the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Poker face

My friend called yesterday in a mild panic to tell me that her daughter who is two days older than Leta had figured out how to climb out of her crib. She and I read the same children’s sleep book, and I asked her if she had gone back to see what it said about situations like this. She said the advice was a little crazy, that she should lock the door and if the kid gets out of the crib to let her fall asleep on the floor. And also? That she shouldn’t worry if the kid falls while hoisting her body over the railing because the risk of injury is negligible. A scientific expert is suggesting that babies can bounce.

I don’t remember that chapter of the book, but it doesn’t really matter because I’m ignoring the possibility that Leta will ever need to sleep in a bed without bars. However, I’m afraid that if we don’t transition her from the crib into a regular bed soon that we will be facing a battle we could have otherwise avoided. A few months ago we began putting Leta into two-minute time-outs in a small chair against a wall in the living room. I was worried, knowing very well the magnitude of her will in the past (see: that one time she went 30 hours without eating just to prove a point), that she would realize that she could just get up out of the chair and walk away. And the first time we did it she did exactly that, hopped out of the chair, walked over to the book she had thrown across the room, picked it up and looked at me like, do you have any other orders that I can willfully disregard?

I put her right back in the chair, though, and continued to do so when she got up for a second and third time. It was after the third time that her lip began quivering with the realization that, oh my god, this woman is serious, life is a prison. Since that first episode she has never moved an inch when we put her into a time-out, and afterward she won’t even look in the direction of whatever it is that got her in trouble in the first place. She is very much like Chuck this way, and whenever we find a stuffed animal with a missing limb — a duck with no beak, a bunny with no cotton tail, an octopus with only three remaining tentacles — all we have to do is show it to him and he will incriminate himself by collapsing on the floor with his ears glued to the back of his head, his eyes darting wildly around the room to look at something, anything other than the amputee, his entire body full of dread that I will put that toy on his head and take a picture of it to show thousands of people.

I like to believe that we got in our bluff early with Leta, and that maybe if we put her into a regular bed soon she will remain in it until we give her an indication that it’s okay to get out. Not likely, I know, and it will require a bit of work on our part, but she is taking our disciplinary routine so seriously that yesterday she put the cow figurine from Noah’s Ark into a time-out on Elmo’s potty.

“TWO MINUTES!” she screamed while pointing an angry finger into the cow’s face. “SIT THERE FOR TWO MINUTES!”

Those delinquent, biblical cows are always causing trouble.

It didn’t move, of course, and she stood a few feet away with her arms crossed over her chest knowing that it had to stay put because she said so. I think I have just pulled off the ultimate parental coup in that my child now believes that BECAUSE I SAID SO requires no further explanation.

  • KellyC

    2006/08/10 at 3:29 pm

    Heather, you’ll be so glad you’re parenting Leta the way you are. Keep up the great work – you stern timeout-giver you!

  • fixedupgirl

    2006/08/10 at 5:59 pm

    I only wish(!!) that you had captured the scolding of the delinquent cow on video. Now that would have really been hilarious!

    If you have managed to ensnare her into believing your word is above all else, you are the master mom.


    But, I have a sense that she’s going to bust that notion soon. 🙂

  • Gooseberried

    2006/08/10 at 1:57 pm

    I have this strange ability to remember many many things from my early childhood right down to small details. I remember when I was younger, my parents bought my “big girl” bed and put it in my room next to my crib. They then treated the big girl bed as a prize. If I was a good girl, I got to take a nap in my new bed. Eventually, I was allowed to sleep in my new bed and because of this, I thought my new bed was the coolest thing that existed.

    The other day, I googled dooce and discovered that you (your name) is a term in the Wikipedia encyclopedia. That is so cool!

  • InterstellarLass

    2006/08/10 at 1:32 pm

    Once mine started climbing out of cribs, I took the crib sides off and moved them to a bed. I came in to find my daughter dangling by her arm, which was wrapped over and stuck backwards on the inside of the rail. She got a toddler bed soon after.

