Sunday, January 6, 2013

Bedtime BS

Maya's never been great at falling asleep.

If my mom were still alive she would have blamed my attachment to attachment parenting because I let Maya sleep in our bed until she was 4 (I used to tell people 2, then 3, but now she's 9, there's no point in lying).

Maya didn't sleep through the night until she was more than a year old, and until she was 4 she woke up frequently and was not able to go back to sleep.  She has eczema and the itching really affected her sleep patterns.

I had to stop giving her an afternoon nap at 2 and a half because she simply would be up until after 11 PM, so we stopped napping her and for an entire year, from 3.30 until 7 PM she threw tantrum after tantrum, but at least she went to bed early.

She did grow out of it eventually.

But, she's never been a kid that slept as much as other kids.  For the last two years a long sleep for her is 10 hours, a good sleep is 9.  She's in bed at 8.30 on school nights but most nights she doesn't actually sleep before 10 or sometimes even later.

The Dutch believe in an early bedtime for children.  Most children on school nights are in bed by 8 or even 7 and asleep shortly thereafter, even kids older than 10.  During weekends or vacations we see our friends kids just start to get tired later in the evening and usually around 9, they are either asleep on their feet or cranky-as-all-get-out.  Our Maya though, is usually just getting her second wind going.

A few friends have told us chapter and verse about how kids need 10-12 hours of sleep a night and how it's doing them a disservice to let them stay up later.  Believe me, if I had a kid that would be willing to go to sleep at 7.30, she'd be asleep by 7.30.  On the rare occasions that she is asleep at 7.30, she's usually up by 4 AM.

Yeah, yeah, consistency, limits and all that crap.  On bedtimes, I am a failure, I admit it.  

Still, I do believe that everyone has their own natural sleep rhythms.  Parents can influence a lot, they can enforce bedtimes, but they cannot force their child to sleep.

I stopped stressing about it long ago.  You can lead a horse to water and all that.  She does well in school and is not overtired, she wakes up okay 95% of the time, so I just let it be.

Truth be told, she is a lot like me.  At this age, I never fell asleep before 11 and I just slept in on the weekends, that's pretty much what Maya does now.  Most of our friends enforce bedtimes even on the weekends but I don't see the fun in that.  As a kid, I always looked forward to weekends because it meant I could stay up as late as I wanted and loved that part of childhood and Maya obviously does too.

The first couple of days after a school vacation though are usually a nightmare, Maya, who has spent days or weeks staying up late and sleeping late suddenly has to get up at 6.30.   The first day or two she's usually really tired and for many years this spelled meltdowns although for the last year or two Maya will just say she is tired and go to her room.

In order to ward off that first day back demon, I try to plan ahead and manipulate Maya's sleep patterns.  Usually 3-4 nights before I start waking her up earlier, first 8.00, than 7.00, than 6.30 in the hopes that the earlier wake up will cause her to go to sleep earlier in the days before and she can get back to a good rhythm.  It usually doesn't do anything, usually the night before she is up late and then super tired when she gets home from school that first day.  So, usually the last days of her school vacation end up with us fighting because Maya won't go to bed and I stress her out by telling her over and over about how tired she is going to be and her telling me that I am breaking the rules because it is school vacation and during school vacation she can stay up as late as she wants and get up when she wants.

This time I decided not to do anything, partly because I was at home the entire vacation with her and I also wanted to go to bed late and get up late, but mostly because nothing really works and the last days of a break just turn into a lot of arguing back and forth.  Who needs that?

So, last night, her last vacation night, Maya went to bed at 1 AM and got up at 9.30 AM.  I was prepared for midnight tonight.  Still, at 8.30 I told her to go to bed, she asked me if she could watch something on tv and I told her she could watch a short DVD.

At 9.15 I walked past her room, she was dead asleep, no TV on.  

My job here is done.

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