At the foster carer’s house Little Bear slept in a toddler bed, so it seemed to make sense that he would at our house too. Physically he seemed tiny so the bed, although small, was ample for him. I thought he would probably sleep in that bed for a good while, not least because of his size.
When Little Bear first arrived we had a brief sleep honeymoon. After about a fortnight he started to show us his true colours. Although capable of and unfazed by settling himself to sleep, we couldn’t actually leave Little Bear to do that because he would take full advantage of the lack of supervision. Various items would end up in his bed; he would end up in various places that were not his bed; he might scale shelves or various other equally dangerous things.
Therefore to establish a sleep routine which involved staying in bed and actually sleeping, we needed to sit in his room with him. Little Bear was, understandably, furious about it as it curtailed his fun no end. Consequently whoever was on night duty was at risk of verbal abuse and being pelted by any item close at hand e.g. a teddy or dummy. Although I’m all up for self-expression, it wasn’t a behaviour that I wanted to persist so all of Little Bear’s cuddly animals moved to different parts of his room and his bed was empty of any potential missiles.
Little Bear would also wake during the night. The foster carers had told us that he did this but if they let him turn the light on and play for a couple of hours he would settle again… I wasn’t too keen on middle of the night playtime so had to provide “supervision” for several hours then too, to teach the idea that night is for sleeping and you need to stay in bed. If I didn’t get to him quickly enough he would try to climb over the stairgate or lob things over the banister. I have found him in the airing cupboard and under the desk in the spare room on occasions.
I was thankful therefore that his bed was small and low and he could not reach additional items when he was in it. I could only imagine what he might get up to if he had a cabin bed like his brother, with all the extra opportunities for climbing, reaching and swinging from lampshades it would provide. No. I would not even consider the idea until he was at least 10, maybe 15.
The really difficult sleep period lasted for approx. 5 months. I’m not too sure what changed – whether I had passed the “surviving whatever is thrown at me” test (quite literally) because I stayed with him no matter how challenging he got – or whether it was because we eventually took a two pronged approach and banned the IPad the following day if he’d messed about at night.
Either way, thankfully, things did improve to the point where Little Bear would get up once in the night, wander through to find me and allow himself to be taken back to bed again. I would tuck him back in, give him a little cuddle and go back to bed myself. And most amazingly I could mostly trust him to stay there.
Instead of being up for 2 to 3 hours, I was now up for 5 minutes which was a vast improvement and actually I didn’t mind this new arrangement at all. It felt as though he was waking for attachment reasons (a quick check we were still there) and not to test out what he could get away with. Instead of the anger and aggression we used to experience, he was now generally happy and affectionate in the middle of the night.
At some point in the proceedings (my memory fails me but probably during the Desperate Try Anything Phase) we introduced a Gro-Clock as I thought the visual nature of it would help him to understand it was still night. In the very early weeks he would not have grasped the concept but by the time we got him one, he understood very quickly that he was meant to stay in his bed until “the sun came up”. I say “meant” to, as understanding and actually doing it are not the same thing!
As Little Bear settled into a much better sleep routine, it became obvious that he really needs his sleep. There is quite a marked difference in his behaviour and resilience when he has had a good night compared to when he hasn’t. He is ready for bed early (usually asleep by 6:30/ 7pm) and needs to sleep until about 7am. Sometimes, in the winter, he would lie in until 8 or 9am! It was quite a contrast to the little night owl who first arrived.
As spring sprung and the mornings got lighter and the dawn chorus got noisier, Little Bear started waking much earlier. Sometimes 5:20 am, sometimes 6 am. Apart from not liking it ourselves, we could very much tell the difference in Little Bear’s behaviour so started reminding him about his clock and the need to stay in bed. A bed which seemed smaller by the day – were his feet really touching the end now?
Around the same time, Little Bear started asking for a bed like Big Bear’s. It’s a miracle that he knows what bed Big Bear has, as his bedroom door remains resolutely locked. However, on one of the rare moments that Big Bear has allowed him to stand on the threshold (not even a millimetre of toe can cross) with the door a teensy bit ajar, Little Bear must have clocked a significantly larger, taller and more exciting looking bed than his own.
