At Owen’s recent dental checkup, the dentist asked if he was brushing his teeth every night.
“Most nights,” I said. She asked what was preventing our brushing every night.
I said, “Bedtime is occasionally fraught, and if we don’t get it done about half an hour before bed, and he’s too tired and gets upset, it doesn’t get done. Bedtime varies some, we don’t have a strong routine.”
She hmmed. “Why do you not have a routine.”
I sighed. Maybe it was audible.
I explained simply, but there’s more to it than what I told her. There’s all of this:
Among other things, we have three parents with three different schedules or sets of needs. Casey has to be out the door for work earlyish, he commutes on public transit to SF. Audrey leaves as late as 11 a.m. because she has to drive to work and her route is very trafficky during rush hour, so she waits until that clears, and comes home late. On days they have a lot of work, they both come home late, but otherwise, that’s staggered too. Owen prefers (but doesn’t require) that Audrey help him go to bed.
Right now, he’s waking up around 8 and going to bed at around 10, most of the time. But … most of the time. His energy usage during the day varies. How well he sleeps at night varies. Those things affect when he’s able to go to sleep or wake up in the morning.
Then there’s me.
Of the three of us, I have the most apparently flexible schedule. I could even use an alarm clock to be up by a particular time, then get Owen up, then get him down at a particular time. But that seems so silly given Audrey and Casey’s variable hours. And because of my chronic pain, I sometimes have insomnia (though I have meds for the pain and insomnia, it can still be a bear) and then when Owen sleeps in, damned if I’m going to get up early to wake him up. He can sleep in so I can.
(A lot of this habit, or lack there of, was set during his long transition from naps to no-naps. If he napped he’d go to sleep later. If he didn’t, he’d be miserable in the evening, then go to sleep earlier. It was nearly impossible to figure out which days he’d take naps but he still really needed them for a long time. It was a bit crazy-making. But the lack-of-firm-bedtime became … routine. Now he rarely naps and bedtimes are not fun when he does.)
I got to thinking about bedtimes more when I read about a recent study: Non-regular bedtimes tied to kids’ behavior problems.
I’m not really worried about Owen, but I do want to give him the better opportunities to be happy, not necessarily successful, but to feel good.
He’s doing fine now. He doesn’t have behavior problems. He’s happy and likable. He goes to sleep when he’s tired and wakes up when he’s not anymore, usually. When bedtime is fraught, it’s usually because he’s been especially busy just before bed and he’s just not ready to stop having fun so he can go to sleep, so we’ve been watching his moods carefully and slowing the house down as he seems to require, before bed, helping him into pajamas early on and doing other things to make it be Bedtime, but not at a specific time, rather on his schedule. And trying to get him to lie down and sleep before he’s actually tired enough is an exercise in powerful frustration.
I have friends who have relaxed or no bedtimes. (NO bedtime would be hard for me, I get tired and need to sleep too.) People have written plenty about it. I don’t have a huge emotional tie to whether Owen has a specific bedtime. (I do/did have one to “cry it out.” Forget it. No. Crying is a huge stressor for kids, as is feeling rejected or ignored, and though I don’t believe it can be avoided entirely or even a lot, I don’t like to impose a cause for it unnecessarily.)
I know people who believe and have decent scientific information that firm bedtimes are a good idea, and who have had success with them.
I know people who believe that flexible bedtimes are fine and have had success with them, and though evidence to the contrary is out there, it’s not necessarily about all children. Children vary. Families vary. Situations vary.
Is it worth messing with what, for the most part, is working? I actually have no idea.
I can’t figure out, on WordPress, how to wrap text around photos. This one’s too big, at any rate. But I can’t, or I haven’t yet. Gone are the days I just typed out my own danged HTML as needed.
There may or may not be an ad after this paragraph. If I ever manage to monetize this blog, I’ll use that to pay for WordPress and lose the ad at the bottom.