Thursday, July 08, 2010

In which I make life harder on myself and then give up

Margaret is 2. She goes to bed around 9:30 and wakes up around 7. It used to be 10:30 and 8, but she's never fully adopted the Pacific Time Zone. She also takes a 3 hour nap in the afternoon. If it's less than 2 and a half hours, she's cranky the rest of the day.

I got self-conscious about her schedule. I heard people taling about putting their kids to bed at 7:30 and actually having an evening to themselves. I read blogs and sleep books that promised that if you put your toddler to bed earlier, they'll sleep longer and better. And in personal conversations, after sharing Margaret's bedtime routine, I would get responses like "Well, I feel that sleep is really important for toddlers," as if our current routine wasn't putting Margaret's sleep needs first.

And with the pregnancy, it was tempting to put her to bed earlier. We used to be able to stay up and have time to ourselves after her bed time, but now we don't. What changed? I'm pregnant and tired and I actually fall asleep faster than she does when I nurse her down. Seven thirty bed time was sounding pretty good: I could nurse her down and still be awake for a movie.

Last Saturday, we went to a family pool party. Margaret slept about half an hour on the way to it and about 40 minutes on the way home. She didn't get her usual 3 hour nap at all. She was cranky and obviously tired: she was screaming at us for not reading her mind. I thought to myself, "I know! We'll put her down early! She'll sleep better! Give us time in evening! This will work!"

At 7:30, we did our bedtime routine and I nursed her. And nursed her and nursed her. And I was tired from the day and started falling asleep myself. Meanwhile, she was done with nursing and McKay was wrangling her back to bed and there was lots of screaming. She was obviously very tired, but just wouldn't go to sleep.

Then a little before 9:30, she went to bed. We spent the whole evening trying to help her sleep earlier because she needed it and her bedtime had not changed. Cruel, cruel world.

So I decided that the whole 7:30 bedtime was just not going to work. I'd rather have 2 hours of not fighting a 2 year old, thank you very much. And she does seem to do well with her routine. Why did I try to change it in the first place?

Sure, she doesn't get the 11 hours of sleep at night that she's "supposed" to. But she does take a 3 hour nap, which is really heavenly for me and is probably pretty unusual for kids her age. That nap ends typically at 4 and so of course, she wouldn't be ready for bed by 7:30!

Instead of feeling like I don't get any adult time, I need to remember the good things about late bedtimes. For one, I don't have to leave dinner parties or knitting groups or other RS meetings early to put her to bed! I actually get to keep something that resembles a social life and I do get 3 hours of mostly uninterrupted afternoon time. At both nap and night time, she goes to bed easily without struggle. Sure, she's not "by the book" but this world needs more free spirits anyway.

Last Saturday was a bad day. Yesterday was great. We'll stick to what we have. I need to stop making this harder on myself.


  1. I have to chirp in here and totally agree with you.

    I have one of those babies that goes to bed by 7. If I let her, she would go to bed at 6. On one hand it is fabulous, becasue, yes, I do get my evening to myself. On the other hand it is frustrating becasue, no, i don't have that social life you mentioned. I am the one leaving the parties early to put my daughter to bed.

    I get a lot of flack for it, concerns from my family that I am on too strict a schedule, that I don't have a life, that she would be fine if I kept her up later. I gave in once. For a wedding. I kept her up until 10:30. She was fine and happy, until the next day. She screamed the whole next day. She wouldn't nap, she wouldn't eat and she went to bed at 6:00 pm.

    SO I completely agree. Sure, a life would be great, but not spending my day fighting with my daughter is much greater!

  2. Amen! I really feel like I could have written this post on my own. (Except, I can never fall asleep until Bug is asleep...kind of annoying!) We had a routine that worked for us (usually 10:30pm bedtime, wake at 8am, too!) and I felt like I was doing things wrong, because other families put their kids to bed so much earlier. But, it was easier to get Bug to stay asleep if he went to bed the same time that we did (since he was in bed with us.) Now that we are trying to get him into his own bed, I feel like our routine is crumbling a little bit. I hope it works out eventually. If only this parenting thing was easier!!!

