Why won't my kid let me sleep?
January 2, 2010 10:57 AM   Subscribe

My toddler HATES seeing me sleep. WTF?

I'm pregnant with Child #2 and have been extremely tired. Sometimes after lunch or dinner on weekends I like to stretch out on the couch and take a quick nap while my husband watches our 19 month old son. My son HATES this. He just doesn't want to see me sleep. He'll run over and push my head up and make sure I'm awake.

It's not the fact that I'm not playing with him that he doesn't like. Many times he won't notice I'm asleep for a while because he's busy playing, and he'll run over, wake me up, and run back to what he was doing.

It's not the fact that I'm on the couch that he hates. He also hates seeing me sleep in bed, on the floor, or in a recliner. He's okay with me laying on the couch or floor, but as soon as my head goes down and my eyes close he's over pestering me.

So my question is in two parts:

1. Is this common? My Googling revealed many hits for "My toddler hates sleep" and many hits for "My toddler hates sleeping," but not for "My toddler hates seeing me sleep."

2. Why could this be happening? So far I've attributed it to the fact that he's a year and a half old and does a lot of random things, but I'm curious to hear other theories.

posted by christinetheslp to Human Relations (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Is he making sure you aren't dead? I don't really know how to fix this, but that might be his thought process.
posted by whoaali at 11:00 AM on January 2, 2010 [6 favorites]

Yep, it sounds like he's making sure you're not dead.
posted by kylej at 11:02 AM on January 2, 2010

Have you explained to him that you're going to lie down and go to sleep? And what sleep actually means? It might be that he just doesn't understand that it's OK to sleep during the day, or something.
posted by Solomon at 11:06 AM on January 2, 2010

When you're asleep, you aren't paying attention. Reassure him you love him, but you're tired, and going to get some sleep. Daddy is awake and paying attention. When the new baby is born, the focus on the baby and the reduced attention will be greater, so it's not too soon to prepare him.
posted by theora55 at 11:08 AM on January 2, 2010 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: He does have some concept of sleep - he can pantomime it, and knows that it's related to bedtime and lights-out time. I don't think he has any concept of "dead."
posted by christinetheslp at 11:12 AM on January 2, 2010

Could it be that your nonresponsiveness means he can't get what he wants when he wants it, and so panics? Are you especially attentive when you're awake?

posted by jon1270 at 11:18 AM on January 2, 2010

My son spent two years using his fingers to pry open my eyelids every time he caught me napping. For him it was definitely related to wanting my undivided attention as he would also steer my head around to aim it at his play area (as if my head was a camera) before scampering back to his activities.

I don't have a solution for you other than having Dad take the boy out of the house to play so you can catch some sleep.

And as annoying as it was when I was dead tired, I missed it when boy grew out of it because it was pretty amusing seeing his big ole moonhead looming in my face.
posted by jamaro at 11:22 AM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Theory: He's 19 months old. His entire universe is about HIM. Everything is relative to HIM. When your eyes are closed, you are not behaving as an audience for HIM; therefore, something is broken; therefore, he needs to fix it by waking you up.

You can easily test this hypothesis: I bet if you just sit on the floor and close your eyes, he'll wander over as soon as he notices to get you to open your eyes again.

The only thing I suggest is that you nap in one room while your husband and child play in the rest of the house.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:24 AM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe you can ask him to help you sleep. He can be 'on guard' or some other task. Then, somehow, the attention is still all about him. (I could be totally wrong on age appropriateness here, sorry, no concept at all
posted by Vaike at 11:29 AM on January 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Totally normal. My son is almost 3 and will scream "COCKADOODLEDOOOO!" in my face if I so much as blink too slowly. He seems to think he's doing me a favor, because to him sleeping is Not Fun and he can't understand why anyone would do it voluntarily.
posted by jrossi4r at 11:33 AM on January 2, 2010 [14 favorites]

Normal, though annoying.
posted by rikschell at 11:41 AM on January 2, 2010

My wife had a similar experience with our 14-month-old just yesterday, so I'd say it's common. She never naps in front of them, but she drifted off and he came up and yelled in her face and threw some toys at her. She woke and he ran off to play.

...However, I've napped in front of our toddlers several times and they couldn't care less. Hmph.

I find it hard to believe that unless her totter's name is Dexter Morgan he has any concept of dead human bodies.

