I am not, as a general rule, a big fan of strict schedules for kids. Or for myself, come to that. What I have had to admit in recent weeks, though, is that while schedule may not be a necessity for little ones, having a routine is enormously helpful. In terms of sleep, the last few weeks have been shockingly different to the previous months and years, thanks mainly to our reluctant instituting of a bedtime schedule. Which means both the kids are in bed by eight thirty, or very close to. Which means I can get a few hours of peace and still be in bed by eleven, as opposed to twelve or one, like before. Which means we all wake up around seven, when we're supposed to. And also that I wake up feeling reasonably okay, and not like I want to sob with exhaustion.
A month ago, bedtime was killing me, and not so softly, either. I would stagger into the den at ten or eleven, having finally succeeded in settling one or the other of the kids down for the final time, and fall onto the couch thinking, "Another baby would kill me dead. We simply have no more room for chaos- full capacity has been reached." After one particularly bad night when I was in tears of exhaustion and frustration, we decided we had to do something differently, so we put together a much more detailed bedtime routine than had previously been in place.
Before, the only set events which took place were brushing Addy's teeth, saying prayers and singing her a song. But it happened kind of whenever she seemed sleepy, which was usually not until nine or even ten. Eli was the same- we'd respond to his sleepy cues, rather than just arbitrarily saying it was bedtime. I still think this is, generally speaking, not a wholly stupid plan, and that it works for some kids. It worked for Adelay when she was a baby just fine. And really, it's still kind of what we're doing- we just had to force them to start getting sleepy earlier, and around the same time each day. It wasn't working for them to stay up so late, because we inevitably ended up staying awake later ourselves to try to get in a few hours of grown up time. This made Jim exhausted (and late for work) and me sluggish and miserable until about noon the next day.
So, we drew up battle plans, essentially, deciding that around seven o' clock, the bedtime routine would commence. We assigned ourselves battle stations (feeding Eli his nightly oatmeal, brushing Addy's teeth, getting out pajamas, etc.) that we should be manning simultaneously so that each child was ready to be tucked in by eight pm. We've been following the plan for about two weeks now, and while we are sometimes off by up to a half hour, in general we are adhering pretty faithfully to the rules. And it... It works. The kids are getting reliably sleepy, exhibiting their cues of glazed over eyes, yawning and thumb sucking, by about seven forty five each night. They are going to bed and staying there, without Eli's usual ruckus and protests and jumping and screaming and having to be settled down multiple times.
I suppose it's probably too early to call it, and one must also factor in the fact that they've been kind of sick-ish and run down lately with colds/allergies, and so may just be more sleepy and compliant in general, but... I think I may just be in love with our new schedule. Who knew?