When Rachel was three, she started crawling into bed with Eldest every night. At the time, Eldest was glad for the company.
When we moved four years later, I thought the girls would want their own rooms. We set up a room for Rachel, but she still crawled in bed with Eldest each night. Since we moved during the school year, there was no time for long battles and hours of screaming each night. Or maybe I was too chicken-hearted to try. I put a second bed in Eldest’s room and things went on from there.
But hasn’t been peachy. Rach has always had trouble sleeping. Sometimes she’s up in the middle of the night. Sometimes, especially when Eldest is gone, Rach screams for hours because her routine is wrecked. When Eldest has a friend spend the night, Rach might scream and kick until the wee hours of the morning.
Things had to change, but it was going to be painful.
Ms. Brenda, Rachel’s ABA therapist, agreed it was time to separate the girls into their own rooms. But she cautioned me: once I made the move it had to be permanent. I could not be wishy washy. One of the biggest things Rach needs is clear boundaries.
So, I went to work that day. I put everything Rach loved into the new room. I moved the ball pit from the guest room closet into Rachel’s new room. (For a quick explanation of how I made the ball pit, see here.)
Even though Rachel’s new room already had a pretty bed in it, I moved the bed she’d been sleeping on into the new room, too, trying to send a visual message. (And because I had to stay in there with her most of the first two nights.)
I moved her dinosaur collection into her room and all her noisy toys that were previously off-limits at bedtime because they bothered her sister. I put her name on the dry-erase board and put her name on the wall–anything to mark the new room as hers.
We added a few new, but familiar touches Rachel already loved. The day before I started this change, my niece reworked her bedroom. (The timing was such a God-thing.) Rachel loves my niece’s room, especially ducky, the giant stuffed duck. (The ducky saga is here.) So, when my niece offered us her duck and room decorations, I jumped on it, knowing Rachel would love the change, but it wouldn’t all be too new.
I also chose a time when Eldest was gone for a few days. That way the noise all night wouldn’t bother her, and Rach would be less tempted to return Eldest’s room.
And I planned to get no sleep for several days. I don’t say this to be a martyr. I had to plan ahead so I wouldn’t be angry or surprised at the lack of zzzz’s.
My no-sleep prediction has been pretty accurate. But it’s summer. My writing and house projects can wait. There was nothing major happening this week. Because we moved everything of Rachel’s into her new room, she wasn’t confused about where to go. In fact, she was excited. It’s day four and things are going well, although it’s usually past 2 a.m. before she falls asleep.
Several things have happened to make this easier:
- Brenda and school have taught Rachel to recognize her own name. This developmental step is huge. Rachel seems to feel more confident.
- Rachel has become more independent as she learns to communicate with sign language and word approximations.
- Brenda has worked on compliance. This kind of change would not have been possible two years ago. Or, at least, one of us would not have made it through the process …
- As Rachel has reduced the length and strength of her tantrums, Brenda has worked on ME so that I can hold firm. That might be the biggest step of all.
*It’s been three weeks since The Change of Rooms and I first started writing this post. (I was correct about the lack of writing that would happen around here.) We’ve had a couple great nights of sleep, but some nights Rachel only sleeps three or so hours. But, overall, the pain was worth it.
Eldest has helped by writing Rachel messages and drawing pictures on the white boards in Rachel’s room. We spent some time reading books in her room, and as you can see, I’ve spent time showing her how to play dress up with her dino friends.
We’ve had some reversion in potty training. Stan, my steam cleaner, has been called back to active duty, but so far, it’s only happened a few times.
So, for those of you facing a new routine change, I’d encourage you to get all your ducks, big and small, in a row then go for it and stick to it.