  • Momof2Terrors

    2006/08/10 at 1:38 pm

    I found you’re page by accident while surfing at work (don’t tell anyone) the other day. I actually was laughing out loud in my office!! It sounds like our daughters are alike. Mine just turned 2 last month, and her new favourite phrase is “DON’T WANT TO” yep..gotta love them, She, thankfully still stays in her crib…I am dreading the day we must make the move…hopefully she just take the crib when she moves out in 18 years!! Jamie

  • KaraMia

    2006/08/10 at 1:28 pm

    hahahaha..that goes away fast! lol

  • cil

    2006/08/10 at 12:37 pm

    We were those ‘keep the kids in bed with you’ parents (because I nursed my kids till they were two and didn’t want to wake up while doing it). The first two were difficult from my end to get out of our bed…I missed them. The third, though, I couldn’t wait to have her own bed. We transitioned them at around 3 years old and they all loved their big kid beds and we never had a problem. We had them pick out their bed, their sheets, their pillow and it made them feel more ownership of their bed. Not one of them made a fuss about changing to a regular bed. If you are afraid of them falling out, we used to put a chair next to the bed for a while because if they roll over the edge of the bed the chair will catch them and they will actually ‘fall’ standing up….no hurt! It’s pretty cool how it works.

  • rosey

    2006/08/10 at 12:57 pm

    Reading about Chuck made me think of this article/clip that has been cracking me up about a security dog mauling Elvis’ teddy bear:

    LONDON, Aug. 3 — For these teddy bears, it was no picnic.

    On Tuesday night, at a tourist attraction called Wookey Hole Caves in western England, Barney, a Doberman pinscher guard dog, briefly went berserk, running amok among a collection of teddy bears, including a 1909 German Steiff bear called Mabel reputed to have belonged, once upon a time, to Elvis Presley.

    and here’s the video (you have to sit through the commercial first):

  • g33kgrrl

    2006/08/10 at 12:10 pm

    You know, my mom was just telling me how after I learned to get out of my crib, they told me rather emphatically that I couldn’t leave my room until the morning. Of course, in the morning they couldn’t open my door because I was sleeping right up against it. (Mom also made sure to tell me that I must have woken up in the middle of the night and then fallen asleep there, because she and Dad checked on me before they went to sleep. Heh.)

    But hey! I turned out ok, even with floor-sleeping! (And apparently, I did pay attention to the “because we said so” argument…)

  • NikkiB

    2006/08/10 at 12:09 pm

    Just don’t be surprised when Leta informs you that “Because I said so” is not enough information. I used that until about 4 when my daughter looked at me with her big brown eyes and said, “But why do you say so Mommy?”

    As far as the “big girl bed” transition, I had no problems with either of my girls. We made a huge deal about it and talked about what we expected of them and then took them shopping so they could pick out their own new sheets. My girls LOVE shopping and always have, unfortunately they’re only 3 and 8, so we’re in trouble!

  • radiantfire

    2006/08/10 at 10:27 am

    you’re the bees knees heather. i’m addicted to your sordid tales of motherhood and misceleny…

  • Sugarsnap

    2006/08/10 at 10:58 am

    Speaking of time-outs, I saw something really interesting at the San Francisco Gift Show. At first I thought it was the most ridiculous thing, a stuffed animal with a kitchen timer in its stomach. Then I saw the marketing pitch, a Time-Out Stuffed Animal. So the kid gets the animal for comfort while the timer tickes away. I don’t know what they do with the toy when the time is up, but I thought it was a good idea. It wasn’t that expensive, and the stuffed animals were adorable. I’m sure you will be seeing them in the stores soon. I wish I would have had one when my daughter was younger, since she spent most of her early childhood in time-out prison.

  • timmit

    2006/08/10 at 11:05 am

    God. This brings back memories of my daughter at age three, brushing her doll’s hair yelling “HOLD STILL! DO YOU HEAR ME?” while gritting her teeth.

