I’m not a pediatrician, child psychologist, or preschool teacher, which is to say, I’m no expert. I am a mom who had four kids in three years when I was almost 40. And what I’m saying is, I don’t know much, but I do know that I know a whole bunch more if I get seven consecutive hours of sleep each night. Also, I’m less likely to “forget” that someone’s been stewing in time-out for 15 minutes when I get enough sleep. Just sayin’.
In my house, these are the top five ways I get my children to sleep in every morning, and none of them include Benadryl or television.
1. Don’t Be Nice
If it’s 5 a.m. and you don’t feel nice then being nice is a lie. Am I right? Damn straight, I’m right. And a good parent should not model lying.
At 5 a.m., you feel like hot garbage. Remember that glass of wine (or two) you had at dinner last night? Remember how you had that sudden burst of energy watching Ryan Reynolds or Ryan Gosling or whomever in some random rom-com so you folded five loads of laundry at midnight?
Walk into whatever space the loud hooligans are playing “Let It Go” and hiss, “Shh! Mama is sleeping.” Don’t even open your eyes all the way. Channel your inner Voldemort. Leave your mouthguard in. Show them how much they do not want to see you until 7 a.m.
2. Bribery (or at Least the Illusion of Bribery)
Maybe you want an excuse for ice cream (as if we need an excuse!). If you’ve got a craving and this morning happens to be a morning they let you sleep in, then reward, reward, reward.
Yourself that is. Reward yourself with an ice cream and then buy them each baby cups, too, and say, “Thank you for letting me sleep in this morning.” It’s important that they connect the wonder of that first lick of ice cream with you sleeping in.
3. Be Like Preschool, But the Kind of Preschool You Wouldn’t Actually Send Your Kids To, Because Honestly, There’s No Teacher
At bedtime, tell them you left them some special things for early morning “free” play. It’ll be like Christmas morning! Or Hanukkah, Kwanz-ukkah-Ramadan. Whatever, they’ll be excited either way.
Right after you finish watching Ryan Gosling/Reynolds kiss whomever at midnight, go downstairs and lay out some toys. Dig way into the back of the cabinet and get the little wooden king and queen and then lug out the castle. Throw in some Star Wars figures and a dump truck. Who cares? They won’t. (If any of these things make noise, remove the batteries.)
Give yourself a pat on the back for creating an opportunity for your kids to stretch their imaginations.
4. Boot Camp
You’ve heard of it. A drill sergeant yells at the underlings to do push-ups, makes them climb wood walls, and runs them through the surf with ammunition held over their heads. But you’re the drill sergeant and the drills are bike riding, climbing the wrong way up the slide, Little League, building massive sand castles, or walking through 2 feet of snow when you’re only 3-feet-tall.
Do this every day.
No kid wants to shorten their sleep time when they burned 4,000 calories yesterday. That’s a fact. And someday when they’re in the Olympics, they’ll thank you. (Okay, probably not the Olympics thing. But if it makes you feel better to think that, please, be my guest.)
5. Marry Someone Less Stubbornly Addicted to Sleeping In
Choose a partner who espouses the old adage, “Early to bed, early to rise, blah, blah, blah.”
And no, this didn’t work out for me. I think early birds are annoying. I mean, your kids will wake you up for what? Five, ten years, max. But theoretically, you are married to Chatty Early Morning Chipper Pants for life. You’ll sleep in, sure—maybe even get breakfast in bed. But you have to sleep next to this person who likes to wake up early for eternity. That sounds like hell on earth to me.
So, sure, it’s an option—just not my favorite option.
And in the end, there will still be mornings for waking up early: long car trips to Grammy’s, the real Christmas-Kwanz-ukkah-Ramadan for the next 16 years (until they follow their boyfriend to Spain to run with the bulls), and sigh, you’ll be waking up early for the first day of kindergarten for your youngest child. Because she’s your last, and this will be your last first day of kindergarten.
Yes, I get it, Jim Croce. Tomorrow they’ll want to borrow the car keys. I think about it all the time, the ephemeral nature of these halcyon days, how these moments will slip by all too fast. Occasionally I’d like to put time in a bottle, too. It’s a little bit hard to imagine we wouldn’t want to gobble up every minute with their darling footy-sleeper-pajamaed bodies before they start to smell bad, grow facial hair, and beg to sleep until noon.
It’s enough to make a girl want to start scrapbooking.
But, a little bit, I’m here to remind you that these sepia-tinted memories of their childhoods will be a whole bunch sweeter to behold if none of those photo ops begin until after 7 a.m. (8 a.m. on weekends, max).