When my kids were babies, I was the naptime Nazi. Bedtimes were exactly 90 minutes after each feeding, which were every three hours from 7am-7pm. At 7:00, the lights went out. I loved that our routine was predictable and that I could schedule life around well-rested, happy kids. This non-negotiable bedtime lasted until Kindergarten, at least. I slacked off occasionally, but bedtimes were a rigid requirement for many, many years.
Somewhere along the way, we got off course. Bedtime moved to 7:30, then 8:00. Story time would linger. Kids took turns popping out of bed for extra kisses or a drink of water. The nail in the coffin was when we began homeschooling last year...no more rushing around in the morning meant no sense of urgency to get to bed at night. We became very lax about bedtime.
|Feb 2010 - Story time with Daddy|
Recently, my mom went to my BFF's house to babysit for her when she was in a bind. She made a comment that lingered in my head: "Her kids (four of them from 2-8 years old) go to bed immediately when they're told. Right at 7:30, no arguing or complaining." My heart twinged a little as I thought, "Hmph - so do mine!" Then reality set in, "Oh wait, they don't so much anymore..."
I think because they've become so independent, we say, "Go take a shower" or "Head upstairs and put on your PJs" and expect them to do it. But often they dawdle or distract each other and we get caught doing something on our own and don't follow up with them when they're done. Then everyone gets thrown off.
When I talked to my friend about how she's stayed so diligent with her bedtime routine, she simply replied, "Because every minute past 7:30 that the kids go to bed is one less minute I get to spend with my husband."
Well, when you put it that way...
My fire was relit. Bedtime in our house was immediately 8:00 and not a minute later. I thought this would be met with some resistance, but as it turns out, the problem wasn't the kids...it was me and Mike. When we ask them to do something and follow up with them, they don't get as distracted and they're fully capable (and willing!) to stay on course.
Mike hasn't been quite as neurotic as I have about sticking to the 8:00 bedtime. If the kids are getting along and everyone's content, he tends to not want to upset the applecart with the announcement of bedtime. The problem lies in the fact that when we allow them to stay up later, we get less time together and less individual time to relax and deprogram before we turn in for the night. As a couple, we begin to feel disconnected and as a stay at home mom, I feel like it's all kids, all the time; from the moment I wake until the moment I go to bed.
Don't get me wrong...I love my kids. I choose to spend day in and day out with them and love that I don't send them off to school each day. But I still need MY time. I need OUR time.
So showers and stories now start at 7:30, lights out at 8:00. Period. The bedtime Nazi is officially back in business.