Thursday, July 05, 2007

Another Thursday

Tonight Sawyer went to sleep in his new big bed for the first time! It took him quite a while to fall asleep... I don't think he drifted off until about 9 o'clock (he was in bed before 7:30), but he stayed in bed the whole time all by himself, and now that he's asleep in there, he is so flippin' cute! I want so badly to take a picture of him but I don't dare wake him up. I wish you could see him though. My big little baby all curled up in the corner of a real live twin sized bed! Moments like this just make me want to freeze time for a bit.
Anyway, we'll see how the whole night goes and what ungodly hour he pops out of bed at! Keep your fingers crossed for us!

So coincidentally, Sawyer's milestone bedtime tonight leads me into my Thoughts on Thursday post for this week. (By the way, is no one else joining in on our Thursday conversation starters??? Come on! There's gotta be something you want to open a conversation about or something you want to know other's opinions on that you could take a few minutes to blog about?! Well, at the very least make sure you comment on my thoughts... and Nic has her own thoughts too, so go over there and check it out.)

My topic of choice this week is Bedtime.
Do (did) your kids have bedtimes? Is it early or late or whenever they fall asleep? And am I brave enough to take it a step further... what about the family bed vs. kids in their own beds?

I just have to say I don't understand the no bedtime thing. I'm just going to be blunt and ask do parents really think that it's okay for a small child to still be awake at 10 and 11 p.m.?? Do they really think there is nothing wrong with that?
Disclaimer: When I talk about early childhood and parenting habits, I admit I am no expert and probably very far from it... but having worked in early childhood education for almost 10 years, nannied numerous infants/toddlers, and now having two kids of my own... I am fairly comfortable saying I've seen a thing or two and I know I've had enough varying experiences with all different situations to give at least a half-way educated opinion. HAHA!

**Added Disclaimer: It is late and I am very sleep deprived myself and even as I'm typing I have a million other things running through my head. I'm realizing this is why I haven't been blogging regularly... I have too much all jumbled around in my head to focus on actually writing anything that actually sticks to a point or makes any sense!

Most of the kids I've been involved with have had "normal" bedtimes. I'm categorizing "normal" as anytime between 6:30 and 8:30 considering children 6 months to about 8 years old. The majority of them (and can I say generally the happiest and better behaved children as well) were in bed by 8. But then I would have a two or three year old in my class now and then who, for example, didn't go to bed until usually close to midnight (and then be in my classroom before 7am the next morning, poor thing). This little girl was miserable. She was so obviously overtired and really honestly struggled through her day. I was actually pretty close with the mother and had a few conversations with her about K's bedtime. They always said, "oh, she is just such a night owl... she loves to stay up late, we just can't get her to bed any earlier, she likes to stay up late and sleep in". Yeah, well first of all, she's obviously not sleeping in when you have to be at work by 7am. She's taking four hour naps everyday because she's exhausted. She stays up late because she CAN, and you can't get her to bed because you don't really try.
I babysat little K for 10 days with her older brother and sister while their parents were out of town one summer. K was in bed and asleep every night with me by 9pm. By the time her parents got home, it was closer to 8. And she was noticeably happier and healthier... it was like a completely different child! She was not only sleeping more, but getting much better sleep when she was sleeping. K's mom had often complained about K still waking up and needing to be layed down with to go back to sleep numerous times a day. But after the first few nights of an earlier bedtime with me, K was sleeping soundly all the way till morning. I was kind of bummed as shortly after mom and dad returned home, K was back to her "night owl" ways. And those ways included her crankiness, her touchiness, her short attention span, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

I know part of their "excuse" for keeping her up late was the fact that they both worked full time. I know that tends to be a common denominator with some kids that don't really have bedtimes... the parents don't get to see them all day and they try to squeeze in all that together time at night. Nobody wants to only see their children for just basically 2 hours a day (if you're getting home at 6 and they're going to bed at 8). It feels like you're cheated out of spending time with your kids. But I just have to say, if you're keeping them up for those reasons, you're actually cheating them. It is amazing the number of kids who are sleep deprived in our culture. Did you know that over 20% of kids entering elementary school have serious sleep problems that aren't perceived by either the child or their parents? They are chronically sleep deprived. Some doctors say that almost half of the diagnosed ADHD patients would not need any special medication or treatments if they as their doctors could regulate their sleeping habits.

