Don’t Rush Bedtime
(Originally posted 3/1/2016)
I’m at my most vulnerble when tired at the end of a long day. I’m also usually less patient and more prone to “losing it” when my son doesn’t do what I ask after asking several times. But you see, I’ve learned this and have become truly aware of this fact about myself, and knowing it has enabled me to be more keenly present and in-tune to my emotions and mood.
For so long, I was trying to hurry the whole bedtime routine, so I can have those few precious hours to myself or if my husband’s heavy work schedule allows, to spend some quality time with him. Those hours can be filled with just vegging out in front of the TV to relax in to clear out one our fave shows on our DVR que or better yet, even watch a full feature length movie! Ahh! Such sweet surrender to escape to good suspense, drama, comedy or romance. Especially to watch Walkers or Dragons entertain me. (Those who know what I’m talking about know the joy.)
Another thing I’ve learned is that the more I hurried the bedtime process with my now 6 year-old son, the worse it seemed to get. There was upset, tears and yelling and such drama and discord. Thank goodness, through learning about and practicing peaceful parenting, I know it’s better to just be in the moment and take my time with it all. To take deep breaths. I know to check in with myself and ask what is really going on with me. Then I just observe him and acknowledge his beahvior. I don’t try to fix or change it. Just listen or watch and then empathize with him, then see how I can help. The more I truly connect with my son, the happier he is and also more cooperative. Because he feels heard, he feels understood and he feels more peaceful. So, do I.
Yes, he still may not fall asleep as quickly I’d like some nights but now I actually enjoy this precious time I have with my son. The first thing I changed was to give us more time with it all. We start earlier in the evening. With bathtime sometimes as early as 6 or 6:30pm. Then he can play and linger as much as he wants. Whether it’s with shaving cream and pretending he’s shaving his beard and putting shaving cream all over the tub doors. Or else some fun play with glow sticks in the water, or water crayons on the tub glass doors. There’s so much fun to be had in the bath!
Once bath is done, it’s time to retreat to his bedroom. He likes to hide and have me come in to try to find him but always jumps out from some hiding spot to scare me. Some nights he actually does surprise me or else I pretend to be startled and we both laugh!
Then once in bed, it’s storytime or just chatting. We put our old queen bed in his room and it’s the best thing we ever did! We did it a few years ago when he was having trouble transfering from his crib to his toddler bed. So, we put the top mattress on the floor and it totally changed our world for the better! My husband and I, or one of us, always lie there with him until he falls asleep and it’s lovely. It’s made bedtime and nighttime so much easier! If by chance there is that rare night he might have a nightmare, one of us can go lie with him until he falls back asleep or my husband tends to just sleep there with him the rest of the night, which is good bonding and cuddling time for them since, he often misses bedtime due to working late. Now, we have the box spring and frame since he’s older.
The key ingredient in all this is we ALL sleep better and longer. I’m 100% for getting more sleep. Hence, the motivation for the blog being called “Mommy wants more Sleep” after all!
When he was a baby, we always held him in our arms until he fell asleep before putting him in his crib. Those methods to let them cry it out did NOT appeal to us in the least. We wanted our child to know we’re there for him and always will be. We had an Arm’s Reach co-sleeper attached to our bed for almost his first whole year. Until he starting climbing out of it on his own.
I still count how many hours of sleep my son gets, just like when he was a newborn and counting naptimes and sleep time. The naps stopped just around his 3rd birthday. How I mourned the loss of that naptime. He usally sleeps about 10 to 11 hours each night. That works out just fine.
Counting hours of sleep is okay as long as I’m no longer counting the minutes until he falls asleep.
Some nights storytime consists of books chosen by him or me or both. But some of our favorite nights are when he asks for a “real” story, as he calls it. When I get to make up a story, usually starring a boy with his name. Or I tell a story from my own childhood. He adores hearing about me as a child. He is so full of wonder and asks such sweet, interesting questions. I can see how he loves to imagine me (or his dad, when he’s there too) as kids.
I’m writing all this because tonight, was a night for three books and then just talking about our day and cuddling and laughing. He was squiggling and crawling his legs up the wall that the bed is next to. I asked for him to put his legs down and just take some deep breaths to relax into sleep. He said, “This helps me go to sleep.”
I felt he was just stalling and trying not to fall asleep. I was thinking how I wanted to make some threat if he didn’t stop moving around. Or else I was about to tell him to stop in a louder more impatient tone. But I know better now. I took that deep breath I needed and without even thinking, out came my true self. The loving mommy I’ve worked hard to become (and still work on each moment) said, “Okay but we can also hug and deep breathe together. That might work.” He agreed by rolling next to me and into my arms. Ahhh. Sweet Surrender. For both of us.
That’s it, right there. Bliss. Then even better, he says, “You’re the best Mommy ever. I love you.”
That is my salary as a mom. I’m paid in hugs, kisses and the bonuses are the I love yous!
It’s moments like that where I choose to be present with him and connect, instead of getting annoyed with him from all his wiggling and moving and trying to avoid sleeping. Because you see, I know he IS trying to avoid falling asleep. For sleep is that final resistance. In sleep there is no playtime. No togetherness.
One time a couple of years ago, when he was having so much trouble falling asleep and staying asleep the whole night through, I asked him does he know why it’s happening. He did. He said:
“Mommy, the nighttime is the long sleep. I’m away from you and daddy. It’s the long sleep.”
I remember how he said “It’s the long sleep” twice. That really got to me and just touched my heart. It made perfect sense. He spoke such truth from his heart. It’s part of the reason my husband and I both have no problem lying with him while he falls asleep at night. If it brings him comfort and helps assist him with more ease and peace into dreamland, then we’re happy to. We also know these precious years when he’s this young and wants us around will only last so long. So we’re relishing them for all we can.
Many people said, “He’ll never sleep on his own if you keep that up!” Well, he sleeps fine on his own in his own bed. He knows that we go into our own beds once he’s asleep. He will even wake up many mornings now and play is his room while we get some more shut eye. He is clearly more secure and feels safe by it all.
We are able to go out once in a while too, because our long time sitter knows the drill and will also lie with him until he falls asleep. He’s usually asleep by 7:30 or 8pm. The whole process bath, stories, prayers songs, falling asleep take about an hour from start to finish. Some nights less.
Those precious moments before he falls asleep are when he will say some of the sweetest things. Like he did tonight. So, I don’t rush the bedtime anymore. I savor it. I’m grateful for it. I honor that sweet time lying in the dark (with a night light of course). It’s a special time for both for us. Being vulnerable can be a good thing when tired. I just have to decide how I’ll let it effect me. It can bring real intimacy and a lasting connection. None of that would happen, if I rush it.