The inability to communicate with your child has got to be one of the most frustrating aspects of parenthood. My friends and I often joke that it can't possibly be harder to raise a teenager than it is a toddler because, even if your teen spewing attitude and rebellion your way, you can at least explain to them why you disapprove of certain behaviors; that is a concept which is completely foreign to all residents of Toddler Town.
While I can't always communicate with Mr. L about why I need him to eat his veggies or why I don't need him to run into the street as we walk to the park, we have been able to communicate about one thing; sleep! Now, don't get too excited, I haven't found the Holy Grail of toddler sleep habits and can have lengthy discussions about when my child would like to sleep and for how long (if that was true, I wouldn't be writing a blog each day, I'd be counting my piles and piles of money!). But I have found a way to decipher when Mr. L is ready for me to take him out of his crib after each restful period so that he gets the independence and sleep that he needs.
Mr. L and I communicate in two steps. The first requires him to stand up in his crib. I absolutely will not go into his room to get him if he's sitting down or laying down. That may seem weird or harsh from the outside, but it's all part of our communication. Mr. L knows that he needs to stand up if he wants me to know he's ready to go, so by him sitting and talking to himself or his stuffed animals it gives him some time on his own to hang out without being interrupted by me. The second step is that he must calmly call for myself or The Hubs to come get him. This one is a little tricky and doesn't always happen. But I TRY to hold out on getting him until he asks for "Mommy...Mommy...Mommy". If he's hysterically crying and I think he's in pain, of course I will rush in there to check, but if he sounds more whiny than frantic, I usually let him cry it out and nine times out of ten, he falls back asleep for another while. The main thing I focus on in this step is what he's saying. If he's clearly talking to Elmo then I let him be. It allows Mr. L some independence and downtime to himself. For the majority of the day, he's with me and we're doing something. There are certainly times when he wanders off on his own to play while I'm making a meal (or cleaning one up!) but it doesn't happen every day. By setting this communication standard, I'm putting the control in Mr. L's hands to tell me when he's ready to get up.
I know I've written this in a very matter-of-fact way as if I never question or waiver from this set up, but that's not the case. There are days when he cries in the morning and won't stop. I try to let him cry it out, but either from the pressure of a sideways glance from The Hubs or I just can't take it myself I'll go get him. Nap time is when I'll stick to our 2 step rule the most because it's easier to decipher if he's really ready to wake up or not. If he starts crying after 1 hour in to his standard 2 hour nap, I don't bat an eye and I'll let him cry because I know he needs at last 30 more minutes of shut eye.
As always, this is the method that works for us. It may not work for you, but if you're in need of a new wake-up routine, I hope you find some methods from this post that will work for you and your little one(s).