I Finally Got Used To My Kid's Sleep Schedule, & Then It Switched Again
I don’t particularly want to drive at night to pick my tween up from a birthday party, basketball practice or hanging out with a friend.
I’ve never been an early bird — blame it on some combination of FOMO, caffeine, and periodic insomnia — obviously, this made the baby/toddler/little kid years difficult for me. When my son was a baby/toddler, he went through a very long phase where he would wake up every day between 4-5 AM. We tried everything to make his waking up time later. We adjusted his bedtime. We adjusted his naptime. We tried fewer naps. We tried no naps. We tried a special clock, I think? Or maybe we just contemplated that? Maybe there was a sticker chart involved? Honestly, it’s all a blur now, because I was so exhausted. I was forced to wake up every day no later than 5 AM, even on the weekends.
Again, I am not a morning person. So I had to adjust my bedtime. I started going to bed earlier and earlier. 10 PM. 9:30 PM. Sometimes I was in bed at 9 PM. Granted, I didn’t always immediately fall asleep. But I was often in pajamas, face washed, teeth brushed, and curled up with a good book (and okay, yes, sometimes watching a television show on my iPad, which is supposed to be terrible for “sleep hygiene.” But sometimes a mom just needs to watch reruns of Frasier in bed).
Now, my son is a tween (almost a teen). The good news is that on weekends he now sleeps in! He will routinely sleep until 8 AM or even later, while I’m awake at 6 or 7 AM (after being forced to wake up early every day for years on end, it’s become ingrained), drinking coffee. My son has even said to me, “I can’t believe I used to wake up so early on the weekends. What was I thinking?”
The later wakeups are great, but there’s a new mismatch: his bedtime is creeping later than mine. Suddenly, I’m realizing I made myself into as close to a morning person as I’m going to get... just in time for my kid’s circadian rhythms to flip.
My kid now has activities — like basketball practice, a birthday party, or hanging out at a friend’s house — that keep him out of the house until a time that I consider to be past my now-early bedtime. I had to pick him up from a birthday party last weekend that ended at 9:30 PM and drive him and two friends home. I don’t think we got home until 10:30!
Once upon a time, that was early for me. Not anymore. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m getting to the age where I don’t particularly want to drive at night, especially on the incredibly dark road with zero streetlights where my kid’s friend lives and with whom we regularly carpool. Driving at night, while a bunch of children yell and wave flashlights around in the backseat, blinding all the nearby drivers, is less than ideal. And when I’m fighting to stay awake? Forget it. Especially in the colder months, once the sun goes down, I’m ready to hibernate.
Sometimes, even at home, my son and husband will be watching some kind of sporting event on TV, and I will start falling asleep. I have been known to fall asleep during movies, too (we have a very comfortable bean bag chair, and if I sit in it, with a blanket on me, it’s all over).
As my son’s bedtime continues to shift to later hours, maybe I’ll become a night owl again, staying awake with my son long after the sun goes down and the younger kids in the world are asleep. But if I fall asleep before him, hopefully, he’ll understand. Parenting is wonderful, but also exhausting, and Mom is still tired. So, so tired.
Janine Annett is the author of the humor book I Am "Why Do I Need Venmo?" Years Old. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Real Simple, Parents, and many other places. She lives in New York with her husband, son, and dog.