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Sleep Deprived

February 16, 2008

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asleep on the sofa

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asleep on the sofa

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My children are on a frustrating schedule. These photos are from Thursday night when they both fell asleep on the sofa, side-by-side. It is very rare that they fall asleep early. Don’t tell the folks at Parents Magazine, but my children do not have good sleeping habits. I blame it on my husband.

I justify blaming it on him as follows: I want to eat dinner and bathe my children and have some semblance of a nighttime routine. I even made a chart for my daughter so that she could see that we go through the same steps each night. Enforcing this is really difficult because my husband and I disagree about the importance of bedtime. To be blunt, I care and he doesn’t care. Scooby-Doo comes on at 9:00 pm and for some reason watching this cartoon is part of the routine! There have been times when my daughter has fallen asleep early and I’ve carried her to her bed only to have her wake up as I place her on the pillow and scream at me, “But I didn’t get to watch Scooby-Doo! I wanted to watch Scooby-Doo!”

Unfortunately, dessert is also part of the routine, which is totally counterproductive. Combining corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, and artificial colors into a dessert for children is a bad idea. And giving it to them before they are supposed to fall asleep? That is a very bad idea. But my husband thinks it’s a great idea! And there have been times when my daughter has fallen asleep before eating dessert and I’ve carried her to bed only to have her wake up as I place her on the pillow and scream at me, “But I didn’t get to eat dessert! I wanted to eat dessert!”

When we were in Japan on vacation last year, I was trying to put my children to bed early so that I could enjoy being with my in-laws. It was a nightmare. On New Year’s Eve I was accused of being a wet blanket because I was upstairs soothing my children to sleep while everyone was downstairs shouting “Happy New Year” and all the other children were running around, up and down the stairs! Drunk family members kept opening the bedroom door asking me if I was going to join the celebration. Then I was in a horrible mood, so resentful, so angry and defensive. Of course I would have loved to join the celebration, but I wanted my children to be asleep. Why is that not something that Peruvian parents want? Why is it so strange for me to want to categorize a party into a children’s party or an adults’ party? In Peruvian culture, they seem to not separate children and adults. A party is a party and there is no bedtime. Everyone knew I was miserable, but then they assumed that I was a bad parent and a bad wife because I didn’t want the family to be together on New Year’s Eve.

I have been very frustrated by being the only one that cares about bedtime. So my not-so-brilliant reaction to my frustration lately has been to not care either. Now there are two parents who don’t care about bedtime and our children do not fall asleep.

Thursday night they fell asleep together on the sofa. It was like their Valentine’s Day gift to us. I don’t know what we are going to do about our family’s nighttime routine. I am considering taking charge again and being strict. I would love for them to be asleep by 8:30 every night, as Parents Magazine (and Johnson’s Baby Wash commercials, and pediatricians, and psychologists, and American culture in general) suggests. Is that possible in my family?

Why does the dynamic have to be Mom v. Everyone Else?

. . .

  1. February 16, 2008 3:15 pm

    I don’t know anything about parenting, so I wouldn’t know any arguments for or against children having set bedtimes or being strict about it. What strikes me is that unless you home school, they are going to need to get on a regular schedule at some point so that they’re not going to school sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation has a really large impact on our brain functionality, and while it is important for all of us to get enough sleep, it seems that during school years when kids are expected to learn so many new things, the importance of being well rested is especially important.

    Practical suggestions with regards to scooby and desserts are to tape scooby so that you can watch the taped version the next night, at an earlier time. And for desserts, make your own low-sugar versions or even better, make them whole fruit.

    Easier said than done, I know! Hopefully you and your husband can find some kind of common ground with regards to the bedtime so that whatever you both decide on isn’t being unraveled by the other! I’m sure it is really frustrating, as things are now. Good luck! 🙂

  2. February 16, 2008 3:15 pm

    Oh, meant to say – super cute pics of the kids!

  3. February 16, 2008 4:33 pm

    Deb, for someone who says she doesn’t know anything about parenting, you gave some great advice. I would have suggested the same things.

    FW, is there any chance of compromise with your husband? Is he willing to help enforce an earlier bedtime routine? Would he agree to an early bedtime if they got to stay up late once or twice a month?