Honestly, kids need way more sleep than I think most of us are even aware of. And I think most of us are unaware of the difference it makes. Sleep- good quality sleep- is such a foundation for a child's overall health and demeanor it is amazing.
Recently I've met a few more moms with way more flexible (or non-existent) bedtimes than I was previously used to. At times, after putting my own kids to bed for the night, it is almost painful to hang out with these families and watch their toddler grow more and more tired, whining around on the floor at almost 11 o'clock at night rubbing his red and bleary eyes. These different kids on different occasions, while they were very well behaved and content to hang out with the adults, were just so obviously tired to everyone in the room except for the parents. More than one of us would make a comment, 'oh he looks like he's getting tired' or 'look at those tired eyes', which would be either ignored or answered with 'oh, I don't really know why he's being so clingy, he isn't usually ready for bed yet.'
It's kind of hard to stand by and watch that... I just wanted to say "put your kid to bed already, before he falls asleep in the middle of the floor!" Maybe it's just that I made a career of observing kids and my job was to meet their needs...
It just doesn't make sense to me. I'm just amazed at how many more and more families I meet who's kids go to bed at the same time the adults do.

And seriously, all the children's health and happiness aspects aside, what about grown-up time? I would go crazy if my kids and I went to bed at the same time each night. I know I'm with my kids all day, but Ryan's not and he agrees with me... we are usually counting down to the kid's bedtime. To have that close and cuddly routine of our goodnights, and then we can have some adult time to ourselves. And with each other. I just don't think our marriage, or our sanity, would be half as intact as it is if the kids were up until 10 with us each night. You know what I mean?

Alright. This post is completely all over the place and I feel like I'm talking in circles. It's very late and I could go on forever with this topic. Can you tell I value my kids sleep?!!

Anyway, so instead of preaching anymore (haha!) and since I'm too lazy to research anything online right now... I'm just going to end this and say here's my absolute favorite book about all of this. If you are a parent and you haven't read it, you should. I haven't the slightest idea where my book is right now in this sea of boxes we're living in, but if I did you can bet I'd be quoting from it right and left. But I don't, so I won't. But I love that it's not a "how to" book with in your face theories on how to get your child to sleep. It mostly focuses on why they need the sleep they need and the affect their sleep habits have on almost every aspect of their lives. Good stuff to know.

Wow, I almost even forgot to tell you the name of the book. That's how tired I am. I should not be writing right now.
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
That's it.
I'm not even going to touch on co-sleeping or kids being able to put themselves to sleep. Those are whole other subjects in and of themselves. I'll let someone else tackle those.
So back to my original question...
What is bedtime in your house and how do you feel about it?

10 comments:

Nic said...

OMG Heather I love that you wrote a 'your child needs sleep to function' post when you yourself were about falling asleep at the keyboard. Too cool! HAHAH! You crack me up.

Ok, laughing aside (cause you know I'm a night owl too and stay up way too late)... Here is my opinion (and you already know it, but your readers might like to see extra comments)..

Porter most definitely has a bedtime... from the time he was about 3.5 months old, we had gotten his "bedtime" whittled down to around 8:30, even though he'd still wake at 11:30 and 2:30 for feedings. Once the night feedings ended around 4/4.5 months, he was on a great sleeping schedule... going to bed around 8/8:30 and sleeping for 12 hours at night.

And now, at 16 months old, he still has a bedtime. We have a routine, and I absolutely positively feel that his helps him transition more peacefully. We brush his teeth, pick out a book, dim the lights in his room and put on his music. We read his book, and then I usually (I don't know that Ryan does this) sit and rock with him for one song while we talk about our day and talk about what we're going to do the following day. (Ok, *I* talk to him... its not like a conversation HAHA!). By this point, he's relaxed and ready for bed and goes to sleep quietly.

On some nights when we're cranky or he's cranky and we just put him in bed without the routine, he fuses and cries to get to sleep.

It was not always this easy to get him to go to sleep on his own. We had to "train" him, and I'm sure this is where either a)parents with kid w/o bedtimes disagree with me or b)those parents just don't know how far to stick it out and hang in there. The "training" was basically the start of his "routine" for bedtime. From about 5 months or so we started his bedtime routine and would put him in bed. He would cry, of course, as he wasn't used to it. We'd pat his butt a little to reassure him, but in the end, it just took a week or two of him crying himself to sleep.

Yes, it was HARD to listen to, but would I take back that short period of crying for my last year of "adult only" evening times? HECK NO!! It was worth it, and now he's a great sleeper. Although yes there are nights where we hear him wake up and fuss, but he 90% of the time puts himself back to sleep and we don't even go into his room.

I am sure by my NOVEL you can see my stance... Kids need bedtimes... NORMAL bedtimes, not 10 or 11pm or later. In those cases, its really just the kids having the upper hand and the parents not persistent enough to get them to bed at a decent time. *as I duck to avoid any flying objects from other bloggers!!*

I can't wait to hear other opinions from "The Other Side". Its so hard for me to rationalize it, it'll be neat to hear exactly WHY these parents don't seem to mind their overtired children or their lack of adult time with themselves or their spouse.