    I was a single mom … slightly stressed … I don’t know how she made it through the first five years of her life.

  • madelinesmom

    2006/08/10 at 11:46 am

    Laughing out loud at work… 🙂 I found you through… You really cracked me up! My daughter turned 2 in May and has not grasped the “B/c I say so,” when I say it, but says it back to me already. She hates her toddler bed, but will sleep by herself in a full size bed fine… go figure…. good luck making the big switch.

  • coraspartan

    2006/08/10 at 11:49 am

    I have been lurking here for awhile, but this entry prompted me to finally dive in and comment. First, the comment about Chuck is hilarious! My dog does the same thing. If we come home after she has eaten/destroyed something around the house, she looks so guilty we know something is up! She lays in front of the couch with her face on her paws, her ears laid back on her head and her tail tucked between her legs. Of course, we immediately make a full sweep of the house and inevitably find the damaged/eaten item (or evidence like an empty hamburger bun bag).

    I have to admit that I have used, “Because I said so” since my son was about Leta’s age. He’s now 13. I still use it, although to less effect. Now after I say it, he asks, “But really, why?” So it’s getting to the point where I’m going to have to give it up soon. I obviously use this phrase a lot, as a I received a shirt with the phrase on it as a gift one year.

    The other phrase used often by me is, “Life isn’t fair. Get used to it.” This is always my response to, “That’s not fair!” My son may get pissed when I say this, but he generally accepts that response and stalks off to sulk somewhere.

    Good luck with the bed transition! What worked for us was just incessantly pointing out that he was getting a big boy bed. He was so proud of being a big boy that we never had any problems with the transition.

  • elle942

    2006/08/10 at 9:04 am

    My 2 year old daughter hasn’t figured out the crib thing, but for time out, we sit her on a special carpet square. Many times, she has put her baby doll on the square and said “Bad girl, bad girl! Sit down!” We never tell her that she is a “bad girl” so I guess she picked that up from us saying it to our dog. Oops.

  • Lost in Idaho

    2006/08/10 at 9:11 am

    In my experience, this is largely dependent on the child versus any parenting technique or strategy. In the case of time out, both of my children stay in the corner until they’re given permission to leave. The crib and bed, however, are a different story. My five-year-old began climbing out of his crib at two and is now the first one out of bed in the morning. My six-year-old never tried climbing out of her crib and only recently stopped calling to me in the morning to ask permission to get up. (I never asked her to do it–she just did.)

  • laurengdesigns

    2006/08/10 at 9:53 am

    We put our daughter in a bed on her 2nd birthday exactly. We also made a rule while she was 2 that she had to wait for an adult to come get her when she woke up. It was just too hard to explain to a toddler that getting up to go potty was ok (i know you’re not there yet, but you will be there soon!), but getting up to kiss the doll goodnight in the living room was not ok.

  • Jacqui

    2006/08/10 at 10:03 am

    I was walking unassisted at eight months. I also was a crib jail-breaker. My dad found me dancing on top of the dining room table with a box of raisin bran, emptying the contents onto the table and having a grand ol’ time. Needless to say, I was relegated to a mattress on the floor after that. Firm discipline didn’t stop me and I still do my best to undermine authority. But I think I turned out rather well. And I’m still dancing.

  • melissa

    2006/08/10 at 10:19 am

    I recommend the following: 1) Make picking the big girl bed a big deal. Take her with you and she’ll try out the beds – buy the one you want. Maybe Elmo sheets would be in order as well. 2) Use a baby gate to keep her in her room. 3) If you know she’s up and wants out, just tell her to get back in bed, and don’t go to her. Wait for the patter of feet heading back to bed (prepare for the whimpers as well). Couple days and it’ll be fine. Sophia (almost 4 now) loves her big girl bed and has since she got it (right before her 3rd birthday). She also knows that at 4 no more gate (and no more pacifiers). Good luck.

