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SUMMER SLUMBER

There are themes that will run through your life as a mother and one of those is kids and sleep.

When they’re babies you will beg for them to sleep because until then, you have never known the sort of fatigue that makes you long for the grave. (Okay a bit of a stretch. Maybe.) When they’re a bit older, you’ll beg for them to stay in their own beds as they roam the halls like apparitions in search of a place to lay their heads, with a keen eye on your bed. On the cusp of adolescence, you’ll wonder how many consecutive hours a human being can sleep and whether it’s your imagination that they seem to grow two inches every night.

Good Enough Mother is in one of those periods. This summer, as every summer, I have been sort of lax with the kids and their bedtime. My feeling is they are going to be on a schedule soon enough so what’s the harm in letting them stay up?

Imagine my surprise when I got up the other morning at 4:45 to put Olivia out and ran right into my bleary-eyed son. “What are you doing awake?” I was so startled that my query came in the form of a whispered yell. That’s when he told me that he was going for a personal best, trying to stay awake for 24 straight hours. Now I am not a 12-year-old boy so the things he does more often than not, make me scratch my head. This one really boggled my mind because there are few things better than sleep. Well, wine. Wine, followed by sleep.

What Are Your Bedtime Rules?

There are themes that will run through your life as a mother and one of those is kids and sleep.

When they’re babies you will beg for them to sleep because until then, you have never known the sort of fatigue that makes you long for the grave. (Okay a bit of a stretch. Maybe.) When they’re a bit older, you’ll beg for them to stay in their own beds as they roam the halls like apparitions in search of a place to lay their heads, with a keen eye on your bed.  On the cusp of adolescence, you’ll wonder how many consecutive hours a human being can sleep and whether it’s your imagination that they seem to grow two inches every night.

Good Enough Mother is in one of those periods. This summer, as every summer, I have been sort of lax with the kids and their bedtime. My feeling is they are going to be on a schedule soon enough so what’s the harm in letting them stay up?

Imagine my surprise when I got up the other morning at 4:45 to put Olivia out and ran right into my bleary-eyed son. “What are you doing awake?” I was so startled that my query came in the form of a whispered yell. That’s when he told me that he was going for a personal best, trying to stay awake for 24 straight hours. Now I am not a 12-year-old boy so the things he does more often than not, make me scratch my head. This one really boggled my mind because there are few things better than sleep. Well, wine. Wine, followed by sleep.

This part is not an exaggeration: my son looked like he’d been tortured by an enemy using sleep deprivation as a tool of war. His eyes were watery and an unnatural shade of red. The rims were swollen and he had bags typically seen on a 55-year-old, certainly not on a middle-schooler. He kept insisting he was not tired, even though he could barely form a sentence and was breathing through his mouth. In a word, he looked like hell.

“This madness ends TONIGHT!” You see that wasn’t the only night he had been trying to accomplish the ridiculous feat. I came to find out he’d been staying up all night for the whole entire week! That afternoon, I made him lie down and no sooner had I barked, “Put your head down!” the way I used to when he was a toddler, he was fast asleep. And there he lay for 6 hours, barely moving, which gave me plenty of time to contemplate how on earth I am going to restore good sleep habits before school starts.

I remember their doctor telling me the best way to do it is to slowly move their bedtime back by 15 minutes each night until you arrive at the time they should be retiring during the school year. Given the fact Cole has been staying up until 10 every morning, this is going to take me at least 8 1/2 weeks!

Nope, I’m going to have to resort to drastic, Good Enough Mother mandated measures in the weeks leading up to school. They will include but are not limited to:

  1. No soda in the week before school starts. Instead, every meal will be accompanied by a big glass of warm milk.  And a pile of turkey. Stuffed with bananas.  This kid will O.D. on tryptophan.
  2. There will be no TV in the early evening. That might be hard to enforce. Okay, some TV but only the channel that plays nature sounds or the roaring fire. He can take his pick.
  3. He will awake at the crack of dawn, take a shower, get dressed, comb his hair and brush his teeth every morning. He can eat breakfast and put his book bag on his back before he goes back to sleep.

I say this tongue in cheek but there will be a crackdown and it’s coming sooner than they think. All good things must come to an end, including the summer of no structure.

What do you do to get your kids back on a school schedule? When do you start? Pass along your tips here, as I’m sure we’d all be most grateful!

4 Comments

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  2. JanefromPA

    August 8, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Hi Renee–
    My 11 year old son has a difficult time transitioning back to the school bedtime routine, too. My husband and I are pretty lax with bedtime hours during the school year, which may be due to the fact that I’m a school librarian and am quite happy to be able to tack on a few extra hours of sleep every morning during the summer! Luckily my 8 year old daughter is an early to bed, early to rise kind of girl, but my son is the night owl and enjoys sleeping in. About 2 weeks before the start of school I send him to bed early, not quite school hours, but earlier than usual. He’s permitted to watch 20 minutes of tv, but lights our after that. One week before school, lights out even earlier, then by the last few days of summer vacation, we’re back on our normal schedule. Granted, this rescheduling does not go without a fair amount of whining and complaining, but just develop a thick skin and hold your ground!

  3. Twila McKay Smith

    August 10, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Hi Rene, I am a 70 year old grandmother and great grandmother, and I feel just like the Bible, don’t change things to make friends of your kids, love them and teach them respect. They will want to go to bed, because they want to be have rules to follow.
    Kids need plenty of sleep to be able to understand what is going on in school. A good breakfast, and plenty of sleep helps your child be able to stay awake and learn, because their brains are working better, because of a good nights sleep. Don’t forget you are the mother and not a friend. Too many of our parents today are trying to be friends and loosing ground, by not having control of their childrens lives at the time they need you.

  4. mommamia

    August 30, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    In the summer by kids could stay up until 2am and a month before school started we starting cutting off an hour per week and the week before school they had to go to bed their school bedtime and get up at their normal time to prepare for school using their alarm.

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More in Ask Rene

Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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