    PS-Bug takes three hour naps, too.

  3. Would it be an idea to maybe gradually alter her bedtime? I can see how suddenly putting her to bed 2 hours earlier than usual wouldn't work. Perhaps doing it in 15 or 30 minute intervals to get her used to it.

    You may find she cuts down on her nap time as well. Both of my boys had completely dropped their daytime nap by 2 years old, and slept from 7.30 - 7 at night. My 3 year old sometimes wakes in the small hours and crawls into our bed but it doesn't wake us up most of the time.

    I do like an early bedtime. My boys are asleep by 7.30pm most nights and it is nice to have some couple time. But I get that what works for us may not work for everyone!

  4. my 17 month old goes down at 9:30, wakes up at 7 and just started taking 3 hour naps this week, I think she's having a growth spurt because it is typically a 2 hour nap. Every kid has different needs

  5. If it works I say stick with it! We put our 4 yr old to bed at 6pm or 7pm because she doesn't take a nap and if she stays up any later then she is ridiculously cranky. If I could get her to take a nap and go to bed at 10:30pm I so would! But unfortunately if she takes a nap she's up until midnight or 1am, which just doesn't work for me because I'm even more cranky than her when I'm tired. So with no nap, she is reasonably cranky in the evening right after dinner and then, if it's a good night, which they more often than not are, she'll sleep from 7pm to 7am and have no nap during the day. But like last night. . .she had slept in until 8am yesterday and then refused to go to bed last night. It was about 10pm when she finally *passed out* as we call it. Then she was up before 7am this morning. So I'm sure tonight will be easier to put her to bed. Or at least I'm praying it will be.

  6. i got LOTS of crap from bunches of people/family for not following traditional sleeping patterns. i pretty much told everyone that their opinion was great, but i was going to do things my way. and i said it over and over and over. especially with my mother in law. and ya know what? my kids are just fine. they too are not by the book but they are comfortable with themselves, they are confident and polite to people (other than me). everything i read on your blog tells me you're a GREAT mother. do things your own way. don't care what "other people" think. and thanks for sharing your blog.

  7. My daughter (2.5) also has her own sleep schedule. We have tried to fiddle with it, going to bed earlier and such. She would have nothing to do with it. The only that has changed her sleep schedule is she now sleeps in about an hour later (7 instead of 6). She changed it after the last time change in the spring. I wish she would nap, but she is simply not tired, so I have stopped battling for it.

  8. Gradually changing it would be better, I know. I was just hoping that her extremem tiredness on Saturday would jump-start a routine change. Obviously that doesn't work!

    Thanks all! I know I need to just follow her cues- and I had no problem with it when she was a baby. Wake up 5 times a night at 3 months? No problem! But navigating this toddler thing while pregnant and easily stressed and worried is different!

  9. I'll chime in and ditto what everyone else is what works for you and your family and everyone else can take a hike! Everyone has an opinion about everything, but the only opinions that really matter are yours and your husband's. If a 3-hour nap and a later bedtime work for you, then do it! If you want to change something, do it gradually. The best sleep advice I got was to try everything new for a week before deciding whether it works or not. It's helped me keep my sanity. Good luck to you!

  10. This post had me nodding all the way through it- in fact, I could have written it, word for word. Max follows the exact same schedule as Margaret, down to the letter. Down at 9:30, up at 7:00, three hour nap from 1:00-4:00. And like you, if we try to put him to bed earlier, it's a big fat mess. Thankfully, he's sleeping at night, so that helps.

  11. We are another family who follows our daughter's cues instead of a set sleep schedule. She and I go to bed around 9:30 and she usually sleeps until 8 or 9 a.m. Sometimes she wakes up earlier, but then will usually go back to sleep for a couple of hours after being away for 1 hour.

