didn’t know I needed a mascot to do it!
Now, I’m in the recovery stage. I’m still waking up in the middle of the night even though there isn’t any reason to do so. It’s like someone who had a fire alarm go off every single night for a year. While you aren’t exactly afraid, you’re so used to being hyper-aware that it just becomes second-nature. My body is still recovering as well. The first few nights I got a lot of sleep, I was staggeringly tired. The adrenaline of the first year was wearing off and I had nothing to run on anymore. I’ve finally started catching up in the last week, allowing me to cut down from two cups to one cup a tea a day.
My little purple dragon friend, thank you for the sleep that you have returned to my life.