Yesterday when I posted about the study that suggests irregular sleep times are disrupting our children’s brain functions, I was surprised at the number of you who are having issues. And it’s not even that you are having issues getting your kids to sleep, but dealing with people who have OPINIONS about how you get your kids to sleep. I’ll say it again, and most of you know this is my parenting mantra, it’s nobody’s fucking business how you parent. Unless you are giving your kids Pop Rocks and Mountain Dew right before bedtime, then I may sit here and quietly judge you. I’ve pretty much raised four babies (I’m not quite done yet, considering they still live in my house and eat all of my delicious food) but I can remember each of them having their own sleep issues at one time or another, and especially when they were toddlers having to establish all these rituals for getting them to go to sleep and stay asleep. Because I co-slept with all of them, by the time I was ready to boot them from my bed – on occasion they still felt like coming back, like ghostly little boomerangs who decided that our bedding was more comfy or mom and dad were cozier to sleep with than their stuffed animals and night lights.
I do know a few tricks that worked for me.
Fresh air does wonders in wearing both babies and kids out. I can remember taking all of my kids in their strollers for an hour or so before bedtime and they would conk out like magic. Same with bigger kids, run them around the yard a few hours before bedtime and they will sleep much better in the evening. Even when it’s frigid out, bundle that baby up and take them outside. Our resident babysitter Emmali knows this!
Repetition. It doesn’t matter what you do before bedtime, unless you are like introducing some brand spankin’ new awesome toy or letting them watch some exciting new movie, as long as you keep the bedtime routine pretty much the same from night to night. Kids and babies love repetition, and it gets their little brains ready to accept that sleep is inevitable. Reading a book, cuddling, quiet playtime, a song and then lights out. Whatever you do, you will have better luck getting them to pass out if you do the same things in the same order every time. I’m not a personal fan of TV or computer time before bed, because studies have shown that exposure to these things can disrupt sleep patterns. I need to take this advice myself, because I’m always reading on my Kindle or playing that horrible, awful, stupidly addicting Candy Crush game before bed.
And my totally no-fail always-assume trick to pretty much everything: BATHTIME
Water is magic. It wears everyone out. To this day if my teenager is in a sour mood or acting like a teenager I suggest he have a warm bath or shower and I swear he is like a new person. For babies and kids it’s pretty much fail-proof. When my kids were little I think I would bathe them about twice a day on some days just because they would always be sleepy after a bath. You of course have to keep their delicate skin in consideration, and water can be drying, but you all knew that already.
What are some of your tricks and tips you use at bedtime? Yesterday Blue said one of my all-time favorite things ever and I stole it because it’s pretty much perfect and fits my personal parenting philosophy totally:
The other morning after my own alarm went off I exclaimed in my zombie-esque state to my husband that “The best sleep is the sleep that you do not get.” He found this amazingly profound, and all I meant is that the coziest, most delicious, most dreamiest, yummiest sleep is the sleep you aren’t getting at that exact moment because you have to haul ass out of bed and deal with getting ready for the day and feeding the damn cat who is howling outside the bedroom door. I could totally lecture all of your adult humans about how terribly important it is that YOU are getting enough sleep, but I think you all know that. One of the best parenting tips I ever got was to nap when the baby naps.
I fully believe that after am long day of parenting that YOU deserve downtime, and not just to fold laundry or pick up toys, but to do the things that remind you that you are more than just a parent. Whether that is doing a hobby or reading or watching The Real Housewives or applying fake eyelashes and teasing your hair while you dance around your bedroom to Robyn – we all need that adult time alone. It can be hard to do when you have a little voice asking for one more story or a glass of water. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t give in on occasion and give your little monsters what they want, it’s your decision on how you handle this because as I said above it’s no one’s damn business, but I guess my most important point is that when you are looking after these little humans that we all love, that you take sometime to love yourself too. Alone. With the kids in bed.