  • TJames

    2006/08/10 at 8:32 am

    Certain I will be comment #173, saying the same thing, I’m rolling with it anyway. At 18 months, baby Hunter began clambering out of the crib like a cracked out monkey. We lowered the crib, bought those funky tent cover thingys, surrounded the crib with pillows, etc. Finally I took my Mother in Law’s advice (it really killed me) and put him in a twin bed.
    He is now 2. He never climbed out of bed again. I think he’s still in there somewhere…
    Love your site. It’s the reason I get out of bed half the week.

  • katy66

    2006/08/10 at 8:34 am

    Our daughter started gettingout of her crib at 20 months. One moring, I walked in and she was standing at teh side waiting to be let out, then next I woke up to her hovering over my body saying WAKE UP!

    She never disregarded nap time though. It was if putting her in there required at least some sleep before she would allow herself out.

  • Kate G.

    2006/08/10 at 7:14 am

    My parents put me in a “big girl bed” early enough that I didn’t know that I could get out of it. I would lay in bed yelling, “Mommy! Daddy! I’m ready to get up now! You can come and get me!” I’m planning on doing the same thing with my daughter. We all know how well planning works with kids, so we’ll see…

  • jensings

    2006/08/10 at 7:47 am

    Beautiful photo today.

  • Kendra

    2006/08/10 at 8:07 am

    My mom used to say “because I said so,” too. Worked every time.

    Your post is another reminder to me to lower that mattress in her crib. I’ll probably forget again. Maybe put a bunch of pillows underneath the crib?

    I don’t like the lock-in idea, though. Seems unsafe.

    Love the colors in the masthead–and the content, too, as always.

  • dscokween

    2006/08/10 at 6:42 am

    my kiddo is 3.5 and we run into this a lot. I’ve finally figured out that space is not as important as time/behavior. She goes in time out where she is sitting, standing or wherever as long as she is crying or whining, or whatever. It’s the only way I’ve gotten time out to work. The only time I use it is when she is really having some sort of behavior issue, otherwise we don’t really have problems.

    We could never get her to stay in her crib without throwing a tantrum at any time, so I couldn’t actually wait to get a big kid’s bed.

  • stephanie

    2006/08/10 at 6:54 am

    hoorayyyyyyyy for what now seems to be known as “the supernanny technique”


    also, my best friend has two daughters, one 2 and one 4, and she has been locking the 4 year old in for some time. i know that sounds awful, but it was the only thing left she could do so this girl would finally get “okay, it’s time for bed, i really can’t come out anymore” my best friend had to change the locks and the doorknobs because she would figure everything out and escape. she was always in a little bed though, i definitely could NOT hear my kid take a fall out of a crib and just think “oh well!” so, sometimes she slept in the bed, sometimes on the floor, sometimes without any clothes, but she slept. [and she sleeps good too, and late, which i love since i’m the guest crashing on the living room couch who does not wish to be awakened by a screaming baby at 5am, wandering out and smacking her flailing arms into my face.]

    whatever works.

  • kristen pisten

    2006/08/10 at 6:58 am

    My daughter knows she can climb out of bed and on occasion has. Instead she’d rather have us do for her, choosing to continue to use us as her servants by getting her out of bed, helping her get dressed, etc.

  • planck's constant

    2006/08/10 at 7:00 am

    All this transition stuff is silly. Children should sleep with their parents until they decide they want their own bed. This is how it has been for 10,000 years until recently when people who want to rear unwelcome strangers in their homes came on the scene. They are your children. I know people who treat their dogs better than they do their own children.

    If they don’t sleep with you they grow up hateful and unsocial like many young animals today. Even monkeys in the wild have better child-rearing habits. Look at how they rear their young. Chimpanzees are smart enough to build cribs but they don’t. Why? Because it is unnatural to imprison your own young during the period in their lives that they most need to be nurtured.