    My mom was one of those in-bed-by-8:00 types, and we got to stay up later just a few times a year… usually when “The Wizard of Oz” or “The Sound of Music” came on network TV. The worst was New Year’s Eve, at my Grandma’s house. My dad’s side of the family always threw an late-night party, and she still tried to herd us to bed at the regular time, but since we were at Grandma’s house and things were so chaotic, we never managed to stay in bed very long. 😉 After a few years, she quit fighting it and let us stay up until 9:00 or 9:30. I can’t tell you how resentful I felt about having to wear my pajamas and to go to bed while the rest of my cousins stayed up to ring in the new year. I was 14.

    Perhaps you could present your husband with plans for an early bedtime on weeknights, and an early-ish bedtime for Friday-Saturday (and I am talking about an hour or less difference from regular time). Then if you picked one or two nights a month where all bedtime bets were off, it might help your kids and husband embrace the new routine. You could plan those nights’ activites as a family, or just go with the flow and see what happens. Then everyone benefits– you get a bedtime routine, your kids are happier and better-rested, and your husband gets his late-night time with the kids.

    Best of luck to you.

  4. Hawk permalink
    February 16, 2008 6:01 pm

    FW, this was a curious read. I get it. Just something else for you women to blame on us men folk, LOL!

    If I were you I would take the reins and get back on a routine. Someone needs to be the responsible party. So I would say to hell with what everyone else thinks. You are their mom.

    My kids bedtime is between 8:30 – 9:00 p.m., during the school week. We generally have dinner sometime between 5:45 – 6:15 p.m., during the week. Desert is a privilege (not an entitlement) and is enjoyed before 7:30 p.m. Anything later causes them to not sleep properly. Because of their age, they generally have the pj’s on, teeth brushed and all that good stuff, preparing to settle down around 8:00 p.m. We will either generally read something together, watch television together, or play a few quick card games. But it is quiet time. When it’s bedtime it’s bedtime. There are no ifs ands or buts about it.

    On the weekends, they are permitted to stay up until 10:00 p.m. but no later. Anything beyond this times causes challenges Sunday night and Monday morning wakeup.

    There’s one thing I have learned about parenting, all your relatives and your friends have an opinion because the children are not theirs. They do not have to deal with the challenges, the aftermath, the crying, and all the crap that goes along with the role. So I say damn the torpedoes, full-speed ahead, and get your crumb snatchers back on a routine and schedule. Mommy will be happier and healthier.

    For whatever it’s worth I leave you with something I have rarely had to remind my children. I’m not here to be your friend or your buddy. And you know something, they love me for it because children want to know what their boundaries and limitations are.

    Sorry for being long-winded here and hope this makes sense. I caught a bug from my youngest and am running a 102 fever which is not pleasant. Oh, the joys of parenting. Time for some medication, some Crown Royal, a movie, and fall asleep on the couch. Thank goodness my children can fend for themselves on some level.


  5. Hawk permalink
    February 16, 2008 6:11 pm

    FW, my regrets if the above sounded choppy and hard to follow. I’m feeling miserable with this fever. This Thera-flu stuff doesn’t seem to offer any relief. So I’m retiring for the remainder of the day and signing off. Have yourself an enjoyable weekend. We’ll catch you on a return flight.

  6. February 16, 2008 10:15 pm

    Ah, don’t beat yourself up too much. You’re being a good mom by at least trying to maintain a schedule. We struggle with our little one wanting to always sleep with us, and we swore that wouldn’t happen. Guess who won that fight?

    It’s a never ending battle. Either we’re fighting the hubby, or we’re fighting the kids. But twenty years from now, no one will really care, and they’ll all love you the same.

  7. February 16, 2008 10:30 pm

    You got some great advice. My kids are 6, 8, and 12 and the two youngest are in bed every night by 8, the oldest by 9. The weekends they each get to stay up a half an hour later.

    You’re a good mom. I feel for you. I have been ‘that mom’ trying to get kids to bed while everyone thought I should join the party, what difference does it make etc… and I just decided I needed sanity so I stick to the schedule.

    Best of luck to you, and Scooby Doo can give nightmares! I’m afraid of the monsters.

  8. PUR permalink
    February 17, 2008 12:54 pm

    Could you do some things to move up the entire schedule? Like put on a dvd/whatever of Scooby-Doo right after an early dinner. One way to get story time in is to read to them while they play in the tub, while the other is watching the show — then switch! This way they both get to see Scooby-doo and each choose their own bedtime stories Or maybe substitute fruit salad (yummy-yummy) for the chemical cocktail desert. Kids do need their sleep… and mom and dad need that alone time.

