There is something really lovely about your children getting to the age of five. Actually there are lots of things like; they finally wipe their own bum, they go to school so a professional has to tell them backchat isn’t becoming, you can drop them off at a birthday party and go get a coffee somewhere civilised and once in a while, they use a fork.
The something I am thinking of is that you start to remember what it was like when you were their age. And it kind of reminds you to not panic as a parent.
For the last month or so our children have stopped going to sleep the right side of 8pm. The routine was (and would still be if we had any say in the matter at all) was bath at 6.30pm, PJ’s, clean teeth, have a little play and then to respective bedrooms for stories. Lights out about 7.45pm and sleep would soon fall upon our sweet angels.
The hot weather and light nights have royally screwed us over on that tidy bedtime ritual. Once bath is done our children are under the impression that “independent play” is on the schedule for the next three hours. At first we fought it, imprisoning them in their rooms and sitting on the stairs until it went quiet (once I read half a book waiting for the peace to come). If we’re already stressed from our days we threaten terrible consequences for their rebellion against sleep, like locking them outside the front door or taking away their precious beaubeaus, which ironically are their “sleep-aides”. Sometimes we lie on their beds with them until they fall asleep, which almost always means we fall asleep and come down, bleary eyed at 9.45pm, meaning the evening to ourselves that we were trying to have when we were getting them to sleep, has now disappeared. Bribes work, but we can’t afford to do that every night and what exactly are we teaching them – sleeping is a great way to make a living? A few times we have given them time for “quiet play” in their rooms and then gone up at a later time to tell them to go to sleep. By the time we go up, or often before then, they have trashed their rooms, injured themselves or broken a piece of furniture. Which results in me screaming them into their beds and regretting it for the rest of the night.
I have grown up on films where parents tell a story, cuddle their little one, turn the light out, say “night night pumpkin” and the child rolls over and falls asleep instantly. That is how it works when you’re a good parent no? Can someone tell me if this does in fact exist? Is it right around the corner for us? Please, is it?
Who knows how this particular chapter of parenting will turn out. They are growing up. Winter is coming. When they learn to read, quieter activities will be available to them. Jackson is going to move bedrooms so they won’t be right next to each other. The wind will change and bedtime will be peaceful again. We’ll get through this “phase”, like all the others.
To go back to my original point, the thing is, I remember staying up after bedtime when I was a child. I remember sitting at the top of the stairs listening to my parents downstairs entertaining friends, watching TV, talking about life together. If I’d had a sibling around, I’d have probably got into mischief with them. I remember coming up with allsorts of stories just as mum was saying goodnight so I could stay up a bit longer and watch Eastenders out of the corner of my eye whilst I try to distract her from the fact that I’m not in bed. When Minnie does that now, I kind of like it.
Last night Jackson refused to go to bed and sat at the bottom of the stairs, so Gareth and I just carried on what we were doing, which was chatting in the kitchen. At 9.30pm one of us went to the toilet and there was Jackson, pillow and duvet in the hall and him fast asleep. We both respected him for it. He stuck to his guns, he did not go to bed.
Raiding the pantry and trashing the living room aside, I think I’m going to try and just ride this wave of late bedtimes. You can lead a child to bed, but you can’t make it sleep so why get stressed attempting the impossible?
I wanted to share this video of Jennifer Garner reading a book about sleep, but I have to put a “it contains naughty words” warning here so my parents and in-laws aren’t shocked. If you can forgive the swearing and blaspheming, it’s so on the money!