Nic said...

I can't seem to figure out how to edit my comment...

I think one of the things that parents who don't have bedtimes for their kids struggle with is that they don't know how far to stick out the crying. Porter, during that "training" time, in the beginning would cry for almost an hour. Sometimes more, but it wasn't harming him- it hurt us to hear it more than it hurt him. And that period of crying was imperative to helping him figure out how to put himself to sleep and to learn that bedtime is bedtime. I think so many parents have "tried" to get their kids to bed at a decent time but chickened out, saying "Oh they cried too hard, they were gagging" or "They would just get worse, and never stop crying" Well, then, you didn't try long enough. Its like a tantrum, in a sense... if your toddler is throwing a tantrum, do you give in after a half our of tantrum and give them what they want "because they'll never stop crying for that toy at the store"? Or do you let them stick it out, finish their tantrum and in the end YOU get what you want- a non-tantruming child who learned their boundaries.

MacKenzie Leigh said...

Jocelyn definitely has a bedtime too. She starts getting sleepy around 8:30ish so most of the time Jeff and I put her in her swing. She loves it. And by 9-9:30 she is asleep or close to it which then we transfer her to her crib.

I prefer that she stays up a bit later just so Jeff can see her after work for a few hours like you said K's parents "excuse" was but then she also sleeps in until 9am every morning. And then she usually takes a 30 minute nap at 11:30, another longer one at 3, and very rarely one around 6pm (depending on how busy our day has been)

Jeff and I are both night owls so we get a good 3 hours of us time after she goes to bed and we each get 8-9 hours of glorious sleep at night too. I wish we could do the bath, book, bed routine but Joss loves her bath so much she gets all excited about it and it in no way calms her down for bed. LOL. I've even tried the Calming Bath Wash...and then she just smells like lavender but is still a fiesty little thing. HAHA!

I feel that since she gets to sleep in she is getting enough sleep but if I had to get her up early to go to work, I would definitely start setting the bedtime clock back to 7:30-8. Since I had a preemie I was instructed by her Peditrician (Dr. Humayun) that if she cries at night, she needs something. Preemie's don't usually wake and cry for nothing until after their duedate. Then they pretty much "come alive". It's so cool. From Nov-Jan I had to set my alarm every 3 hours because she wouldn't even wake up when she was hungry. So, I pretty much ran to her everytime she fussed but I was also on edge because we had a choking scare just 4 days out of the hospital where she vomited, turned purple, and we had to be rushed to the ER. Welcome to Mommyhood!

But now for the last few months if I hear her wake up in the middle of the night (I'm an extremely light sleeper) I just let her get herself back to sleep unless she is screaming/crying hard, which rarely happens.

And now I have an extremely well behaved rarely cries 7 month old who will lay in her crib for awhile in the morning and play/kick around/and sing to herself and goes to bed at a decent scheduled time each night. :)

K.M. Laughlin said...

I don't have kiddos yet, but I can tell you from being an elementary teacher, that YES, kids DO need bedtimes that are before 9pm. Teaching 4th graders and looping with them next year to 5th, I KNOW most of them have a bedtime of 8:30-9 pm because I ASK them! If they are cranky, moody, etc. I will ask them when they went to bed last night and sure enough, most times they say around 10 or after because of this, this, and this excuse.

Kids NEED a lot of sleep. I have one girl in particular who I know their parents don't give her a bedtime, and at least 3 out of 5 school days, she will fall asleep sometime during the day. And when I ask the parents about it, they say, well, we put her in her room around 9:30 or so...I ask them, "Do you have a routine with her?" If not, she can stay up as late as she wants because she doesn't know how to calm her body down to go to sleep! In my head with these parents I am thinking..."she is below reading level for 5th grade! Can't you at least read for 20 minutes with her before leaving the room?".

They told me that NO, they don't have a routine. Even older kids NEED a routine to get their bodies to rest and get a good night's sleep.


Even our dog, Jack, has a bedtime.... 9 pm! Ha! :) Mike and I like the time to ourselves too! I'll have to let you know about bedtimes when Mike and I have kiddos!

MacKenzie Leigh said...

I second the opinion with older kids needing a bedtime also. When I was growing up until 6th grade my bedtime was 8pm. Then "middle school" bedtime was 9pm. And then in 9th grade highschool bedtime was 10pm. LOL. All my friends made fun of me but I thank my parents for it because I never fell asleep in class! And Joss will thank me too. Er...maybe. HAHA

linaatoz@comcast.net said...

