Operation: Toddler Bed

One recent morning I decided to remove the rails from the crib and transition Sam to a toddler bed. I figured he was ready. He’d already been climbing out fairly regularly thanks to Nate’s tutelage, and now he’d be able to climb back into the bed—something he couldn’t do previously. For some silly optimistic reason, I believed that in a toddler bed, Sam would get out, cause some ruckus upstairs, become disarmed by his drowsiness, and retreat to his bed to take a nice, long nap.


And personally, I need that time. I could feel the caffeine evaporate from my bloodstream—is that how caffeine works?—when I sit at the dining room table waiting for Sam to finish lunch. My eyes moved from side to side, glimpsing the dust particles in the sunlit air, the Greek yogurt stains on the back of Sam’s chair, and the sticky fingerprints on…well, on everything. I really resented those fingerprints. And the yogurt stains. And I knew that those dust bunnies are malicious.


In my head, I knew that if Sam went to sleep right now, at this very moment, I would have just enough energy and motivation left in my bloodstream to properly attack all those evil Mercenaries of Dirt—to the point that they would never dare to return! At least for another week or so.


So if Sam can just manage naptime on his own—climbing out of his new toddler bed to grab that drowsiness-causing train book and then climbing back in to meet his date with slumber—I can be super-productive! I started to mentally map out the most efficient route between the cleaning products and the windows that need to be Windexed. I calculated how much time is left on the dryer cycle before those clothes will need to be folded. And when was the last time I scrubbed the master bathroom toilet? Also, when was the last time I used the toilet? My to-do list was growing. Just like my two year-old nemesis who’d just wrangled the last gob of peanut butter into his mouth.


But Sam had other plans. He’s industrious, with a to-do list as long as mine.


“Sam!” I called out to him—loud enough for him to hear me but softly enough to not cause a heart attack. It’s hard to fall asleep when your heart is racing. “Time to go upstairs! With your lovies! And let’s grab your water! What else do you need to bring up?”


His cast of characters required for a nap is longer than my to-do list. If I typed out all their names, it would exceed my self-imposed word limit here. That’s partly because they have very descriptive names. Like “Tiny Little Bear’s Dad.” And “Traintrack Thomas.” As opposed to “Whistle Thomas.”


We went upstairs together and positioned “everyone” in their assigned seats, barely leaving enough space for his growing body. I went through the rest of our routine using a gentle voice and manner, doing my very best to induce a sleepy mentality.


“Ok, Sam, sleep a long time!” And then I returned to adulthood downstairs.


The difference between Nate at the age of two and Sam at the age of two, both resistant to imprisonment—I mean, naptime—is that Nate wanted to immediately rejoin me downstairs and resume mother-son bonding time. That’s kinda my worst nightmare. Sam, on the other hand, wants nothing to with me. He’s perfectly content upstairs without me.


And so, with a can of Pledge in my hand and a roll of paper towels under my arm, I started to round the first bend of a productivity track. I was just hitting my stride: spray and wipe, spray and wipe. Perfectly spiraled arm motions with my dust rag. Take that, Heavy Film of Dust! My satisfied, sadistic grin grew wider.


And then—THUD! I paused to listen.


Suddenly the unmistakable sound of the toilet seat dropping to its base.


Oh, come on.


Imagining a potential plumbing disaster, I mounted the steps, two at a time. I found him hovering over the toilet bowl in the Jack-and-Jill bathroom that connects the boys’ domiciles. He was tearing off toilet paper squares one at a time and depositing them into the toilet. Since he had yet to notice me, I observed him for a few moments. He seemed to have a method. It actually wouldn’t have surprised if he had whipped out a notebook from a lab coat pocket and jotted some notes, proving or perhaps disproving his hypothesis.


“Nope!” I said, jarring his focus. “Back in bed! It’s naptime. Go!”


I could practically see him roll his rebellious eyes at my authority, but he feigned obedience and trotted back through the doorway and stopped in front of his bed.


“Climb up, please,” I instructed. When I removed the rail from the crib earlier that day, I had also affixed the half-rail that was included in the crib package we had received as a shower gift when I was pregnant with Nate, over four years ago. It’s intended, I suppose, to aid with the transition, assuring both mother and baby that he’ll be safe that he won’t fall out of bed.


Sam, however, viewed the half-rail as a challenge, maybe even a training obstacle. Instead of sliding his exhausted person through the opening—clearly the easier route—he preferred to go over the railed segment. It takes longer, of course, which is probably his true motivation, but it also raised my frustration level.


Come on, Sam. A little faster, please!


When I returned downstairs, it took me a few minutes to find my place again amidst my mental to-do list, particularly after I checked my e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, the New York Times “breaking news” alerts, and my text messages on the off-chance that I have friends again. By the time I found my dust rag again, the sound of footsteps upstairs had resumed.


Let me just finish cleaning this bookshelf. What the—? More thuds above me.

By the time I got back upstairs, he had retraced his steps—why does he run everywhere?—and was back in his room.


And so was almost every single item not nailed down in Nate’s room. Nate’s room is a very revered space for Sam. Nate maintains an orderly space. He knows where every toy, stuffed animal, sock, and random puzzle piece belongs. When Nate’s at home, no one is allowed to even look at these prized possessions. Even when pigs are flying in the sky and Nate’s sharing with Sam, he is doing so with very strict supervision. So, with Nate at school, Sam had gathered up all of his brother’s 1,300 stuffed animals, his books, and several pillows. All of those items were now in Sam’s bed. There was officially no room left for Sam.


Was this his intent?


“Nope. Back in bed! These are Nate’s.” I gathered them up and turned to return them to their home. Sam realized the severity of his blunder—who wants to provoke the most powerful and vengeful tyrant in the house?—and helped me move everything back and yet again obediently returned to bed.


A few minutes after that, I heard him in our bedroom. Sam can’t open his bedroom door from the inside. It’s partly a dexterity problem and partly an “it’s just an old house” problem. So, to get to our bedroom, he had to go through the bathroom, through Nate’s room, and down the hallway, past the top of the steps that lead downstairs. Curious, I snuck up to spy. I found him at the vanity, combing his hair in front of the mirror and singing in a high-pitched voice.

His lyrics are always the same: “Happy morning to you…happy…happy…baaaby…”


He had also emptied an entire box of tissues throughout the upstairs—and had been rearranging framed pictures on my dresser, moving the ones of himself to the front and the ones of Nate to the back.


Finally I decided I needed to thwart his escape attempts sooner. I stood at the bottom of the steps doing squats and crunches and burpees, and as soon as I heard the thud of his feet hitting the floor, I sprinted up the steps and dragged him back to his bed. Then I returned to the first floor, resumed my body weight exercises, and braced myself for another uphill sprint. It was actually a pretty good workout.



Tune in next week to find out whether or not Sam napped this particular afternoon. Will Sam survive the toddler bed? Will the toddler bed survive Sam?