As a parent, it can be the source of pure pleasure, or instant cringing. Some kids love bedtime. My son, for example, is exhausted when bedtime comes around and acts as though you’ve given him your last sip of water in the desert. He curls up in his blankets and drifts off to sleep almost instantly.
And then there’s my daughter.
It does not matter how exhausted my daughter is. She can be droopy eyed and lounging on the couch, constantly reiterating how tired she is. Doesn’t matter. The second her head hits the pillow, she’s all revved up with no place to go, except for out of bed.
Here are some of the most recent reasons my daughter has hopped out of bed.
“I heard something.” No, you didn’t.
“I have to pee.” No, you don’t.
“I found this feather in my bed and I want mommy to have it.” What?
“I want you to tie my blanket around my neck like it was a cape, I need a second blanket to cover my feet, I want you to cover my entire body with this one little blanket while I stretch my hands (which I’m currently wearing my socks on) over my head like some sort of complicated math problem that generates an error message on any computer or calculator.”
Okay. Now you’re just messing with me.
So, what’s a guy to do?
We started by trying to be nice. We would cater to her every whim, assured that each request would be her last. It turns out that when a child runs out of reasons not to sleep… well… it turns out that’s not a thing.
We tried good cop/bad cop. My wife plays the good cop because she’s a bit of a pushover when it comes to the kids. It turns out that both our kids know this, and my nighttime interrogations are now interrupted with requests for counsel.
I’m not saying another word until I get a hug and kiss from my mother. You can’t break me, old man.
But one thing that we’ve found helpful is a consistent routine. The techniques might change. The strategies constantly evolve (or disintegrate… I don’t even know anymore). But there are many constants.
My kids go to bed within 15 minutes of bedtime every night. There’s not discussion about whether it’s bedtime. Anytime between 6:30 and 7:00 is game. Bedtime is 6:45. Sure, special occasions come up. Once a week my son has Beavers until 7:30pm. Once a month he has Family Fun Night at our church until 7:30 or 8:00 but even on these nights, the fact that these are outside of norm is established. He knows that he’s staying up “past his bedtime.”
What we’ve really learned in all of this is that our daughter does not want to go to sleep. We’ve realized now (finally…after probably way too long) that none of these requests are genuine, but rather that all are an attempt to refrain from closing her eyes. This has happened before, with our son, and the fact that he now sleeps like a log, is keeping us going. We know that eventually… eventually… our daughter will want to sleep.
Until then? We just have to stick to our guns. Like that episode of Modern Family, we know that the real enemy is not our adorable daughter who just wants one more hug and kiss from her mommy, who had to work all day. Nay. The real enemy is each other. The real enemy is total inconsistency.
Bedtime, like every other routine, is a routine. Make it a habit and good things will happen.
Until time changes happens.
Then all bets are off.