    Good luck!

  9. February 17, 2008 1:19 pm

    Hey Windy,
    I had this problem with my step kids. Their father would let them do anything they wanted regardless of time. Because he didn’t have to deal with them the next morning, taking them to daycare and all the other tantrum inspiring stuff. I started giving them a regular bath time – and right after that was story time, which had to be done in their room. There was no place else for them to sit, so they had to get into their beds. Then I would turn off the bright lights and read by a little bedside lamp. Almost always, they would fall asleep as I read to them. Though, sometimes it took several stories. After a few weeks of this, they started to prod me about bath time and story time. So, I guess it worked. I don’t know if this would work for you but maybe it’s worth a try?

  10. February 17, 2008 7:00 pm

    I figured out sometime around the time my oldest turned two that I had a choice — either an early bedtime and give up the nap or a late bedtime and a good long afternoon nap. We opted for the early bedtime and some kid-free relaxation in the evening, so our kids have all given up napping at around age 2. But you CAN have a late bedtime — complete with ScoobyDoo and dessert (but I agree, jockey for something calming!) AND still have a set bedtime and structured bedtime routine — but in that case, they will need a good solid NAP until they are about 5 or 6 years old. It doesn’t matter whether they get all their sleep at night or if it is divided up between night and nap, but it IS important that they get a total number of deep sleep hours, and so is, as per your conviction, the predictable routine. Scooby-Doo is great, actually, because it provides a predictable signal: you could say, dessert eaten, pajamas on and teeth brushed by 9 to watch Scooby (they’ll learn not to dawdle so they don’t miss it!) and time to get into bed when Scooby is over. Also, if you’re the one home with them all day, you can take charge of nap time while your husband is away rather than butt heads with him over bedtime while he’s home.

    An article on children’s sleep needs by age:

    A blog post on how sleep affects cognitive development:

    Staying up late is indeed part of Latin culture — but so is a couple of hours of siesta. (There was an article in the Week last year about how the pace of business and modern life has eaten up the siesta in Spain, and since people are still keeping their late hours but not resting in the middle of the day, there more and more health problems cropping up related to sleep deprivation.) And speaking of Latin culture, I suspect you’ll get way farther with you husband if you can lay aside your feminist sensibilities and approach him at a neutral moment (e.g. not at bedtime) as the head of the family. Men are pragmatic problem solvers, and if you state your case like you’re presenting it for approval rather than like you’re laying down the law, he’ll be much more likely to put on his coat of shining armor and ride to your rescue. Depending on his working hours, it may be important to him to have that extra time with them in the evening. You get to be with them all day; this is his time to be “the giver of all good things”. So you trundling them off to bed is a double whammy, undermining both his roles as provider (not only of food and shelter, but also of dessert and Scooby-Doo) and as leader. But if he knows you will defer to him and trust his judgement, he won’t have to won’t have to dig in his heels and say no just to assert his role in the family and can actually give some thought to what is best for the children.

    We usually just forget about bedtime when there is anything as exciting as a family party going on — but you have to be prepared to take it a little easy the next day, deal with the crankies, and get back to the usual routine the next day.

  11. February 17, 2008 7:03 pm

    oops, well for some reason my links didn’t show up. I’ll try again:

  12. February 17, 2008 8:15 pm

    I think Deb said it all. But then again, I understand how tough it is to be “mean mom” all the time. Don’t beat yourself up FW it will work out, no doubt!

  13. February 18, 2008 5:28 am

    My experience with South Americans in Japan is that they don’t start their parties until midnight and usually finish up sometime in the morning, so I’m not surprised you’re having these issues.

    Good luck hunting for deserts with less of the syrups and such. We used to be able to get fruit leather or gummis that were made with fruit or juice, but I think all the corn syrup lobbying has made that a thing of the past.

    Also, good luck with that mom v. everyone bit.

    I remember going out at midnight on New Year’s to bang pots when I was a kid. I think maybe they woke us up for that, but I don’t remember all the details. I do remember that we were required to go to sleep right afterward.

  14. PUR permalink
    February 18, 2008 10:02 am

    Watch out though… HFCS is thought to be linked to the rising rate of diabetes because of the unique way the body metabolizes it differently from cane sugar. I look at all labels and buy NOTHING that contains High Fructose Corn Syrup. So right there most brands of Ketchup is out. But that is just lightly tomato flavored salt/sugar nastiness, anyway… not good for anyone.

