An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

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.

  • holy shit.
    thanks for making me laugh, thats priceless.

  • janellio

    I don’t know if you visit natalie dee, but I saw this and thought of you.

  • trevordlb

    “Because I said so, damn it!…” I swear I’d never utter such words to children when I grew up, but sometimes in my swim classes, with eight children of about four years old and another eight of about 13 years old, with nothing but smart things to say, I find myself saying it as a plea for mercy, out of shear frustration, not because I can’t come up with an articulate response, but because I just don’t care… That’s right, I said it, I just don’t care after the millionth, “but why?!?!?!” Hopefully, I’ll learn to be more patient when I have a child of my own, but from what I hear from the parents of the children I teach, I am “remarkably patient…” We’ll see…

  • Just wait until she discovers that a potty emergency is a get out of jail free card. You just can’t can’t argue with a four year who is jumping, screaming and dancing like James Brown after a Big Gulp.

  • Because I said so works until they’re about 11. That’s my guess at when it became REALLY annoying when my own parents could not come up with a better explanation.

  • Kerry

    I moved my daughter into a big girl bed shortly after her second b-day. She didn’t even attempt to get out on her own. She would wait until we came in and got her ever morning and after every nap!! She didn’t figure it out for months! You’ll be surprised, Leta will probably just yell for you like she does every morning!!! Worth a try if you’re thinking about it.
    But when they do figure out they can come into bed with you in the middle of night when your defenses are down…gulp, not fun!! wiggly little suckers

  • Meranath

    Hi Heather!

    When my best friend’s then-two-year old got out of his room early one morning and tried to make scrambed eggs(daddy found him sitting on the kitchen floor in a puddle of a dozen eggs, holding a wooden spoon and a little saucepan) I bought her a locking doorknob for his room. Except I put the lock on the outside.

    It looked terrible, but baby gates were never able to hold him and she didn’t want him getting to the oven in the middle of the night to finish the job. After about a month, we didn’t even have to lock it – he figured out that if his door was shut he should probably stay in there till mom or dad let him out, or if he asked nicely.

  • cailey

    When we moved into a new house, my little sister’s crib magically disapeared and a toddler bed was in it’s place (age 2). She saw it as great fun to play in with her toys, but absolutely refused to sleep in it. She repeatedly would climb into bed with me (our rooms were adjoined), which scared the shit out of our mother because my bed was significantly higher than hers.
    She rolled all over the bed. I was never surprised to wake up and find her on the end of my bed at my feet. I would reposition her and go back to bed. The few times I tried to put her in her bed after she had fallen asleep in mine were tragic. They DO know the difference! She would wake up screaming and be inconsolable for nearly an hour. So I would usually let her stay with me.
    She fell off of my bed maybe five times total. (I don’t believe she bounced) For a while we had her toddler bed positioned at the end of my bed as well as pillows surrounding my bed. Most of the time she rolled off of my bed and onto her own. This was the only time she stayed in the bed, because she woke up in my room. Eventually we moved her room so that she could be closer to our mother and not repeatedly wake me up-I did have school in the morning. She has now progressed to a twin bed-but she still falls once in a while. The matress on the floor idea is genius-if a little odd. Good luck with Leta’s!

    OH, and I concur that you have a beautiful, extremely smart child. And apparently very intimidating to plastic cows!

  • literatigirl

    Couldn’t figure out if your AlphaMom article was about your inability to dance and how that makes you different from your sister, or if it was about your latest favorite reality TV show.

  • jlf

    OK, THAT’S IT!!! I am getting my ‘tubes tied’.

  • (looks warmly at receipt for vasectomy)

    (says small prayer of thanks)

    We return you now to your regular comment-surfing.

  • I put my son in a toddler bed for the first time when he was around two and a bit. I went through our routine of reading a book and then singing a song and then kisses and hugs and I leave the room and close the door.

    Then I laid on the floor and peered under the door until I saw his feet hit the floor and cautiously start to walk across the room.

    Then I yelled “git back in bed!” and he FLEW back into bed… we didn’t have a single problem for a whole year…

  • With our girls, we did a whole build-up of “Do you think she’s old enough to be in a big girls’ bed?” “Nah, no way.” “I am, too!” “Nah … she’ll just climb out and be bad and not stay in bed. She’s too little.” “No, I’m not, I’m a big gir!” “Well .. do you think we should try it …?” “No way, she’ll never be able to stay in bed.” “yes I will! Yes I will!”

