Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Breaking My Rules By Making Some Rules

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?

17 comments:

Hillary said...

Bedtime schedules are great! We only have The Boy, but getting him to bed at the same time every night saves our sanity. Even more interesting to me, when he was about six months he suddenly started waking in the middle of the night again. We couldn't figure out what his problem was. He didn't want anything, didn't even seem to want to be awake. After several teary nights, we moved his bedtime EARLIER and presto! no more night-time wakings. Apparently, he was getting overtired and that was screwing with his sleep.

Early bedtime means The Boy sleeps better and so do we, after some adult time.

Erin said...

YAY! I really hope this continues to work for you.

Taking (most of) the question out of bedtime makes such a difference for us. When we say it's time for bed, the boys put up almost NO fight. But it took some serious training and enforcing the schedule to get it that way. Our sanity depends on it.

clueless but hopeful mama said...

So glad it's working for you! Hip hip horray!

I think I chose to have a schedule because I like schedules but I also remember reading somewhere, in some baby sleep book, that once you start seeing the cues, it's actually too late. They are ready to FALL asleep THEN not start the process to get ready and will then be overtired when they actually get to the "go to sleep" part. It's been true for us, at least.

Erica said...

I don't think I could function without a bedtime schedule. My husband gets up for work at 4:45am, so we put Maddie down for bed between 7:00 and 7:30 every night. Then we have a few hours of adult TV before we go to bed. We all get a good night's sleep and function much better that way.

Although, it's not terribly cool to admit to the world that you're in bed by 9:30 every night, so I don't tell too many people : )

Jana said...

I'm so glad the bedtime routine/schedule is working for you guys. I have to admit that I wish I could be more like you and be relaxed about schedules, but alas, I am way too Type A. My in-laws call me the Sleep Nazi because I'm so strict about bedtime. But, like you, the hubs and I have a good three hours of grown up time each evening. That is definitely worth being called a nazi.

Bird said...

You may have just convinced me because Charlie changes the schedule every three weeks and it's friggin killin me.

Shelly Overlook said...

We've always had a pretty decent bedtime schedule and our kid has slept well since she was pretty young. Like Erica, we start bedtime by 7-7:30, so in bed by 7:30-8, which leaves a couple of adult hours for us and bedtime around 10. It may not be the most glamorous life but at least I don't have bags under my eyes any more.

Mommy Daisy said...

I've always been more relaxed about "scheduling" and more into "routines". That helps us throughout the day. And I can be more flexible for other things then. But bedtime is full of routines, and we do stick to a schedule. I started doing that when Zachariah was 2 months old. I realized that we needed a more established routine, and it has worked great ever since. I think he sleeps better when he goes to bed early (7:00-8:00). And the schedule gets adjusted as needed. IN the summer bedtime is a bit later. Otherwise he is just awake in there and does sleep right away. Right now we've moved bedtime up, because he was getting too cranky at night. So right now bedtime is around 7:00-7:30. But it's the routine that gets us through. I'm glad that it's working for you!

Billie said...

Sleepy cues? My kids must have missed that part of their training. Although we force them into bed at 9pm (they are 6 and 3), they are in no way sleepy. They are usually running around bouncing off the walls at the point that they have to go to bed. It takes on average... 45 minutes to an hour for them to actually fall asleep. Generally, they go to sleep earlier if they throw a tantrum about going to bed. Said tantrum seems to tire them out.

Going to bed later does seem to make the situation worse so we are pretty religious about starting the bedtime routine at or before 9pm.

d e v a n said...

Awesome!

bat7mess said...

Glad it seems to be working!
I just discovered your blog a few days ago by googling "I am a desperate housewife" because I often feel like one. True story. I got hooked on your blog. We seem to have similar parenting experiences. Anyways, just thought I'd say hi. Keep the posts coming- they help me get through my own desperate housewife life. Feel free to check out my blog too (although it's not quite as impressive as yours).

bananafana said...

Hope it keeps working for you! We had the same problem with staying up to late when we did the same thing - even if we just wanted to watch a show we seemed to just go to bed later and later. Our kids do so much better on a schedule but they're all different. You just have to find what works best and makes you feel least like dropping over dead . . .

Kelsey said...

With babies, I'm generally more of a routine person than a schedule person, but bedtime is my exception.

We are pretty strict about bedtime with our baby and our preschooler. I cannot deal with messed up sleep! I hope the schedule works for you. It makes such a difference for me that I can mostly rely on kid-free time by 8 or 8:30 at night.

Astarte said...

Hoo boy, there is a special place in heaven for the inventor of the Sleep Schedule.

We have a policy at our house that says we are no longer parents at 9pm. I tell Josie that I am off-duty at that point, and should she bother me with a moronic request, I am no longer required to be nice. Of course, if something is truly Wrong, the Mommy hat is back on, but other than that, I NEED those hours to wind down and recharge. I don't care if the kids go straight to sleep, as they're allowed to read in bed or do whatever they want, In Their ROOMS. As in, Leave Me The Hell ALONE!!

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sharon said...

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