They might not comprehend death, but unconscious, reclined, and not moving are probably red flags to a child that something simply isn't right.
posted by puritycontrol at 12:01 PM on January 2, 2010

I would try getting a doll whose eyes close and play at "putting it to bed" for short naps. "Dolly needs to sleep now, how can we help her sleep? Turn off a light, put on a blanket, shhhh" etc. Play at this stuff for a few minutes, and then go do something else, then come back to Dolly, peek at her quietly, she's still asleep so practice leaving her asleep for a while, then you wake up Dolly when he's not looking so you're not role-modelling waking people up.
Then you and your husband can do the same thing for each parent when they nap.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:24 PM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes, this is incredibly normal....but if your husband will make an effort to steer your little guy in a different direction.....hint hint.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:50 PM on January 2, 2010

It is an attention thing, just like when a parent is on the phone and the kid decided it is imperative the parent end the conversation. I suggest you nap away from the child.
posted by fifilaru at 1:18 PM on January 2, 2010

--Mom NEVER does this, wtf, mom? Cut it out!
posted by kathrineg at 2:09 PM on January 2, 2010

I find it hard to believe that unless her totter's name is Dexter Morgan he has any concept of dead human bodies.

Well, that would be the problem, wouldn't it?
posted by cmoj at 4:05 PM on January 2, 2010

I feel for you. No matter how old my sons were, they did not like me napping. Their father was just as bad, if not worse, which might explain it to some extent. I always attributed it to the attention thing. It was so frustrating to me because they all napped without intrustion whenever and wherever they wanted. So yeah, it's common. It sucks, but it's common.
posted by wv kay in ga at 8:35 PM on January 2, 2010

it is crazy but reading this post gave me a flashback memory of myself at this very small age and doing this very same thing.

Its kinda vague (considering my vocabulary wasn't very developed) but the feelings I'm getting are akin to "mom is way cooler when she is awake. She doesn't make me laugh when she's asleep and she doesn't respond when i need to ask/show her something." I remember feeling more comfortable with her watching me than with her just sleeping there. Sorry if this sounds like some weird channeling my youth bit, but every once in a while i get clear memories from throughout my childhood. My Mom is always saying "Wow, I can't believe you remember that, you were so young."

I can clearly remember trying to pry her eyes open.

This eventually graduated to me and my little brother quietly approaching my sleeping mother and playing with her face or putting quarters on her eyes and finding it the most hilarious thing on the planet. She was quite a deep sleeper by this time. Probably from having to deal with us never letting her nap. :)
posted by fogonlittlecatfeet at 8:42 PM on January 2, 2010

Seconding the idea that the kid finds "unresponsive, not moving" to be a frightening state of affairs. A kid doesn't need a developed concept of death to think that there's something alarming about a parent who won't talk, won't make eye contact, etc. He knows that open-eyed people don't behave like this, so he tries to open your eyes. It's not the case that he actually wants your attention at that very moment, so afterwards he feels free to run off and play.

When I was a toddler my mom found it entertaining to "freeze" in the middle of walking or doing something trivial. She would stand there with her limbs raised and her eyes unblinking. Apparently, I'd burst into tears, run over, and start tugging on her clothes to make her move again. I must have learned this great trick from her, because some years later I used to scare my little brother by 'playing dead' (usually lying down, eyes open, unresponsive)! I'm nicer to him now.
posted by ms.codex at 9:12 PM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

nthing that this is probably perfectly normal (in that it corresponds exactly to what Mrs aqsakal and I experienced). I was working long hours and weird shifts when Master aqsakal was born, and wasn't much help around the house. Mrs a couldn't even use the toilet without provoking tantrums. She tried doing it with the bathroom door open and the toddlerproof gate (the one you put across the top of the stairs) in the doorway, and he just burst it down to get at her. If she dozed off on the couch he would pry her eyes open. Eventually she realised she was rocking the pram far, but really far too hard and became afraid she might become violent out of sheer exhaustion, and we called in the social services, who told us not to worry, it was normalissimo. They sent a young single-parent mum with her own toddler around to visit and play, and for the first time in 18 months she was able to get away from the house and go to the hairdresser (major win!) and get her first two hours of unbroken sleep since the birth. (Sharon and her little boy became very good friends.)
There used to be extended families in which granny or granpa could help out; nowadays that's getting to be more rare and a different kind of help is needed.
posted by aqsakal at 2:26 AM on January 4, 2010

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