    That went on for a few days, until there is a promise of a fristborn male child (as if I’d want one) if we would only relent and give her the opportunity to prove how good she could be. Which we finally, oh-so-grudgingly did … and had not a problem after that.

    Which is good, because my fallback was to scare the shit out of her with the Ankle-Eating Monster under the bed.

  • I transitioned the bed early as I have this unreasonable fear of my children breaking their neck by diving head first from the crib (William would climb/jump out of spite, Connor would climb/jump out of sheer boredom). However, Connor is a wiggly sleeper, so I keep pillows on the floor in case he rolls out of bed. He does have a problem staying in bed, but a baby gate at least guarantees that he will fall asleep somewhere in the vicinity of his bed.
    As for the time out…we tried it today and Connor refused to come out till HE was ready. Gotta love those tantrums.

  • cate

    I can’t read everything, my contacts are stuck to my cornea like gummy bears, so I apologize if this has been said already.

    Drop the side of the crib…OK I may be dating my self…do crib sides drop anymore?

    Anyway, it was our step to the big girl bed, and she would also be able to get up and pee if need be, “all my byself”

    She was a very obedient child like Leta.

    Her brother however took the dropped crib rail as an open invitation to bang around the house at will. Not as helpful.

  • The little angel is about three months younger than Leta, but about 300 years behind her in the sleeping-through-the-night department. However, she does love the batshit freedom of a big-girl bed. Some people remove all the toys from their child’s room before they attempt this move. I don’t advise it. I mean, as long as they aren’t shinnying down the side of the house on a rope made from your underwear, who cares, really, as long as they are quiet.

  • I’ve been amazed that she has lasted so long in a crib. My older one started escaping the crib around 14 months. She was so thin and boney we decided that she would not bounce and ended up tossing a twin mattress on teh floor like some flop house and surrounding it with those interlocking foam puzzle thingies. She was so excited to have a big girl bed that she forgot she could just get up… for a YEAR!

    Kid number 2 hit the big girl bed around the same age, she had to um learn… about staying in bed.

    She also puts toys in time out, apparently we have some rather lippy dinosaurs as I caughter her, hands on hips, giving those dinosaurs what for over being “sass” mouths

  • One of my friends, whose son needed to move out of the crib in order to make room for the second behbeh, taught her little two year old genius to wait until the right time. They put an alarm clock with large numbers by his new big boy bed and told him not to get out of it until the clock read seven zero zero. He was so excited about the idea of seeing that very number, he would wait. It’s still working, four years later. Seeing as Leta is a number-wiz….

  • Lolajb

    I told my now 3.5 yr old daughter when she moved into the “big girl bed” at 32 months.
    “Never get out of this bed without me or you’ll be in BIG trouble!” and she never has…
    Of course that means she screams MAMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!! whenever it is time to get out or use the bathroom.

  • cherylann

    I enjoy reading your entries about Leta. My daughter is about a month older than your girl. When Josslyn turned two we decided to get her a big girl bed (toddler bed) with big girl bed stuff and made it like a big grown up thing. It’s really close to the ground so we’re not paranoid about her falling out.

    Josslyn is also very big about putting my husband and I into timeout. The other day Daddy was pestering her so she put him into time out and whenever he would try and leave she would point at him and tell him… “time out daddy!” She’s a funny one.

  • Kathleen

    My first climbed out at 16 months.

    I was 6 months pregnant at the time.

    I thought “no big deal” because I wanted to use the crib for the newbie anyway. So we got a big bed and I got rails to put on it. I had to adjust to naptimes when he would get out and play, and I still sometimes have some nights where I tuck him in 100 times, but most of the time he went right to sleep. He still does, at night, and for most naps.

    The part that worried me, though, was when the new baby came. He then started climbing INTO the crib. I have no idea how, he just did. I was afraid he would fall on the baby. Or smother the baby. Or jump on him – anything. Anytime I heard a squeak over the monitor I ran into the room.

    Anyway, it all worked out. The day I came in to check on them during nap and found them both asleep in the crib I realized there are actually worse things in this world than letting baby brothers share the occasional nap space.

    Leta might never want to climb out of her crib. Maybe the transition will be easier than you think. I look forward to finding out, at any rate.

  • SarahLou

    Ok, second comment: I got a big girl bed when I was like 3ish and I fell out a couple times but nothing serious like stiches or breaking things. But my mom put up kiddie bed-gaurds and when I got too close to the edge I would feel the cold steel and uncomfortable netting and scootch back the the center. voila! Instant aversion. Weather it was on purpose or not. But bed-gaurds. They work.