One morning, after an unpalatably early start, Little Bear started asking for the aforementioned bigger bed. Grizzly flippantly replied that if Little Bear slept in his bed until the sun came up 10 times he would buy him one. This naturally lead (brace yourselves adoption folks) to a sticker chart.
I have never tried a reward chart with Little Bear before but this one seemed worth a try. Maybe it would also show him that if you keep trying, you can achieve things. Maybe it would teach him something about the value of items. Grizzly thought this was a safe bet and he wouldn’t need to put his money where his mouth his.
It took a few days to get the first sticker but when he did, Little Bear was very proud of himself. He wanted one sticker for his chart and one to display proudly on his top. Sporadically, over a few weeks, the stickers started mounting up.
In amongst the usual chaos of our house and our imminent building work, we paid the chart little heed, except to add a sticker as necessary. I started to realise that as soon as the chart was full, Little Bear would be expecting us to magic up a bed. He would think it would be there straight away, not in a few weeks’ time when we got around to it. We needed to get organised. Grizzly was having none of this as busy at work and at home, he didn’t have the brain-space for one more task. Stubborn as ever and quite convinced that Little Bear’s first experience of a reward system needed to be a significantly positive one, I ordered his bed on the day the chart was complete. Although it did not magically appear, I was at least able to show Little Bear a picture and explain that it was coming. Little Bear, although excited and asking for his bed, thankfully did seem to understand the process of ordering and delivery.
This was Thursday. I knew that our builders were starting on Monday and that over the weekend we would need to completely clear the living room. I figured it would take a few days for the bed to arrive and somehow everything would fall into place.
I was a little perturbed when my phone rang on Friday morning and a Russian voice said “I brink you mid-slipper bed, today, wan o’clock”. Hmm, just a little sooner than planned. I then realised I had not ordered a mattress and that would be kind of essential to him being able to sleep in it. So, after doing the supermarket shop (a marathon in its own right) and before baking a Father’s Day cake (yes, quite mad), Little Bear and I went mattress shopping. Thankfully Argos had one mattress left that was rolled (so I could carry it and fit it in the car) and that was available there and then. It was a good job as having Little Bear with you is not really conducive to adding up the relative merits of sprung versus memory foam or making a full and informed decision.
That night, after Grizzly had arrived home from working in a further away city than usual, we started building the bed. Poor Grizzly was shattered and I did think he was quite long suffering that day.
On Saturday we had to move all the furniture in Little Bear’s fairly tiny bedroom around so that the bed would actually fit and then complete its construction. It was fairly stressful as I was essentially making Grizzly do it against his will; the boys are rubbish at entertaining themselves and didn’t cope well without our undivided attention; it was hot and every time Grizzly looked down to screw something his glasses fell off as he needs new ones but hasn’t had time to get them! I’m giggling now that we are safe in retrospect!
Also, Little Bear was very excited that we had power tools and a hammer out and I don’t know how many times one of us said “Do NOT hammer anything!”, “no, don’t hammer your toes”, “no, do NOT hammer the wall” etc.
Somehow the bed was eventually completed, we were all still friends, everyone had all their limbs and there wasn’t any unwanted damage to the house.
To say that Little Bear was chuffed with his bed is an understatement. It has a hidden den underneath it which is very calming and perfect for him. Every so often he will say “I just go and check on my new bed” and will disappear upstairs to sit underneath it and occasionally to have a lie down on it.
So, at the grand old age of 4, mere months after I vowed never to let him have one, Little Bear is the proud owner of a cabin bed. So far, 6 nights in, he has done nothing but sleep in it. Not even a hint of swinging on the lampshade (though now I’ve said that no doubt he will try).
There are 3 brilliant things about Little Bear having his big bed:
- We can hide underneath it when the building work gets too much.
- He is very HAPPY and PROUD of himself.
- He can’t wait to go to bed every day!!!
Now that we have achieved point 3, Grizzly thinks the whole thing has been a fantastic idea.