Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Great Binky Withdrawal, Part Two

We're not out of the woods yet.

Thanksgiving Night, the binkies went bye-bye. Six nights of hell followed. She had four nights of bedtime fits, putting her fingers in her mouth and weeping for the departed binky. He turned hyper and got insanely wound up before the official "get into bed" time came,then when put into bed couldn't settle, tossing and turning for an hour and a half-plus. By the time sleep came for both that first night, it was after eleven. Though "bedtime" is officially 8:30, it'd crept to nine p.m. anyway. But after eleven? This meant no "me" time for mommy or daddy, no "us" time for mommy or daddy together. No down time, no catch-up on life time, and you can just write off romance entirely.

Naptime was no picnic either -- aside from a brief catnap in the car, they didn't nap at all on the weekend, destroying our precious afternoon respites. Yet once back at school, where they'd napped sans binkies for months, they slept. What do the teachers know that we don't?

When Day Seven dawned, it was time to appeal to a higher authority for help.

That authority, whom I'll call Dr. V. to preserve her anonymity, is a licensed family therapist who also happens to be a mother of twins. This makes Dr. V. a heady combo, a perfect mix of empathy for other parents of multiples, and PhD smarts. Her first reaction to our situation was a big sigh, and then: "It's tough. It's four nights of hell."

We told her it had already been six.

Dr. V. told us to be empathetic. We should tell our kids how hard it had been for us to give up binkies when we were kids. She pointed out we hadn't restricted the binky use as much as we should have before we took them away; sure, we didn't let them take the binkies out of the house, but hadn't consistently restricted them to the bed. But without judgment, she said there was nothing to be done about that now. Looking ahead, she had ideas, potential solutions, approaches: sticker charts for the bedtime routine, rewards given in the morning for staying in bed, the removal of privileges for not complying. She suggested leaving sippy cups in their room as a sucking substitute. She advocated getting them a replacement comfort object -- which we'd tried with limited success -- and the idea that the kids can "choose or lose," a concept of the kids taking responsibility for their problem instead of making it all ours. We were to tell them they had a choice, stay in bed or lose a privilege (naming it), and to be as emotionless about explaining it as a waitress explaining menu choices. Whenever the kids got out of bed, we were to avoid reacting at all, save to wordlessly escort them back -- twenty times, if necessary. She said to keep our emotions out of it so there'd be no payoff, in the form of parental attention. She told us to make a "doctor" the heavy: "The doctor says the new rule in this house is that you have to stay in bed." And she told us to find lots of occasions to praise them for good behavior throughout the day, as long as we specifically mentioned the thing they were doing that was good. ("Good job" would be too generic, but "you are sharing really well together" would work.)

We ended the conversation feeling armed and ready, and mutually agreed to hit the "reset" button on our emotions. We'd both turned into angry, grumpy, bear-like creatures, suffering from lack of sleep (Thing 1 had been up and in our room in the middle of the night every night, and our cat, not to be outmatched in the quest for attention, decided to throw up or poop outside the litter box for several nights as well). But we realized now, tired as we were, that our expectations had been out of line: binky withdrawal was no easy thing, and would not be conquered in a few nights.

That evening, the sticker chart, which had been retired awhile back, made its return engagement, with new explanations and rules. They still got stickers as the immediate reward for taking a bath, using the potty, getting in PJs, brushing teeth. But once they'd earned three stickers in the STAY IN BED column -- proudly put in the chart each morning after doing so -- they'd get a reward. (We picked making gingerbread cookies on the weekend as the first reward). They got to each go to bed with something they wanted: for him, a toy airplane, for her, a pink stuffed dog AND her sleeping bag on the bed.

Though one of us stayed in the room for a while, listening to Thing 2 talk herself to sleep (a new comfort mechanism) and Thing 1 do endless take-offs and landings, eventually, by ten, both were out.

The next couple of nights had some setbacks, but no tantrums, no hyper giggle fits, and when there were nocturnal wanderings, the kids went back down after being quickly escorted back to bed.

Weekend naps are still proving problematic, but at least they took one today after being separated into two different rooms.

It's far from perfect. The war isn't won yet. But we know, and they do, that there will be no retreat. The binkies are gone.

Bleary-eyed, we continue ...

1 comment:

Bill Madison said...

Oy, such a battle. But some very useful advice here. Remember it, when it's time for the kids to give up cigarettes and booze.