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Dawn of the Big Girl Bed

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By: Cody Harris   |  January 5, 2023

The other night, my soon-to-be-three-year-old daughter Ani was having a hard time with bedtime. In some ways, this is understandable: Ani recently made the leap from crib to Big Girl Bed. As with any change in a toddler’s life, the move from cozy baby-cage to organic twin mattress has come with its challenges. 

My wife, Rebecca, and I have choreographed an elaborate bedtime duet that, if done properly and to exact specifications, works about 60% of the time. Rebecca does most of the heavy lifting—she gets Ani showered, in her pajamas, teeth brushed, and corralled into her bed where she reads Ani several books about ballet, unicorns, baseball, and the occasional yeti. Then Daddy takes over. Ani usually fusses when Rebecca leaves the room, but Daddy swoops in to read an additional story, adjust the room’s lighting, sing a lullaby, take Ani potty, read another story, take her potty (again), and eventually negotiate his own departure from the room. Most nights, this goes fairly smoothly. But some nights it doesn’t. 

The other night was one such night. Ani worked herself up into hysterics upon Rebecca’s departure, and no number of stories could quiet her. “Anna!” She screamed, repeatedly. This made sense, you see, because after watching Frozen, Ani renamed herself “Elsa” and Rebecca is “Anna,” who in Ani’s mind is now her sister rather than her mother. It’s all a bit disorienting, but that’s a subject for a different article. 

“I want Anna! Where’s Anna?” Elsa wailed. “Anna had to pick up Prince Levi at basketball practice,” I semi-patiently explained. That reasoning fell on deaf ears. “Anna will come back to the castle, but she needs to get ready for bed,” I offered. “ANNA! I NEED ANNA!” came the inevitable response.  

Now, I’m a lawyer by trade and training, so I began negotiations. I offered to read additional books if she would get back into her bed. No dice. I took her potty just in case. Not interested. I proposed a visit from Anna as soon as Elsa quieted down. Hard pass. As the tantrum progressed, I sat down by the door, told her that she was safe, and waited for the storm to pass. “Let it go, let it go,” I told myself, with limited success. 

Finally, Ani agreed to climb back into her bed, but not without some new drama. “It hurts!” she yelled. “It hurts so much!” “What hurts?” I asked? “MY FEELINGS!” she responded. 

I’m not sure if laughing in the middle of a child’s tantrum is good parenting, but it was impossible not to chuckle at that. There was little Ani/Elsa, swallowed up in her enormous twin bed, riding an emotional rollercoaster and telling me all about it in real time. 

It made me think about changes, big and small, and how we all deal with them as human beings. For a soon-to-be-three-year-old, switching from a crib to a bed may feel cataclysmic. Something comforting and predictable is suddenly disassembled and donated to some other kid while you are expected to relax and fall asleep in unfamiliar territory. You’re excited for the new adventure and autonomy, but you’re scared of it, too. Ani worked through all of this with tears, but also with words. The sheer newness of the change made her feel something that registered as physical distress—her feelings were literally hurting, and she told me so. 

There was wisdom in that. How often have I faced some new or unexpected challenge and felt anxiousness to the point of physical sensation? How often has some new opportunity emerged that filled me with excitement and dread all at once? And how do I deal with those feelings when they strike?  

Ani’s bedtime rituals may provide a kind of guidance. Find a quiet space. Lower the lights. If possible, get close to someone who makes you feel safe and loved. Explain how you feel. Find the humor in it if you can. Then, like Elsa did eventually, let it go. 

Bedtimes have gotten easier as Ani has slowly adjusted to her Big Girl Bed. And the other morning, when she woke up, I greeted her with a big “Good morning, Elsa!” only to be told that she’d made a switch. She was now Anna, and her mother was Elsa. 

And why not? Change is the only constant.

Cody Harris lives in Kentfield with his wife, Rebecca. They have two grade-school aged boys, Emmett and Levi, and a pre-school aged daughter, Annanit. When they’re not chasing their brood around, Cody’s a litigator and Rebecca is an RN and Lactation Consultant.
More from this issue:

Dawn of the Big Girl Bed Read >>

Feelings First Read >>

Gardening: What Fertilizer to Use? Read >> 

IVF | Intense & Vulnerable Feelings Read >> 

Learn to Quit Read >> 

Life Changes: Food and Noises Read >> 

The Spirituality of Raising Kids Read >> 

What Happens to Your Brain Before Your First
Orangetheory Class Read >> 

Wisdom & Wiggles Read >>