Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sleepless in Hub City

I hate bedtime.

As a kid, I hated going to bed. It was unfair, going to bed when all sorts of interesting stuff was still going on. As a teenager, I couldn't wait to stay up all night. When I was single, living alone, I hated falling asleep. My bed would be covered with all manners of things:books, tea cups, drawing pad and pencils and I'd fall asleep to the TV. Now I can't wait to sleep. Even a nap would be nice, but to actually put on some jammies and hit the sheets would be heaven. Clean sheets, even more so.

But now I've been blessed with a little one who, guess what? Hates to go to bed.

I think I probably spend 10-14 hours a week putting her to bed. At this point in a conversation I usually get a multitude of advice:get a bedtime routine(got it), have her take a nap, not take a nap, have quiet time before bed, punishments, rewards, etc. But the fact remains, it takes her a long time to fall asleep and she needs help with the process. And you know what? It's ok.

Sometimes I need to be reminded that not every problem needs fixing. And bedtime appears to be a big problem for parents. How do I know? Besides all the books, magazine articles and t.v. shows about the issue, it almost always works its way into conversations with other parents. "So, what time does Sally go to bed?" they ask innocently. Then they start telling me about their own trials getting little Timmy to sleep, or what their routine is. And you know what I notice? Whether there's tears and yelling, or threats, or bribes, or routines or just laying in bed and telling stories, everybody seems to tell me the same thing-it takes an hour or two. Granted, some nights she's asleep in 10 minutes and some nights I'm thinking we might as well order a pizza and watch the Late Show. But mostly it's an hour or two.

Sometimes, we need Dada's help. But mostly when it comes to bedtime, she wants Mama.

Some nights, I will confess, I think dark thoughts about keeping her in her room, locking the door and letting her scream herself to sleep. We are not "Cry It Out" people. Or I start to get angry, thinking of all the other things I could be doing, say laundry or writing an article for the co0p newsletter. Or, gasp, having some time to myself. None of that is conducive to helping my high-energy kid relax and fall asleep. Though I am a slow learner, I have come to realize that the best thing for her and I is to accept that this is going to take a while and appreciate what I have-some "girls only" time with my youngest daughter. Parenting takes time. So we brush our teeth, get into bed, get out of bed, have a snack, a drink of "icy cold water with ice cubes", back into bed and have a "real story" (printed) or a "pretend story"(made up out of my head). Sometimes both. Sometimes a song. Much as I pine for the day she puts herself to bed, I also want to delay the inevitable, to stretch out this time, when she stills needs me so much that it takes my slow breathing to slow down her own and she drapes her legs over mine and finally relaxes into sleep.