Thursday, April 17, 2008

Is Bedtime a Badtime?

Bedtime seems to go in cycles around here. Just when we get in a comfortable phase of putting them in bed, all bathed and happy, kissing them goodnight and tiptoeing away to the melodious sound of synchronized snores, things change.

The change seems to happen the night after (or the minute after) one of us remarks to the other parent "Wow, they sure are good at going to bed these days." Then bedtime reverts to the all out war that it seems to be about two weeks out of the month.

I have a theory that it's not because we've done anything wrong that this change happens. I don't generally credit it to a change in diet, or a change in routine, or a change in the stars. It just seems like consistency isn't what they're looking for a bedtime--at least not long term. They want the routine changed every so often and by the time they tell you they want the change, it's too late.

We cycle through different pre-bedtime rituals to try and make the night go down more smoothly. From this following list, we mix and match until we have a mixed grill of a nighttime schedule that works for the next few weeks.

Reading at Bedtime: This is a classic for obvious reasons. It gives us some time to wind-down, talk calmly, and read something that is comforting (even though I like them best when they get just a little bit scary in there). My favorite bedtime stories are from Maurice Sendak, but don't stop with Where the Wild Things Are; also try Outside over There and The Night Kitchen.

Singing: I happen to enjoy singing lullabies. I don't think that it's a good idea to introduce this ritual if you don't enjoy it. It has staying power and you will have requests over and over again. I usually take this one out of the routine when I notice that my girls are staying awake just to make me sing more. My favorites to sing are "Feed the Birds," "Sweet Baby James," and "Pooh Corner." But they often make me sing a drawn-out version of The Decemberists "The Crane Wife" oddly enough.

Bedtime Music: We have a small CD player that we play lullabies on. This works sometimes as a substitute to singing and sometimes in addition to. We have a few different CDs and mixes to change things up. But, like all these others, their tastes sometime drift away from this ritual.

Story of the Day: This is especially good if we've had long, active days or had visitors. We sit and talk about all the things we did today, each taking turns coming up with details to fill it out. Then, we end by planning out our next day. This works really well for making our expectations if we have big plans for tomorrow.

Holding Hands: Sometimes I have to sit there and hold hands until my older daughter goes to sleep. This only works when she's really tired and had some kind of a scare. She is usually asleep pretty fast, or I just can't stay there all night and she moves into our bed. Holding hands is a last resort before:

Pulling my own hair out and screaming until I die: Sometimes nothing works. We have the girls shack up with us in our bed like we used to and hope to move them sometime in the night so that we can get some rest, too. The main thing is to realize that no matter how prepared you are, you're not always going to come out successfully. I don't actually recommend pulling out hair or screaming or dying, but it sure sounds like it would be helpful.

I always tell my daughters when they play keep-away with our German Shepard, "Don't play to win, just play." That's how I feel about bedtime. Don't play to win. In the end, they can always outlast your patients if you make it a power struggle. Just talk things out, give in if you must, but set expectations that this night is different from tomorrow night.

1 comment:

Jennifer Chernoff said...

We def. have 1-2 nights a month where they are just like NO. We *gently* deposit them in their beds and tell them no talking. The usual retort is "Book, Story!" and I tell them that I am very mad that they are misbehaving and either they will instantly get puppy dog eyes and straighten up and we'll read(or sing, whatev's) ooooor, they'll be MORE bad and I just put "no talking" on repeat, turn out the lights and hope they bore themselves to sleep. They are also reminded that if they are GOOD tomorrow THEN they'll get the story. It's a reward. Bribery. ... *sigh* haha.