Too Many Big Moves at Once?
I’m looking at the next six months and starting to freak out a little. My son is two and a half, and right on the cusp of two pretty big transitions – switching from a crib to a bed, and starting to potty train. So, why am I freaking out? Because my husband just got transferred at work; we’re moving to a different state in three weeks; the housing market is both crummy AND expensive at our destination and we don’t have permanent housing yet; therefore, we’ll probably be crashing with different family members for about a month while we look for a reasonable place to rent or buy. To top it all off, we’re expecting our second child in July. How in the world can I manage all this upheaval for my son so that I’m setting him up for success instead of failure, frustration, and regression?
The first and most pressing issue is the move from crib to bed. He’s mostly happy in his crib – he’s never tried to escape (beyond the normal toddler nap-resisting shenanigans), and he loves to snuggle up against the crib walls. Normally, I’d just keep him in the crib until after we move, and then as his sibling’s due date drew closer I’d make the transition. But here’s where things get tricky. We’re moving back to our home state at the end of this month, smack in between my parents and my in-laws – about a 2.5 hour drive from either. My sister lives about 30 minutes from my husband’s new work site. My husband’s schedule will be three long days on and four days off, so he suggested that while we’re looking for housing, my son and I could just visit with relatives for a week here and a week there, and he can crash with my sis and then join us on his days off. In many ways, this would be great – we’ve lived a day’s drive from my entire family for the last ten years, so I’m really excited to see more of them. The problem is, the sleeping arrangements are not ideal at any of these places. My parents have a crib set up at their house, but my mom watches my niece during the day, and she’ll be using the crib during my son’s nap time. My sister’s kids are a little older, so they just got rid of their crib, and my in-laws never got one. Ultimately, we’d be stuck with either disassembling and reassembling our crib over and over, or using a pack & play for up to a month. The pack & play would certainly be more convenient, but my son is a big kid – he’s already on the upper end of the growth charts for THREE year olds, and he’s just too long and too heavy to sleep comfortably and safely in a pack & play for any real length of time. We’ve managed with it for short visits – one or two nights, then back home to our crib. But I just don’t feel good about cramming my kid into a pack & play for a month when he’s clearly too big for it. I’ve looked for portable cribs or toddler travel beds – but so far, the porta-cribs all seem too small, and the toddler beds are just that – beds. Amy, where am I going to put this kid?!?
The other question is potty training. He’ll turn three right around my due date in July, and I’d like to have him in preschool this fall, so I know I need to start the process sometime in the not-too-distant future. I have enough sense to know that it’s not a good idea to even attempt it until we are permanently settled, which will hopefully be by March. But the question I have is this: is it even worth it to attempt to potty train him so close to his sibling’s arrival? From everything I’ve heard, a new baby is a recipe for major potty regressions. Between that, the move, and the crib to bed switch, would I just be overloading him? Should I wait until after the baby comes, or am I just way over-thinking this?
Please help me manage my life, Amy, because right now my sh*t is all kinds of bananas.
Okay, okay. BREATHE. This is going to be okay. This might not all be the most peaceful, stress-free period of your life but it’s going to be okay.
First, let’s tackle the sleeping arrangements. Let’s run through your temp housing options:
Parents’ House: Has crib, but is occupied at nap times by niece (age not specified). Could your NIECE spend her naps in the pack-n-play, if she’s still within the recommended height/weight limits?
(Note that according to Graco, their pack-n-play is only for children under 35 inches in height and who weigh less than 30 pounds. If your son is as big as you say, he’s probably over those limits. Thus the pack-n-play probably isn’t even an option at this point, from both a comfort and safety perspective.)
Sister & In-Laws’ house: No crib.
But are there…beds?
See, here’s the thing: There is NO rule or law or even real recommendation that there MUST be some specialized extra step in between the crib and a “real” bed. You don’t need a toddler bed. At all. Only one of my children slept in a toddler bed and while it was adorable and all, it was ultimately a waste of money, given the tiny window of time he used it. I also had a Very Big Toddler, and the mattress (from Ikea) was slightly longer than a crib mattress — as you’ve probably noted, most toddler beds simply use crib mattresses — but he still outgrew it quickly. We upgraded our bed from a full to a king and gave him that full-size bed not long after his third birthday.
My other two children went straight from the crib to a full-sized mattress & box spring, the lower bunk of our bunk bed. For the first couple weeks, I attached a removable safety guard bar (available at Amazon or in the safety section of the big box baby stores) and put some blankets on the floor. Yes, there was a lot of getting in and out and escaping and some missed naps, but you’re going to do the same thing with a toddler bed. And again, when you’re talking about a Very Big Toddler, I double down on the advice that a small in-between toddler bed or porto-crib will be a ridiculous waste of money, especially if you’re going to spend at least a month in transition, hauling it around from house to house. (And assembling and disassembling a full-sized crib once a week or so? Then loading it in a car and dragging it inside and setting it up again? WHILE PREGNANT? Girl. No.)
If there isn’t a spare bed for him, you can simply opt for a mattress on the floor, in whatever size you choose. It can just be something inflatable and easy to take from place to place. At my in-laws’ house, there’s only one twin bed (beyond a full bed for my husband and I), and now that my children are all out of the crib, we use two twin-sized inflatable mattresses for our younger sons. They roll off, we roll ’em back on.
Yes, he’s happy in his crib and you weren’t planning to move him for a few more months. But hey, sometimes life forces us to change the schedule. There’s nothing to be gained by beating yourself up over things you just can’t change or avoid right now. And 2.5 is a perfectly acceptable, reasonable age to make the switch, and I’m betting that when he arrives at a house without a crib, it will be more of an “out of sight, out of mind” thing for him. It’s an adventure! Here’s where you sleep at Grandma’s house, at Auntie’s house, at Nana’s house. If you’re really concerned about the lack of consistency, get the inflatable bed. Get it now, before you move and introduce it to him. He’ll probably LOVE watching you inflate it and think it’s a fun, special thing. Be prepared to stay next to him and read lots of books until he’s used to the idea of actually SLEEPING there, but hopefully he’ll catch on quickly. (If there’s an Actual Bed for him at each place, start trying out naps in your bed at home, or take his crib mattress out and see if he’ll sleep on that.)
The reality is, toddlers are much more resilient than we often give them credit for. He might get a little clingy, act out at times, and naps might go to hell (which would happen WHENEVER you made the switch to bedtime freedom, horrible freedom), but he’ll make it through this temporary upheaval just fine in the end.
As for potty training: I wouldn’t push it, personally, but I also wouldn’t let the possibility of a sibling regression stop me from introducing the concept once you’re settled. I potty trained both of my first two right before the next baby was born. We weren’t 100% “done” either time and there were some slips and accidents — but I wouldn’t say it was all that different training my youngest, who had similar “regressions” with no new sibling in sight. So…meh. If he’s crazy resistant, let it go. If he’s intrigued and interested, go for it. And once you’re done with the housing search, turn your attention to preschools — so you can know for sure if the potty training is even a set-in-stone requirement for a 3 year old! Some schools totally don’t expect it, and will let peer pressure help the process along.
Above all, just remember to give him lots of positive attention and love. Lots of familiar toys and transitional items. Don’t feel like you need to constantly explain what’s going on and why (WHOOSH over the head) — just offer reassurance that you and Daddy are still Here, and will be with him when you go There, no matter what.