Sleep begets sleep…
I’m a firm believer that a calm bedtime leads to better sleep, better sleep leads to more sleep and a happier morning. I love bedtimes in our house. And I dread them too. That’s because I have kids of different ages. Small person, easy bedtime. Older children, not so much.
The Curse of Iggle Piggle?
When my oldest two children were babies we had a simple bed-time routine ending in bed at 7pm. The timings were ruled mostly by the fact that we tried to wait for workaholic Daddy to come home before heading upstairs and my daughter was utterly obsessed with Iggle Piggle – so we had to wait for him to get his act together too and go to bloody bed (“Who is not in bed? Iggle Piggle’s not in bed….” those words will haunt me until my dying days).
Bath, jammies, milk, cuddle, story, another story, rock smallest child to sleep, creep out on all fours, repeat. You see bedtimes were never the perfect Super Nanny scenario in our house, but I loved that time and miss that gentle wind down. I even miss the endless rocking to sleep, falling asleep over the side of the cot, trying not to sneeze and whisper-shouting at anyone who made a noise downstairs. Our bedtime had a routine, it wasn’t set in stone, but it worked for us. I never had any truck with the ‘cry it out’ parents. I just didn’t have the nerves of steel required to listen to a baby crying for hours over a baby monitor when all they wanted was a cuddle.
Arrival of baby number three
Routines changed again when baby number three made her dramatic entrance onto the scene. Her attempted bedtime ran to nearer 8pm as I juggled the older two into bed first, spending a good half an hour posting them back to bed as each egged the other on to naughty tricks and insane requests “Mummy I need a box of grapes”, “Mummy, I have only had 17 drinks this week, I need two more”, “Mummy, my friend Isaac has pick ‘n’ mix before bed” (to be fair, he probably did!).
Baby number three got on with it, waited her turn, watched the commotion with wise eyes and waited until her older siblings were sound asleep before unleashing her ninja powers of sleep abstinence. How many nights must I have rocked her, jiggled and sang to her, crooned to her up and down the garden, lost my marbles and fallen asleep before she did?
Bedtimes in the here and now
Well, now they are much older. Six, nine and eleven-going-on-twenty-one and in a funny way, things haven’t changed much.
The smallest child still doesn’t seem to need sleep in the way normal people do. She is often ‘last man standing’ and first to wake (heck she has just turned six and I can count on my own fingers the nights she has slept through!) so she is no perfect sleep angel but she does GO to sleep without much grief. In fact, bedtimes with her right now are one of my favourite times of day. Jammies, teeth, story, another story, a third story, lights out, good night…sleep? No, not sleep. Then the questions start.
‘Why do you sleep on one side if that means that all your blood runs to one side, because if you do that, then all the side of the body at the top would die with no blood in it and you would be half a skeleton and I don’t want to die, what is a heart, why does it pump, would it still pump if I stood on my head…’ (woah – slow down, too many issues right there and I need to sleep at some point).
‘Mummy, Mrs Spacey says that Jesus wasn’t a Viking but my book says he is’ (still not sure about that one).
Mummy, how long would it take for a slug to crawl to France…because grandma hates slugs and there is one in our garden going the way to France and I need to tell grandma when it is going to get there’
Then, thanks to the wonderful book ‘Tell me something happy, before I go to sleep” I have to tell her a happy thing (well, ten happy things actually – Willa the bunny didn’t settle for one thing either) to think about before she can chatter her way to sleep. Her swansong is a rousing rendition of ‘this little light of mine’ (we’re not religious, she just seems to have chosen it as her fight song) before passing out to sleep mid-chorus.
The older children – now that’s a different bedtime story
The older two, being so close in age, still compete to see who can come downstairs the most before being shouted at, followed by ‘who can slam the door hardest’ and then reliably finishes with three rounds of ‘who can annoy the other the most even when they have been told in no uncertain terms not to leave their rooms’ before mummy eventually loses her mind and revokes pocket money. It’s exhausting, not to mention boring. Invariably at least one of them gets told off, one of them feels the need to back-chat and when they finally give up and go to bed, I’m left feeling deflated and dispirited.
Things have to change around here.
- We tried telling the oldest child that bedtime shenanigans meant no mobile phone. That didn’t last long.
- We tried lights out when the first went to bed. No joy.
We are gaining some traction with the ‘Friday Treat’ money – they start off with 70p (I know so generous!) and they loose 10p per day. The fact that the post-office lady in charge of the sweets knows the drill is genius…”Only 10p this week” she mutters “oh dear”
But one little trick seems to be working. If they kick off about going to bed at night…the next day they have to go to bed at 7pm, before their little sister. This new rule was met with cries of outrage, lots of stomping and exclamations. But, two 7pm bedtimes under out belts now and last night went without a hitch! Fingers crossed.
Now I think about it…maybe our bedtime routine issues started way back in babyhood, maybe it is all Iggle Piggle’s fault…he was always a nightmare at bedtime!
What do you do to ensure a door-slamming-free bedtime?