I need to DRAG my husband to the computer to read this post & comments! YES kids need bedtimes & routines-ALWAYS! Ok, take that back...once in a great while to relax the bedtime is ok if you can compensate for it w/ a nap or serious down-time. I have 3 children ages 13, 5 1/2 & 3 1/2 & thier bedtime is 8:00. After a full year of the same routine-there is still no true success! If they are in bed before 9:30 4 out of 7 nights I feel like a champ!

My battles:
A) No constant spousal support on the 'bedtime routine'. "They are just kids, let them be kids!" Ok but not @ 10:00 @ night on a work/school night!
B) Cut the naps shorter @ daycare-they have a bedtime & don't need 2-3 hr naps!
I am the Bedtime Nazi who is nagging the poor kids every night & they are running amok like crazy! It would be Super Nanny's nightmare job-ha!

Great TFT Heather! I couldn't agree more whole heartedly.

Katie said...

Heather-

I just read your blog and yes...you're so right about the bed time....I remember when I was having trouble w/ Donnie bedtime..naps..ect...the WHOLE bit!! You let me read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child....I did exactly what it said, their whole schedule plan & amazingly it worked like a GEM! I would highly recommend that book for any parent struggling w/ the sleep issues.

kimca01 said...

Oh heck yeah, he has a bedtime - for us AND him!

I totally believe that growing and learning are the most exhausting things kids go through so sleep is so, SO important.

Morgan goes to bed at 7:30 every night and I go in and get him every morning between 7 and 7:30. He's always awake and usually just playing with his zoo of stuffed animals.

He also naps 2.5 - 3 hours in the day which may seem like alot of sleep but holy crap, if you saw how much energy he has when he's awake, you'd understand why!!

Kids need the sleep and parents need some grown up time!

LeeAnn said...

We are pretty good about starting Lukas' bedtime routine between 8-830. We give him a bath every night, brush teeth, he lays in his bed while lights are dimmed and kids bible songs play in background and I read him a book. He falls asleep sometime around 900, which is later than some of the other kids, but also sleeps until 8-830. Sometimes even later, like today it was 930. I'm sure once we have to get up earlier in the morning and on those days that we do, we make sure he gets to bed earlier. I think for a child thats not is school yet, you can play with what time you want them to go bed, as long as they get enough sleep. Lukas sleeps about 11-12 hours at night, he just doesn't have to wake up as early as some toddlers like at 7 or so. I don't think it will be a hard adjustment either later one, just like changing daylight savings or changing timezones. Tony and I are night owls so we are usually up until 1130, so there is still a couple hours at night that we get our alone time.

Jessica Berke said...

I am also in the bedtime routine camp. I need my time in the evening without kids. Being a stay-at-home mom, I am ready for bedtime at around eight o'clock, and sometimes sooner.

Grace, now 11, and Ethan, now 8, do stay up later, but during the school year they are to be in bed at 8 p.m. and they can read for up to an hour.

As they get older, they'll stay up later and then sleep later in the morning. When school is out they go to bed at 9 and can still read for an hour. But I will confess that it is a challenge to have them in bed by that time. Then we hit the sleeping in. I think they shouldn't sleep past 9 a.m. in the summer. It seems too lazy. But that's another topic too.

We are kind of in two separate families, it feels like sometimes. I remember when my first two were young, you organized your life around nap times. Now Gertie, 16 months, gets shorted often because the bigger kids have activities going on during her naptime sometimes. That is hard, and if I could work around it, I would--and sometimes we can.

But on the whole, I like to put Gertie to bed early and have some time to ourselves.

I have a sister that works full time, and she falls into the category of no bedtime at all. Too many times I was over there until they would drop on the floor or some other place. She also lets them watch tv to fall asleep. I always hated that when we stayed over because my kids don't do that, and the tv just keeps them awake. It would be midnight, and I'd check on them, and my kids would be the ones wide awake watching some horrible late night cartoon.

I did notice that my patience always ran out at about 7 p.m. If they weren't getting ready for bed, I was getting crabby, but my sister was so patient and fun, even into the late hours. She worked a long day. I could never figure out how she did that.

On crying it out until they comfort themselves to sleep, I'm all for that too. We didn't do that with Grace, and she never went to bed without us rocking her to sleep or laying in bed with her. That was hard.

With Ethan, I had to let him cry it out. I was busier, more tired, and he was grumpier anyway. I was used to the screaming. What I learned, though, was that once he got over the hump, he liked to go to bed, he asked for it often, and it paid off in years of easy bedtimes.

We did the same thing with Gertie. It is hard to listen to crying, but it pays off. She still cries for a minute or two sometimes, but then she settles down.