  • I just moved my 2 year old into a big bed a few weeks ago. He never tried to climb out, and I thought he would hate the move. I dreaded it for months, but he loved it and the transition was super smooth. I think if you’ve already established healthy sleep habits in the crib, they’ll automatically respond to the new environment.

  • ethanollie

    transition, smansition…it all becomes the new normal
    good luck dooce!

  • I thought that this story was especially cute. I can just imagine the naughty Biblical cow getting its due.

  • Jack’s Raging Mommy

    My mother is constantly warning me about Jack climbing out of the crib, partially because he is a climber, and partially because I did it at an unnaturally early age and it’s karma.

    His room is so not childproof that it scares the hell out of me, but at 15 months he is only beginning to try to figure it out.

    God help us once he gets it down, and God help you now that Leta is almost there.

  • I always think its so crazy to read about what Leta is up to because my Baby G is only one month younger and seems to have so much of the same peronality as little Leta. I just wrote about G doing the exact same thing the other day with her beachball and her time out chair…though she was a little more dramatic and added in some of her own style. I wrote about it here

  • PixieMegh

    After the chapter titled “Because I Said So” comes “Because I’m the Mommy, That’s Why.”

    I *heart* So You Think You Can Dance. And I too have no talent in that department.

    And can I just add that the Kojak corpses ARE scary?

  • PinkPoppies

    Hey there — time for a bed. Kids don’t bounce; they thunk and parts break — not pretty. We tried the toddler bed in the room to get used to it — not a chance. What worked was redoing the whole room — rearranging the furniture the books, and adding some new cool thing beside the bed.

    Also we were worried about night wandering as we have stairs that no gate would fit. We found these door knob covers at Toys R Us that only adults can manage (and in fact, there are adults who can’t — it was the test of coolness in our hosue to see who could figure it out). We only shifted the knob cover when the child was potty trained for night in case nature called at 3 a.m.

    Time outs are weird things, and appear to work either for a short time, or for particular children. Lots of child development experts don’t like this method because it usually involves a perceived withdrawal of affection, partly because most children are sent away from the parent to their room for the timeout. Much better is using consequences. As in, if you throw the toy, then it will go in the cupboard and you will not be allowed to play with it until this afternoon or tomorrow morning (or what ever interval was appropriate). If you do not behave, then we will leave. Then the parent has to follow through. That’s the hardest part. But then parenting is never easy.

  • Heather, ever consider starting her out on a futon bed? You could fold it up into a little couch for her during the day and a bed at night. She sure wouldn’t have far to fall and LOTS of room for all her stuffed animals to sleep with her. It’s amazing how much little ones learn from us. She is already giving her little stuffed pals her version of time out. I have a 15 month old grandson and can’t wait to see what little tricks he picks up from his parents.

  • jgsearls

    Lawd…I’d trade ya. My daughter (26 months old) has been in a regular bed for three months (we moved and didn’t want to have to put her mother effin crib up in the new house). She doesn’t get out of it. Ever. Just yells for me like I’m her indentured servant and she’s a noble woman who needs help getting out of her bed to be escorted to the water closet to take care of her urinary needs. Always me. Never Daddy. When she’s done with the potty, she bounds cheerily into our room, smiles broadly at my husband and says, “Mohnin’ Dada.”

  • ChristyD

    I’m so impressed that she stays in time out. We put a gate on our kids’ doors when we moved them to the big bed, and if they climb over, we put one above that. It looks like jail, but it keeps them in their rooms instead of wandering at night. Good luck.

  • Jessamiah

    with my daughter we got her a toddler bed (I’m not sure if you have IKEA there but they have a bed that extends as your kid grows bigger). And then we had both the toddler bed and the crib in her room.
    That way she got used to it, wanted to take her naps in it and liked it a lot. I would definitley put a lock on her door so she can’t get out when you are asleep, but other than that she should like it.

    We totally emphasized the whole “Big Girl Bed!!!” idea 🙂

    P.S- I think the new comment system is an awesome idea.

  • Dooce, don’t change a thing about your writing. You give away what I would gladly pay for. You inspire and encourage, simply by being honest and open. That is Art.

  • zitsmom

    If you have room, put a toddler bed with side rail in the same room with the crib, letting all the stuffed animals sleep there. Only if Leta behaves will she be “allowed” to sleep there too. Goals are good 🙂

  • I don’t remember the transition from cot to bed all that traumatic. He would (and sometimes still does) go through stages of coming and telling me trivial things at 5.30am but then other times will just get up and play with his toys.

