Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Bedtime Battle

It's come to my attention lately, that perhaps we have an unconventional approach to bedtime. And as someone who constantly feels like over-sharing, I thought I would do it here, rather than hijacking someone else's blog to expound on the virtues of "my way." Because, first and foremost, that is obnoxious. And secondly, well, I'm thinking about the whole transition thing.

I've been reading posts from a few people lately about the move to the big bed and I am considering that the time is drawing close for Maren. At this point in Brynna's life, we were already full-time in the big girl bed, but Maren is a different child and she's still coping with the crib. I can tell by the irritation in her screams and the way she's eyeing those crib walls, however, that our days are numbered.

When we moved Brynna to the big bed, it was with minimal drama. First of all, we left the crib up for a few days. We told her that if it didn't work, she'd go back to sleeping there. Simple. Direct. Threatening and comforting all at once. We never had to follow through, though, which is good, because I was really ready to be done with the crib.

Then began the establishing of rules and routine. Something that always requires a few tries in our house.

Here is our current bedtime routine. At bedtime, we give the bedtime reminders: brush your teeth, get on your jammas, etc. All of these are optional, so there's no nagging. As I said the other day, she almost always brushes her teeth. Jammas are about 50/50. Sometimes she wears them, sometimes she sleeps in her clothes, sometimes she takes off her clothes, then decides she doesn't feel like putting on jammas or she doesn't like any of the ones that are clean and she sleeps in her bathrobe. We don't care.

Then, we do stories. Brynna gets a story from each of us, if we are home. Mine is usually a chapter of a book, and The Husband's is usually a picture book. This can take anywhere between 20 minutes and an hour. Really. We try to keep it on the short side, but sometimes the stories just take longer than we planned. Then, we leave.

Now, none of this is probably striking you as abnormal. What's weird, I think, is our rules. Primarily, that we don't care if she goes to sleep. Here's the deal, when I was a kid, I couldn't sleep when the sun was out, it was just a thing for me. So, I would lie in bed with nothing to do, nothing going on and wait until the sun set. I considered that the most miserable thing about summer. Sometimes I may have fallen asleep and I don't remember, that's fine, sometimes I just laid there and laid there and laid there. (In all fairness, I'm not sure my mother ever forbade me reading in bed. I slept with the radio on and I think if I had read, she would have been fine. I was a natural-born rule follower. Somewhere down the line, I like to think I grew out of that. Then, I spend a few minutes cussing out the people who don't pull all the way over when emergency vehicles pass and I realize that I didn't. At all.)

What we endure affects our parenting, plain and simple.

So, in bed, Brynna may read, color, play with a doll or two or practice writing. She may not get out of bed (except for using the bathroom and procuring a dixie cup of water) and she may not turn on the TV. She sleeps with a lamp for a nightlight, so she can usually see well enough to color or read a board book with big letters.

The rule is that bedtime is the time that we go to bed. Since I can't force her to go to sleep, I don't force her to try to sleep. Sometimes, she calls for me and I go in there and she says she's trying to sleep and can't. My instructions are to pretend she's asleep, as that's what usually works for me. It seems to work for her, too, because I seldom hear from her again.

We have had the odd night where she's up until 10 or 11, just hanging in bed. These nights usually follow the odd day where she falls asleep on the couch or in the car and naps an hour or two. Most nights, she's sound asleep a half hour or so after we leave her.

Most kids, I think, given the freedom to make their own decisions and deal with the consequences, will make the right decision 90% of the time. The other 10% is just their way of testing consequences and boundaries.

Of course, I have an extremely limited test study here, in my one child over the past 3 or 4 years. And the next one may totally break my theories all to pieces. I always accept that all kids are different, so I'm just waiting.

Waiting for Maren to get out of bed all the time, climb the furniture and eat diaper cream. Waiting for school to totally screw up all our routine and rules with it's homework and ridiculously early start time. (Did school always start before roosters crowed? I swear I'm never going to make it out of bed at that early hour. My clothes will never match again.) Waiting for whatever to make us change everything. Because the one thing that never changes in our rules is that the rules are always subject to change.


Mom said...

1. You are a natural-born rule follower. You even perceived rules from casual conversation and followed those perceived rules.

2. Since Maren can get out of bed at my house, I frequently find her (as I did last night) running into the living room screaming "Pop-aw!" at the top of her little lungs twenty minutes after I left her asleep. Good luck with moving her to a bed.

3. Getting up at 6 am to get children ready for school will never become normal. You start to pray for floods, ice storms, and snow days. In the winter you will never see you house in daylight again - it will be dark when you leave and dark when you get home. I cried when my children started middle school. Yes, partly because they were growing up, but mostly because I was so happy that now I could sleep in until 7:30!!

4. Start a list. School changes rules so fast you can't keep up.

Becca said...

You've pretty much described bedtime at our house. CJ is lucky--9pm is toothbrushing time, then story, then we say good night. No coming out of the room except to go potty. Sometimes, he comes out twice anyway and we remind him. He gets roughly 30-40 minutes of whatever he wants to do in there--read, draw, play--as long as he is relatively quiet. After that, glasses come off and lights go out. He's usually asleep before lights out and we have become experts at removing glasses from a sleeping child without waking him.

9pm sounds late, but he wakes on his own the next day between 8-9am. He occasionally naps when he decides. He never did that as a toddler when I sometimes desperately wanted him to, but he'll sometimes go to his room in the afternoon and fall asleep.

School starts in two weeks; we've been telling him his bedtime will have to shift and he'll need to get up earlier. He's been resisting the early bedtime but I figure he can learn the hard like I did if it comes to it.

As to what the rules will be when school starts? no clue. It depends on how he handles things and what works. I don't mean that so sound glib or like I abdicate responsibility, but just that with him, the routines he sticks to most are the ones he has a hand in forming and coincide with what we need him to do. What we have that kind of serendipity, that becomes the rule and is rarely argued.

Steve said...

Interesting stuff. My son is struggling to go to sleep recently, and also to stay in his bed in the night when he wakes. Currently "lights out" is at 8pm and we've never discussed him reading in bed after his stories with us. Perhaps it's time to give him that opportunity. As you say, it's good to give them some control over these things.