  15. February 18, 2008 11:03 am

    Routine at night definitely the key. Perhaps a compromise on dessert with a small scoop of sorbet in fancy champagne glasses to make it more fun, then a bath and a cozy bedtime story. My kids were allowed to take one small toy to bed if they said they weren’t tired, but they had to stay in bed and play quietly with only a nightlight on.

    I’ve started a 6 word memoir meme on my blog and I tagged you. I’m not a big meme person, but I think this one will be fun, check it out. I hope you’ll play along!

  16. February 18, 2008 1:50 pm

    I’ve almost always had a struggle with bedtime because I’m not a routine person myself. We actually have the opposite problem that you have, my hubby would like them in bed earlier he is a routine person.

    One thing I have found that helps in getting them to calm down earlier is to regularly have dessert after lunch rather than dinner; we’ll still have it after dinner for special occasions. Even if it is a healthy, homeade dessert, it will still have sugar, which is pretty counterproductive. I only had this epiphany recently and implemented it last month, but it seems to be working better for me.

  17. Sky permalink
    February 18, 2008 5:40 pm

    My daughter has a regular bedtime, now whether she follows it or not is another story. lol. But, I homeschool, so can adjust her schedule accordingly. Best of luck on your battle of bedtime. And don’t worry mom, you’re doing great!

  18. February 18, 2008 6:27 pm

    Thanks so much for your comments and advice. I like learning what other people think and notice. Especially the connection to food. Wholesome food makes happy families.

    My daughter usually gets 11 hours of sleep at night and no daytime nap. Her bedtime is sort of 9:00 and since I wrote this post, she has done very well. She has obeyed me and followed the routine and fallen asleep right after her stories.

    My son usually gets 10 hours of sleep at night and takes a 2-3 hour daytime nap. It is easy to get him to take a nap and he falls asleep on his own pretty regularly, but at night we struggle. We are lucky if he is asleep by 10:30 at night.

    I will keep you all posted on the progress! 😀 Thanks again for all the advice!

  19. February 19, 2008 6:16 am

    I really enjoyed this post. While were travelling in Vietnam I gave up caring about what my toddler ate and when she slept.. and life got sooooo much easier, suddenly our kid was flexible, she was out til midnight with us enjoying the nightlife, she was napping in her father’s arms while we were walking all day. No schedules meant complete relaxation for all of us and I learnt a lot from that experience. But, we were on holidays, when we’re both at work it is a different story, you just can’t get through the week with that much chaos.

    I do understand that bedtimes and kids parties and adults parties are a very Western notion though, good observation on your part.

    And your sleeping children look adorable, no wonder you want for them to sleep so much.

  20. February 19, 2008 10:15 am

    I feel ya on this one. Havine a 4yr old and a 3yr old, I was where you are at not too long ago. We experienced this delima ourselves although I was the guilty party of not getting them ready and in bed til late. I don’t really know why even. I guess I was worried that if they went to bed early, they would wake early and who wants to wake up at 6am?

    Once Emma was going to start preschool though, I quickly realized that going to bed at 9 or 10 just wasn’t going to cut it. And I really started wanting sometime with my hubby alone. There were times when he would go to bed before the kids!

    So I started moving up their bedtimes. It was a challenge at first but it is so worth it! My kids are happier, I’m happier and my marriage is happier 😉 I get so much more done in the day because I get to bed earlier and I feel like the kids and I enjoy each other more because we are all well rested. I only wish I had started putting them to bed sooner! Just don’t tell my husband because he was always telling me that the kids needed to go to bed earlier. He was right. I realized that I didn’t have to stop doing those nightly routines, I just needed to do them earlier.

    I agree with you that dessert at bedtime seems counterproductive. IMHO, it seems like you are training your kids to crave sugar and sweets at bedtime which would be a really bad habit when they become adults. I agree with the others that suggest switching to fruit instead which is healthy but sweet and then you don’t have to worry about them creating a bad habit that could lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes. My mom has this and I think her eating a bowl of ice cream every night for upteen years greatly played into it.

    In the end, I think I decided that I owe it to my kids to teach them the right way to eat & sleep. I was not taught healthy eating or sleeping habits. I still struggle daily with those and I wish that it had been important in my house growing up. It makes me determined (although far from perfect) to teach my kids so they don’t struggle with it too. It’s just so much harder to learn in your adult life than as a kid. I hope your husband will support you in your attempt to get them in bed earlier. It’s hard to be the ‘meanie’ but your kids will thank you someday for it.
    Good luck!!!!!

