I think I finally figured out one thing about Ben: He doesn’t like a hard “goodbye” or “goodnight” he’d much rather I just drifted out of the room quietly without fanfare, without acknowledging verbally that I’m leaving. If I just walk out he doesn’t complain a bit, even though I can hear he’s still awake. If I try to say anything at all, then he finds a reason to fuss, demand, exert control over the situation. Is it that he’s being forced to be mindful of my departure? That the sound of my voice jars him out of near-sleep?
Last night Sophie took a turn being the cranky one at bedtime. A long day swimming and playing at her cousins’ house probably didn’t help her temper. But Ben was amazingly calm, as if his urge to rebel against bedtime was satisfied by proxy. He was fine right up to the point where Dom said goodnight to him and then he yelled. Fortunately that passed and I didn’t make the same mistake. I let silence be my farewell and slipped out the door while Ben was still stirring in his bed. Not a peep from him as the door closed behind me.
I’m still not sure what woke him screaming at around 4. I tried the technique I’ve learned works best with Sophie: Don’t talk, just make comforting nonverbal sounds, tuck blankets in and offer gentle comforting touches. For Sophie that gets her right back to sleep. For Ben it at least meant a quick end to his screaming, much better than it has been. But he refused to lie down. He sat in bed with his back against the wall, quiet and calm but unsleeping. I sat with him until Anthony’s cries became too much as poor Dom tried to calm my little nursling whose midnight snack had been so rudely interrupted by his brother’s poor timing. I slipped out and nursed Anthony for a while until Ben started crying again. (Auntie Tree who works the opening shift had got up to go to work and her closing the bathroom door was enough to set Ben off. So Anthony and I sat with him a while longer, Anthony unsleeping and not hungry, craning his head to look around and uttering little inquisitive coos. Finally, finally, Ben slid down and pulled his blankets around him. I couldn’t see his face so I sat there for a long time, until I was pretty sure he was asleep then I slipped back to my bed to try to sleep again.
So we haven’t quite worked out a new bedtime routine; but we’re getting closer and at least I know some things not to do.