There are many parenting milestones you know well in advance are going to be a complete and total nightmare. Potty training. Teething. Basically anything that happens in the first few months when you’re still practically hallucinating from sheer exhaustion. But nobody told me about the toddler bed. Nobody was sharing toddler bed horror stories on my Facebook moms’ group. The toddler bed crept up on me like a parenting ninja.
“Oh, your kids have been sleeping in their cribs like sweet, perfect angels? Prepare to have your whole world turned upside down.”
I’ve somehow emerged on the other side of this transition in one piece—an exhausted, traumatized shell of who I was once was, but in one piece nonetheless—and have learned that there are six key things that nobody warns you about prior to moving your child into a big kid bed, and they totally should.
1. Bedtime Will Become Party Time
No matter how easily and quietly your child went to bed previously, as soon as the big kid bed comes into play all bets will be off. They can get out! They can run around! They don’t have to go to bed and you can’t make them!
Your formerly smooth nighttime routine? It has now become anarchy. Prepare the water cannons.
2. You’ll Need To Remove Everything From Their Room
Has the noise from your child’s room settled down? Are you hopeful that they might be asleep? Don’t be fooled. Most likely you will enter their room the next morning to find that they have pulled out all the clothes from their dresser, removed the vent cover from the floor, and stuffed as many t-shirts and onesies down there as possible. Then, they emptied the box of wipes, tore each one into shreds, and threw them around the room. Because they could.
You need to get rid of everything. Leave no stone unturned! Dresser? Move it to the guest bedroom. Diapers and wipes? Move them to the living room. Toys? Outta there. A closet full of various things that can be destroyed? Duct tape that sucker closed!
3. It Will Literally Feel Like They’ll Never Sleep Again
I recently read that a toddler should be asleep within 15-20 minutes of being put to bed. Who are these magical, sleeping children?
Take the average length of time your child takes to fall asleep in his or her crib and then double it. No matter how tired your child is by bedtime, sleeping in a toddler bed now means that you have to add on extra prep time for things such as running around the room, reading every book on the bookshelf, and banging on their bedroom door for a solid 10 minutes after you’ve left the room. Confined in a crib, there weren’t many distractions available. Now, the room is their oyster. And they won’t sleep until they’ve explored every inch of it.
4. Rearranging Their Bedroom Furniture Will Become A Nightly Ritual
Once upon a time, the soundtrack of my twins’ bedtime was delightfully soothing ocean waves from their nighttime sound machine. Maybe some light chit chat as they dozed off into the land of nod. These days though, I’m more likely to hear the grating sound of their beds being pushed along the hardwood floors.
Somehow they realized they could move their beds around, and somehow they thought this would be fun. In the beginning, I marched into their rooms at the first sound of this furniture-moving, proclaiming, “It is bedtime, now go lie down.” Then I realized, short of actually getting rid of their beds and forcing them to sleep on the floor with a blanket, they were going to continue doing this anyway as soon as I left the room.
So now, instead of fighting it, my husband and I will make bets every night guessing what kind of furniture configuration we’ll end up finding the next morning. My favorite? “Jam the beds into the corner and sleep in the little ‘L’ in the middle.”
5. When They Fall Asleep, It Won’t Be In Their Own Bed
I don’t entirely know why this happens, but judging by the way we find them sleeping when we check on them later, I’m guessing that they play until they cannot possibly play anymore, and just fall asleep wherever they happen to be at that moment.
Places we have discovered them asleep: in each other’s beds, half on the bed, half off the bed, kneeling on the side of the bed, lying on the floor horizontally right behind the door. They sleep pretty much anywhere other than where we put them down.
6. When You Check On Them Later, They’ll Look So Suddenly Grown Up And It Will Kill You
The first night we put the twins to bed in their toddler beds, it took almost three hours and I think I cried twice. But after they finally settled down for good, we went in quietly to check on them.
They were each lying (miraculously) in their own beds, covered up with blankies and stuffies, looking so peaceful and sweet, and also suddenly gigantic. It hit me then that we were done with cribs, that we had moved into a new stage of childhood, literally overnight. I was overcome with the urge to wake them and squeeze them and cover them in kisses, letting every single drop of babyhood absorb into my mom heart forever.
But I didn’t. Because, yeah right you crazy person, it just took you three hours to get them to sleep!
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