    And as for timeouts: This has to be the silliest parenting concept I have ever heard. They are children for God’s sake not recalcitrant convicts. Unless your child sticks a knife into your eye, timeouts only teach your child that power and might are more important than understanding and communication.

    I have seen studies that the most egregious abusers of time outs are the same people who were similarly molested as children.

    So stop the cycle. Become real, loving parents, not custodians.

  • Thérèse

    2006/08/10 at 6:01 am


    You know of course that because of karma, that bitch, something, somewhere is going to have to balance that out. Since BECAUSE I SAID SO works so very well, she’ll probably get her first tattoo at age 6 or so.

    Then again, all you’ll have to do is say “remove it, child.” “Why?” “BECAUSE I SAID SO.”

    Oh wow. So very powerful.

  • madge

    2006/08/10 at 6:30 am

    A little late to the party here, but…

    My daughter jumped, not fell, out of her crib at 18 months. We’d already put a big girl bed in her room and used it for reading and winding down at night. After a period of trying to keep her in the crib, we gave up and took it out of her room.

    Despite bed rails and a head and foot board, she’d weasel her way out and fall asleep on the cold, hard wood floor by the gate on her bedroom door. That lasted for about three months. Now she goes to sleep without getting up and only exits her bed when a good 20 minutes of hollering MOMMY! elicits no reponse.

    During that time I would tell anyone who asked to keep their kids in the crib as long as possible. Now I see it is the same as everything in this whole child-rearing game: They do things when they’re ready.

  • Arty Steph

    2006/08/10 at 5:55 am

    Sadly, I am now more willing to have children, only so I can finally convince someone that BECAUSE I SAID SO is a good enough reason for anything. It doesn’t seem that anyone in my life falls for it, even my dogs 🙂

  • Arty Steph

    2006/08/10 at 5:55 am

    Sadly, I am now more willing to have children, only so I can finally convince someone that BECAUSE I SAID SO is a good enough reason for anything. It doesn’t seem that anyone in my life falls for it, even my dogs 🙂

  • Nancy

    2006/08/10 at 4:44 am

    Maybe you’ll get lucky with Leta like I did with my daughter . . . the poor girl NEVER learned to climb out of her crib and would have kept sleeping in it until she was 4 if we hadn’t moved and decided to put the crib away.

  • Brad Martin

    2006/08/10 at 5:06 am

    I did the climbing out of the crib thing when I was little. After the third time I started throwing a pillow down onto the ground first and then flinging myself at it from the railing. I never landed on it, but that never stopped me from trying. This is all hearsay of course, because I wasn’t old enough to remember, and the story comes from my mother who might very well just intend to embarass me. She’s right though; I am scrappy.

  • thejoyof

    2006/08/10 at 5:31 am

    You make me want to be … a better writer …

    On the bright side of this, sometimes the child is so excited to have their own bed that they actually GO to it willfully – on their own! A safety gate at the door helps too.

  • marian

    2006/08/10 at 5:40 am

    My boy destroyed his crib by the time he was two. But the odd thing was that once he got a big boy bed, he never got out of it at night. He’d scream for us to come to him, but he never ventured out. Really odd, when you think of it.

  • Eeyore_784

    2006/08/10 at 4:41 am

    Hi Heather. This is Debi, I have been reading for years and just signed up for Typepad so I could say GREAT POST. But since it took so long to sign in I figured I would say all I wanted to really quick. Happy Belated Birthday. I am SOOO Relieved Ed is GONE! Looking forward to future enteries that say his relatives are gone. And Last but not least, your photography rocks.

  • jennplas

    2006/08/10 at 4:44 am

    my daughter LOVED her crib. when we got her a big girl bed with a little fold down gate on the side at age 2, she still acted as if it was a crib. she doesn’t come out unless i say it is ok. even to go to the washroom. (she is now 4.5) I keep telling her she is allowed to get up to go pee, but she always yells and waits until i say “ok”. never has she gotten out of bed after being tucked in. she never did try to climb out of her crib either. i don’t think she was brave enough to attempt such a thing.

    good luck!