    She doesn't nap for very long, only about an hour most days, and sometimes another half hour in the early evening, but she seems to be just fine with it. Once or twice a week she'll take a 2 hr+ nap and that seems to catch her up for the week.

    I get home from work at 5:30 and I wouldn't like it if she went to bed at 7 or 7:30 because I would get even less time with her than I do now. Her bedtime may need to change when she starts school, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. For now this works and it is nice to be able to stay out and have a little bit of a social life.

  12. This post was very timely for me, as I too have been tinkering with sleep schedules because of a friend's way of doing things.

    It's so silly, how easy it is to start thinking you're doing something wrong ... even when it's working perfectly fine for your family.

    I wish both of us the courage to stick to our happy family routines.

  13. Margaret's schedule sounds pretty similar to my brother's daughter (who is 2 1/2). Nice long 3-4 hour nap starting around noon, bedtime close to 9-ish. I think maybe it's a more typical schedule than some might think.

    Have you ever had trouble nursing her to sleep at her regular bedtime? My son will nurse and nurse, then start crawling all over the bed. It's driving us nuts so my husband has taken to holding him down tummy-to-tummy and letting him cry until he finally settles down to sleep. Not quite the same as CIO, but it still breaks my heart to hear it.

  14. If you decide to try again, I find it easier to move bedtimes back in 15 minute increments. We usually let our children stay up later in the summer, but I start moving it back again come early fall. If I suddenly put them to bed an hour early I would definately fail, even if they needed it. So if 9:30 is her normal bedtime, try moving it back to 9:15 for a week or so and slowly move it up to the time you want.

    On the other hand, as long as it's working for you (and her), it shouldn't matter much until she starts school.

    Good luck.

  15. Hello! I found your blog in the strangest way. I am a member of EFW and did the giveaway post today, while checking on commenters I clicked over and started reading. HAve been reading for a good hour or so! Love your blog and what you stand for. Thanks for making my reader one blog bigger!

    ANd thanks for stoping by the EFW blog too, LOL! We need lots of love!

  16. My sister in law thinks everyone's kids should be in bed by a certain time, and it bugs me. All kids are different, and all families are different, so why should we all have the same bed time?

    The earliest bedtime we could get Michael to do was 8:30. Any earlier and it would take an hour to get him to sleep. And then he'd wake up too early for me, and I'd be tired. There are definitely benefits to a later bedtime...and I guess there are benefits to an early bedtime, but they don't appeal to me as much. We've settled in the middle, I guess, and it works really well for us.

  17. We don't have a set bedtime at all. Sometimes it's 11:00 pm, and sometimes the kids are wired and we're all up giggling until 3:00 am. I never wanted them to go to bed at 7:30 because if Bryan came home from school at 9:00 pm, he'd basically spend all week never seeing his kids.

    And the thing is, we have almost no problems whatsoever geting the kids to bed, because we let them decide when they're tired. Deirdre's 2-1/2 and most nights she'll tell us "I'm tired" and then go lay down and put herself to bed. Typically we go to bed together sometime between midnight and 2:00 and we read together for 30 minutes and then turn off the light and the kids close their eyes and that's it - no fussing, usually no delays.

    And then they wake up when they're ready, typically around noon. They get about 10 hours of sleep each night and only take naps if they'd played hard at the park.

    And they're happy and healthy and there's no reasonable explanation for why every kid needs to be in bed by a certain time unless they absolutely have to get up at a set time every morning. Meanwhile, Bryan comes home late some nights, and spends time with the kids while I get some sewing or cleaning done, then we all read together and fall asleep together. It's bliss.

  18. I have to laugh because my parents always were stuck to 3 different sleeping schedules with their 3 different children. My brother and cousin were known in the family as the only 3 year olds who knew all of Letterman's jokes. But, my sister is a mega sleeper. Kids just do what they need to do.


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