>I have not yet been blessed with one of those “sleeper-type” babies. Sleep training, shmeep training; when my daughters were infants, I tried everything the books said, the neighbors said, my mom said, my friends said. My head was spinning with advice, but my brain was not getting any rest, as both of my girls instinctively knew how to sleep in my arms and wake the moment they were put down. “Let them cry it out,” you say? “Relentless!” I answer you.
The good news is, I made it! They are now ages 7 and 4, and except for the typical, “I’m not tired” protests at bedtime, they find their own way to slumber these days and are even sampling the fine art of sleeping in. No, this Passive Aggressive Diary post won’t actually be about sleep, but rather the epic (and different) ways my husband and I went about approaching our older daughter’s bedtime routine, back in her baby days.
When Hannah was 19 months old, I had grown weary of spending an hour (plus!) each night rocking her to sleep, so my New Year’s resolution that year was to get a more reasonable bedtime routine going. I put her to bed every night for six weeks and got our family into a new groove: three books, a loving song, and in-the-crib—all in under 20 minutes. My husband was totally down with the whole thing until the night in late February when I asked him if he could follow the simple routine and put Hannah to bed.
He looked me in the eye, asked in detail about the number of books and timing of the routine, and then agreed to my request.
About a half hour went by (not that I was watching the clock or anything), when I heard uproarious laughter from upstairs. I felt a stab of impatience, but then chided myself for being so strict on the time, thinking sweetly, “How nice that they are enjoying their time together.”
Five minutes later, loud music began: Dan Zanes on full volume! I could hear Hannah’s bed springs squeaking. It was a Dance Party! Any “isn’t that sweet” thoughts drained from my head (probably through the steam seeping out of my ears.)
At the 50-minute mark, I heard dresser drawers slamming. I couldn’t stop myself anymore. I went upstairs and opened Hannah’s bedroom door. She was out of her fleece jammies and decked out in her stripy bathing suit, Dora sunglasses, and a pair of brand new hot pink water shoes. It was a BEACH dance party…in February…at 9:48pm…
My heart melted a little when Hannah ran up to me with her huge wide-awake smile and shouted, “Bedtime so fun!”
But it froze up again when Richard came downstairs 35 minutes later (that’s an hour and a half later, for those of you (like me) who are counting) and met my stony glare with feigned shock, “What? We were just having some fun!”
Five years of decent night sleeps later, the situation that February evening is now all clear; Richard didn’t want to be bothered with bedtime routines. Rather than tell me this fact and risk an argument over sharing childcare responsibilities, he chose a passive aggressive response to the situation. He verbally agreed to the task, but carried it out in such a way that he knew would excuse him from having to repeat it for quite some time. Classic intentional inefficiency.
The cunning of his personal choice was unmistakable: when I argued with his stated intention of having fun with his daughter, I got to star in the coveted roles of “uptight, no-fun mother” and the always delightful-to-be-around “controlling wife.” My husband’s strategy in the situation was a winning one for both he and our daughter; Hannah thought her Daddy was the coolest in the world and Richard was not called upon to help with this evening responsibility for months.
At least I got a good story for my book!
The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive-aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces