Once upon a time, my kids had a fabulous bedtime routine. They had a bath, watched a show, had some playtime, sang a song, read a story, and then it was lights out. It wasn’t always foolproof — the kids didn’t magically fall asleep the moment I closed the door — but at least I felt like I was doing everything right. All the books say to establish a nightly bedtime routine, and mine was as solid as a rock, dammit. Not even Hercules could have moved it.
Then summer hit. And it all went downhill.
My husband was working longer hours, so he was getting home later than usual. Dinnertime got pushed back. Then bath time got pushed back. Then the stupid ball of fire in the sky didn’t go down until 8 p.m. Then the story got later. Then…
You get the idea.
Before I knew it, my kids weren’t going to bed until 9 (or sometimes 10) o’clock at night, and we had skipped over the song, and I had no idea how it had happened.
Somehow bedtime had become a joke, and I realized I liked it that way.
Of course there are nights I wish they’d be conked out by 7:30. Obvs. What parent wouldn’t love that? And sure, the reliability of a daily routine would be nice sometimes.
But those kinds of rigid schedules are not always the magic ticket. Even if you have a strict routine, there’s no guarantee your kids will follow it to the letter and be asleep before you can turn on the TV. So we decided that, rather than fighting with the kids about it being time to sleep, we would enjoy staying up and spending time with them in the evenings instead.
For the most part, my kids go to bed either when it’s obvious they’ve reached the apex of exhaustion or when my husband and I have had our fill of 4-year-old screaming, and we send them off to their room. This lack of routine affords us a high amount of flexibility with our evenings, and what we do with them.
Things like late-night grocery store trips aren’t a big deal for us. We don’t have to be all “But we can’t leave the house after 7, or the kids won’t sleep, and then we’re all doomed.” We just pack them up and head out, because the kiddos don’t have to be in bed at a certain time.
If my husband is working late, the kids will still get to see him when he gets home, which means so much to all of us.
If we’re at a friend’s house and everyone’s having a good time, there’s no rush to look at the clock every five minutes because we have to get the kids home and in bed for fear of the apocalypse being unleashed.
And the best plus of all is that they sleep in until 8 or 9 most mornings. No more 5 a.m. wake-ups, which makes this mom pretty damn stoked.
Soon they’ll be in school, and they’ll have to be on a routine. Bedtime will be more crucial to their development and success. Education and extracurricular activities will decide when they sleep and for how long, and all of that will mean less time for me to spend with them.
While I have this time where life is a free-for-all, I’m going to take advantage of it. I’ll take their 9 p.m. cuddles. I’ll sleep in with them. I’ll love on them and enjoy their presence while I can. No more stressful bedtime rituals for us, and I’m going to savor that for as long as I can.