    And aren’t kids like parrots!!! In the supermarket, the ‘Mummy you did a fart’ thing is quite embarrassing.

  • mdstblz

    Phew, for a minute there I thought you had written this; “…an octopus with only three remaining testacles…” tentacles, I mean it only makes sense, everyone knows that octopi have eight testacles, I mean tentacles.

  • One of the worst days of my life was the day my twins climbed out of their crib. I heard “c’mon Joey” in a stage whisper, 2 loud clunks, and then giggles. Cold sweats ensued…

  • I can’t believe I’m commenting, I’m such a drop in the bucket!

    Maybe Leta would like a cargo bed with the railings. I felt better using one so I didn’t worry about my 2.5 year old falling out during the night, plus I think it felt secure to him as well. We had room to have both his crib and bed in his room, so each night I’d just ask him if he wanted to sleep in his big boy bed with a few of his favorite items and one night he said yes and that was that.

    By the way, I’m a new reader, I’m such a dork I actually read all your archives from your pregnancy on. LOL!

  • We took the mattress and bedding out of the crib, made the same bed on the floor and then bought deadbolt locks for all the outside doors. It was a great transition for both kids and their parents.

  • Angela

    Not that this matters at all in your life, but I have to say it anyways. You are my Favorite person ever. That is all.

  • “because I said so” always worked on me as a kid, on my little one, I think she will breathe fire at me if I try that.

  • tammye72

    I never thought I’d use “BECAUSE I SAID SO” until I had kids. As soon as they hit the “Why?” stage I ended up having to use it. Really, after so many why Mommy, why Mommy, why Mommy, it was either use BECAUSE I SAID SO or go insane.

  • i always thought it was so cute how my niece amber would climb out of her crib when she was done with her nap, open the door, and come join us like nothing was awry, her hair sticking up all over the place (she’ll be 2 in november) until the day she fell out and smacked her forehead on her dresser, which we’d THOUGHT was quite far enough away, and wound up needing 6 stitches. the crib is a bed now.

    the way they tend to parrot us, in both words and mannerisms amuses me entirely too much. and then amber started dropping food on the floor from her high chair, and stage-whispering for the dog to come get it. then i got in trouble.

  • My close friend and her husband started having their 30 month old sleep in a toddler bed about 3 months ago. Emma, the little girl, absolutely loves it. She’s fallen out once so far, but their doctor told them it’s normal and she may do it once or twice more but then the falling out will stop completely. Some subconscience thing. Which makes sense considering we, as grown-ups, rarely fall out of bed for something that does not include incorrectly reading a sex manual. They don’t have a gate at her bedroom, but do at the top of her stairs. When we stayed there she only got out in the morning around 6 when she felt we’d all slept enough. :o)

    Good luck!! Oh and I can’t wait to use “because I said so” along with “Life isn’t fair!”

    Emma and now Leta both make me want to have kids TODAY. … now if I could just find a job to support one AND convince my husband… hmmmm….

  • hornblower

    All this manipulating and controlling – really, it’s just a huge headache for everyone. My kids are 11 & 8, & co-slept with us until ready to move into a bed on their own. We have never done the time-out thing either, though sometimes we might remove a child from a situation and go sit WITH them until things calm down a bit. I find this style of parenting you’re all talking about so exhausting; relax a bit everyone – parenting is not performance art. Though I guess for you Heather, maybe it is. And yeah, my kids are turning out normal – nice, kind & polite; they know better than to leave a snarky comment on your blog. Unlike their mama.

  • Oft quoted in my home: “Because I said so” is a complete sentence. Subject. Verb.

    So far, so good.

    “One size fits all”, however, is an incomplete sentence. It needed to determine just WHO it fits. Certainly not everyone.

  • OneBabyMama

    God, I live in fear for the day I have to put my son into a “big boy bed”!!!
    His best friend who is a month younger (and has a month-old baby sister) FELL out of her crib onto a hardwood floor, necessitating (is that a word?) an ER visit (this kid doesn’t bounce! LOL) so her mom put her into a “big girl” bed. She NEVER leaves it! It’s weird.

    Rowan slept with us for his first 8 months, then moved to his crib when “co-sleeping” started to mean “I am going to jump on your heads, wriggle, and kick you until we’ve all gone insane from lack of sleep” and we’ve been more or less happy ever since.

    So, I think I’m going to keep him in his crib until he’s 18. ;-p

  • um, heather? when i was about leta’s age i fell out of my crib and broke my collarbone.

    i’m just sayin’.

  • Allison

    Simultaneously genius and hilarious.

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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