  21. February 19, 2008 12:21 pm

    As the woman of the house, the structure of a child’s life and sleep habits is within your province. It is unfortunate that some of that control has been relinquished, but that is immaterial. You are living in the present and every day is filled with decisions and consequences for inaction.

    As such, every day is a new opportunity to exact strict requirements that children must obey. Without structure, children turn into very bad men like myself. I would hate that fate to befall your adorable young ones.

    Thank you for allowing me to impart my advice. I do not have kids so take it for what it is worth (what you paid for it).

  22. momster permalink
    February 20, 2008 5:16 pm

    aw, FW, they look so adorable. Speaking as a grandma, I remember those days and I am so glad to pass the worries/stress on to your generation. I will say schedules are the way to go (I would know cause I didn’t do so good keeping schedules). The hard part is getting everyone in the house to work with the schedule. Anyway, hugs to the little ones-and to you.

  23. Rick Toone permalink
    February 21, 2008 9:02 am

    I wandered by seeking a motivational Ron Paul rant, and discovered this instead.


    “Mommy had. a little baby.
    There he is. fast asleep.
    He’s just. a little plaything.
    Why not. wake him up?
    Cute. cute. little baby.
    Little feet-feet. little toes.
    Now he’s comin to me.
    Crawl across. the kitchen floor.

    Baby, baby, please let me hold him
    I wanna make him stay up all night
    Sister, sister, he’s just a plaything
    We wanna make him stay up all night
    Yeah we do”

    — Talking Heads

  24. karriew permalink
    February 22, 2008 9:20 am

    Such sweet sleeping little ones.

    pp-I love Talking Heads.

    If it helps, we have no routine here. Well, no set in stone routine. I do feel your pain with regards to husbands coming in and getting the kids all riled up at night though. It usually happens here when I want to go to bed, and my husband will be wrestling with M and feeding him popsicles.

  25. Sally permalink
    February 22, 2008 11:11 pm

    What lovety Children!

    Now here comes a sneaky approach.

    Buy a pretty nightime garment for yourself.. if you think that would motivate your husband for soem quality alone time.

    Show it to your wonderful husband.

    Mention its attributes.
    Mention that you are waiting for an opportunity to wear if .. an opportunity when the children are innocently asleep.

    You may point out to me how manipulative this is.. however I already am well aware of that.

  26. February 26, 2008 9:08 am

    I’m going to be honest now. We’re not doing well with this at all. Their bedtime seems to be 11 or 12. Yes, that’s 12 midnight.

  27. February 26, 2008 6:10 pm

    Such beautiful children you have. Children look so angelic in their sleep. Keep up the Great mothering; Savor the moments; Time passes so fast—-oh how I remember those precious days of time gone by. Thanks for sharing and for envoking such beautiful memories of my own children. Peace, Light and Love to you and yours. . . . CordieB.

  28. February 27, 2008 2:02 am

    Here’s what ya do, FW. (I haven’t read all the other comments, so forgive me if someone has already suggested this.) Tell your husband that since he won’t help or at least not undermine the kids bedtime routine, that you have put yourself on a sex routine. You will only have sex between the hours of 9 and 10 pm.

    I don’t know if this will actually work, but it’s worth a shot! We don’t have this problem at my house. My husband is very strict about our “sleep hygiene” since he has to work with people who can’t sleep well all the live long day. My kids are in bed by 8:15.

    What I will tell you is this. I don’t think it’s as important WHEN they go to sleep as HOW they go to sleep. As long as you do the same thing every night, the when will take care of itself. For instance, if you have a set bedtime routine like eat dessert, take a bath, brush teeth, read a story, go to sleep (or whatever works for you), then no matter where you are or what time it is, when that routine ends, they’ll be asleep.

  29. Goldie permalink
    February 28, 2008 4:32 pm

    Your children are simply beautiful and you take wonderful photographs of them.
    I will not attempt to give parenting advice.

    FW, the more I learn about you the less I think I know you…you are so complex! I just read the “quioxtic” comments for the first time…gosh I hope I spelled that right…

  30. August 22, 2008 2:07 pm

    Any updates? it’s been a few months…

  31. August 23, 2008 1:09 pm

    I still suck at putting them to bed. Waking up early for preschool will help. I dread the 6 pm “nap” that they both want.

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