A Repeat Performance and Separation Anxiety

We have always gloated about loved the fact that Katie is a champion sleeper.  If there was an Olympic event for sleeping, she would take the gold.  She goes to bed at 7:30pm and doesn’t wake until 7am.  She also still naps from 1pm-3:30/4:00pm.  We are blessed.  {Please don’t hate us–Matthew is another story entirely.}

She used to lunge for her crib at bedtime and has always put herself to sleep.  For the first couple of years of her life, we lured her into her bed by making it the only place where she could have her pacifier.  When we took her pacifier away at 21 months, we replaced it with a little pillow, her first blanket, and some stuffed kitties, all of which we allow her to have only while in bed.  Things have been smooth sailing until about a month ago.

Now there is major drama every time we put her down to sleep.  She’s doing this new thing where, when I leave the room and I am closing the door, she says, “Goodnight, Mommy.  I love you.”  I then tell her goodnight and that I love her too.  I close the door and she repeats the process.  At first I indulged her, thinking that she would tire of this routine once she knew I was on the other side of the door.  But it has completely gotten out of hand.  One night I did it nine times.  NINE!  We now tell her that we’ll say it once and then we’re going downstairs to “pick up” (code for relaxing.)

When we don’t follow the script the second, third, and fourth times, she flips out, and goes from choked up to bawling in 3.2 seconds.  While she typically only cries for five to ten minutes and then falls asleep,  nothing makes me feel worse as a parent than having her cry herself to sleep.  We’ve always tried to ensure that her bed is a safe, secure, and happy place.

She’s also showing some distress if she thinks that one of us may be leaving to run an errand or something.  She  quickly escalates from nervous to panicky.

We’ve had an emotional, chaotic past couple of weeks, with uncharacteristic breaks in our routine, but these insecurities were present prior to that.

{We have chosen not to speak with her about Craig’s mother’s death, as we don’t believe that she is emotionally mature enough to process that yet.  Since she is incredibly attentive and observant, we have been careful to shield her from our discussions.}

I distinctly remember when I was a child, I was fearful to be the last one awake.  I would call to my mother repeatedly to ensure that she hadn’t fallen asleep.  I’m still this way.  When Craig shows signs of being tired, I stop whatever I’m doing and hurry to bed.  I’ve not really analyzed why I am this way, I’ve just accepted it.

But this thing with Katie is sudden and intense.

Has anyone else gone through this?  We never saw any anxiety in her when she was younger and we thought that we might be out of the woods now that she’s three.

Help? Reassurance? Tips?


  1. Jennifer themommanerd.com

    She may be going through a phase! My baby girl is too little to have to worry about things like that, although sometimes we have to let her cry herself to sleep. I hope it all works out! :(

  2. Paige shepherd03.blogspot.com

    Our oldest daughter goes through spells of this. She has a "routine" a kisses, butterfly kisses, etc before we close the door. Then she wants to snuggle or more kisses, etc. Luckily, right now we are down to a dull roar in that dept.
    But the leaving thing definetly has its moments of rough.
    She cries at the thought of one of us leaving or perhaps just walking out the door..which of course just escalades when our youngest does the same.
    Our oldest is just 2 months shy of 5 and we are definetly seeing an end to this LOONNNG tunnel. It was work, exhausting work, but it will get better.
    Good luck!

  3. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    I sure hope that it is just a phase.
    I am pretty firm as a rule, but bedtime turns me into a complete mush. I just hate the thought of her crying on her pillow, thinking that we don't love her…okay, I'm going to cry again!

  4. Nichole inthesesmallmoments.com

    I never thought that I would deny my child an extra hug, “I love you,” or kiss. I wish that I had the energy at the end of the day to indulge her…I really do.

    But, in reality, I know that we need to teach her independence and we also need adult time in the evening to recharge our own batteries.

    Thank you for sharing your story with me. I hope that we eventually make the same kind of progress that you are!

  5. Alex@LateEnough lateenough.com

    I do think kids go through more attached phases. But if you are really worried, I think that it's okay to talk to your pediatrician about it. S/he may have some suggestions that they've learned along the way. It never hurts to have more tools! Or just to learn that it's NORMAL :D

  6. I've not experienced this yet, and I'm sure it's in my future.

    After 13+m of NO SLEEP in our house, Ronan has finally come into his sleep. I'm don't doubt something like this will happen as he gets older.

    Perhaps you could try a special token, or lovey? I know you said she already has several… but one that JUST means mommy and daddy love you? One that you keep until she says her first Goodnight I love you, when you bring it in to her. Tell her this special object means mommy and daddy love you, and are with you while you are sleeping?

    I don't know if that would make things better or worse. My first thoughts were a picture of you, a glow worm, or something that is yours.

    Maybe wont help! Maybe silly! But maybe worth a try?

  7. Joanne Schiffbauer

    I certainly hope that this is just a phase You
    mentioned that there was "chaos" in the past
    couple of weeks. Even though you don't verbalize
    things in front of your little one, they sense that
    something is going on. I discovered a long time
    ago that the Mom is the "Barometer" of the
    household and, children take their "cues" from


  8. CDG moveovermarypoppins.wordpress.com

    These things are so hard, but you *will* get through. When Felix does this, and he does it with alarming frequency, I just muddle my way through, and try to balance letting him work out his issues with keeping a firm hand on bedtime.

    It sucks a lot. And then it's better.

    also, I tagged you in my most recent post…

  9. KLZ taminginsanity.com

    Hey, I don't have an answer, just wanted to give you a little virtual hug.

  10. So excited to have found your blog! I love it! I am now a follower and cannot wait to get to know you better!

    Meghan http://www.thetuckerstaketennessee.com

  11. Melissa

    Having 5 kids with varying personalities and sleep habits, let me just assure you…you are doing just fine. It won't hurt her a bit to cry. You provide love and structure…if it were one of my kids, I would guess they were just trying to control a situation and see how far they could push me!!! And then remember…she will eventually be a teenager!!!!!!!

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