  • san

    2006/08/09 at 11:21 pm

    it might calm your friend down a little, if i tell you that my sister [we’re twins] pretty quickly learned how to get out of her crib and make a flip into my bed… she never got hurt.

  • Villarica

    2006/08/10 at 12:11 am

    Re: child injuries: When a friend’s toddler broke his wrist, his doctor told him, “As long as all the bones are in the same room, he’ll be fine.”

  • phredojane

    2006/08/10 at 3:49 am

    First son would have stayed in his crib forever, but along came second son twenty months later. FS had just learned to fall asleep on his own when we moved him to a toddler bed and…it was hell. SS was a super sleeper, even sharing a room with big bro. Around eighteen months SS discovered he could escape the crib to climb into the toddler bed with FS. Would you believe FS began sleeping normally? Amazing. We scrapped the crib and toddler bed and got a pyramid bunk, where they still share the bottom double bed four years later. I really don’t know what we’ll do with third son when he learns to escape the crib…

    So my solution? Add a sibling 🙂

    So my solution? Add a sibling.

  • katieaubergine

    2006/08/10 at 3:54 am

    Be glad you made it this far without her climbing out of the crib…evidently I climbed out of mine at the tender age of 8 months old and frecked the hell out of my parents (who decided it was best to let me sleep with the side of the crib down and sofa cushions on the floor every night). My daughter is only 6 months old, and I pray she takes after her father and not me!!

  • minxlj

    2006/08/10 at 4:14 am

    Putting a cow into time-out….that’s just given me the biggest laugh of the week, and now my workmates think I’m nuts since I just told them about a baby giving orders to a biblical cow.

    Anyway I think we need another Leta video posted!!

  • rogueohotog

    2006/08/09 at 9:21 pm

    I don’t have children but customer service may rival the same amount of patience required. I told a repeat whiner after asking the same questions several times over about why he couldn’t trade his stocks after the market closed … “Because rules are rules and you can’t change them.”

    I felt silly but my whole team applauded me.

    P.S. I love your site and your wit.

  • Danelle O'Shea

    2006/08/09 at 9:25 pm

    My apologies if one of the 144 people ahead of me said the same thing..I only read up to about 55 or so – lol

    The key is to put the big girl bed in her room now. Dress it up with the prettiest bedding and a brand new stuffed “something” (whatever she’s into) against the pillow. Tell her this bed is for when you are bigger, but not now. Make it the most wonderful thing to ever happen to her bedroom, but oops – sorry, it’s off limits for now. “We have to keep it pretty and nice for when you are bigger!” “Isn’t it lovely? Won’t it be the funnest thing when you are bigger?”

    Then when you think she’s ready – or jazzed up enough about it, (I’ve seen kids BEGGING to graduate to the bed) – start with naps in the bed. Let her set the tone for when she’s ready for it, and then when she says she is make sure you take the crib down immediately.

    Btw, my kids are 24, 20 and 18 and I still use “Because I said so.” I’m a nanny too, so I get to say it to other people’s children as well!

    PS – I don’t know if Leta is potty trained yet but that is always a good tie-in, because they both usually happen at about the same time. “Now that you don’t wear diapers, you get a big girl bed!! Squeee!”

  • Karihun

    2006/08/09 at 9:43 pm

    So when does the book “Parenting the Dooce Way” come out?

  • Kim E

    2006/08/09 at 9:54 pm

    The children who believe ‘BECAUSE I SAID SO’ all through their childhood really rebel once they figure out that’s not so accurate. It usually kicks in around age 14. Just so you know.

  • Barrett

    2006/08/09 at 10:22 pm

    When I was a baby, I climbed out of my crib and broke my foot. My mom found me hanging upside-down with my foot trapped between the crib bars.

    My right foot still turns inward just a bit.

  • tigerlily

    2006/08/09 at 10:49 pm

    Heck. YES.
    Definitely using that for the potential kids in the future.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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