The Question that Changed our Bedtime Struggles

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bible
A page a night helps set the tone for bedtime.

Before my son was born, I didn’t really think too much about bedtime rituals. I had many friends who were already parents, and most of them were laissez-faire types, and their kids seemed good with that style. I just assumed my kid would be able to go with the flow. Well, you know what happens when you assume…by the time I went back to work, my son was about 6 months old, and I never slept through the night. Luckily I was able to find out that a huge part of why he never slept well was because he had food allergies. Even still, the next YEAR was rough for our sleep. I tried having him cry it out; I lasted 2 days. Next up, putting him to sleep while drowsy, nope, the screaming was the worst then. Eventually I gave in and rocked him to sleep, basically every night and every nap. At this point, when he was 2 years old, people started asking, “Oh, are you ready to have another yet?” Are you kidding me? I was still struggling with the multiple wake ups a night, and that was after the screaming and fighting to get him into bed. I contacted a sleep coach, who helped me try to better time my son’s naps and bedtime, but since I am a working mom, I had to depend on my mother and mother-in-law to do the heavy work of naptime, which to be fair, they did the best they could but didn’t always sync up. (My 2 year old would sometimes nap until 4pm!)

Nighty-night
Nighty-night

Yet, I felt guilty if I wasn’t home to do it, or if I asked my husband to do it (#workingmomguilt). It honestly wasn’t until this past December that I finally figured out what would be best for my son, who at this point was 3 1/2 years old and still in his crib. The big difference? He started preschool a few mornings a week, and since I almost never get to drop-off or pickup (more guilt) I made it a special point to ask him the same question every night, “What was your favorite part of the day?” At first his responses were brief, but as a teacher, I knew how to keep asking different leading questions and follow up questions to get him to open up more. Suddenly, after we had read 3-7 books and said good night to the grandparents and dad, my son and I would turn off the lights and sit in the rocking chair and talk about our favorite parts of the day. IT WAS AMAZING! This seriously changed the whole bedtime dynamic.

In addition to the question, which like his nightly bath and reading, is part of his routine, we have definitely moved to an earlier bedtime now that he no longer naps. Also, I will admit, that I’ve gotten better at reading the signs of tiredness before it becomes a full blown meltdown and exhaustion. I’m not saying every night goes down without a hitch, but I will say for some reason, this question allows my son the space he needs to digest his day.

How’s your bedtime routine?  Did you have a pivot change for the better?

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I'm a full time mom/teacher/wife/daughter who feels pulled in too many directions! My son Michael took over 24 hours to be born, and at 6 months old he was diagnosed with allergies to dairy, eggs, soy, shrimp and wheat... all after my exclusively nursing because I was SO SURE that would help him be a healthy kid. The joke was clearly on me. Luckily at age 1, he outgrew his soy and wheat allergies. Fingers crossed the others will soon follow. In July of 2015 I gave birth to my second son, Christopher. Thankfully he doesn't seem to have an allergies and is pretty happy go lucky. I'm grateful between my husband who doesn't eat any veggies and me always battling my weight makes for 3 meals to prepare every night. No wonder I'm so dang tired! It's a good thing I love to cook and don't require more than 7 hours of sleep since I often get far fewer than that. I am addicted to Scandal and Nashville, but other than that, most nights I'm content to surf Pinterest and pin way too many crafty pins I will never do with my son. I hope readers can relate to me or at least have a chuckle at my expense.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Since we did the cry it out method (go ahead and gasp, those who hate it – it’s okay, it saved my sanity) at 6 months, my daughter has been a wonderful sleeper and she LOVES her crib. We put a few toys in there, so she can quietly play before going to bed. But lately, since she’s starting to enter her terrible 2’s, she doesn’t want to go into bed. We will read a few books and she just wants to keep on reading and not go to bed. My mom told me that I did the same thing when I was little – and one day when I was fighting to go into bed, my mom asked me a question, “Do you want to walk to bed or do you want me to carry you?” She said it worked like a charm and that I focused on making the decision, rather than fighting to go to bed. I tried this out with my daughter, and IT WORKS! By saying “you have to go to bed”, it’s not giving them a choice – but now we ask, “Do you want to walk to bed? Or do you want mommy or daddy to carry you?” She decides and we go right away!

  2. Great post, Maria! I, too, rocked or nursed my oldest to bed until he was about 18 months old – I was NOT ready to have another when it still felt like I had a baby. My boys are still not excellent sleepers despite sort of crying it out – oldest was in our bed at 2am last night. It’ll all be okay in ten years when I wake them up! Ba ha ha. Thanks for sharing your experiences – cutting the nap was key for us too!

  3. Keep strong Mamas! I think what also helped me the most was knowing I wasn’t alone…I felt like everyone else’s kid slept but mine…NOT true at all! Also, trust your instincts.

  4. My oldest (now almost 7) kicked a fuss EVERY. NIGHT. OF. HER. LIFE. Until she was 4. We tried everything and I do mean everything. The only thing that worked was her falling asleep in bed with me then being moved. When she was 4, I got pregnant with our 2nd and something had to give. My mom suggested a daybed. So, out of the room went her big girl bed with all the princess stuff we spent a cool $2mil, lol, on (seriously, why is it so expensive to be a princess?) and in went a daybed with a trundle. The first night, we pulled out the trundle and read books and had a cuddle and she hopped up, got in the bed and told me that I didn’t have to stay. In went the trundle and she has gone to bed by herself every night since. Our second sleeps like a dream!!! Of course, she’s hell on wheels the rest of the time but she sleeps with no problems. It’s s fair trade!

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