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Bedtime, Lockdown-Style

A couple people asked me after yesterday’s post to elaborate on our bedtime arrangement – how the girls get to color in their room, etc.

So here it is.

We head upstairs at a pretty early hour; during school it was 6:30 p.m., and now that school’s out it’s 7:30 p.m. Maddie, in an ideal world, would still sleep 11 hours a night if we’d let her; the problem is, she can’t fall asleep so early any more, even when she’d get up at 6:45 for school. And Cora, well, Cora’s never been as big of a sleeper as Maddie is. Alas for me.

Our bedtime routine takes about 20-30 minutes: pajamas, teeth, two books read aloud, and prayers. So we’d wind things up by 7 p.m. And while I couldn’t force the girls to go to sleep at that time, I knew letting them stay up later would make them want to sleep even later – trust me, I tried.

So we came up with our current system. They each have a lap desk with pockets in their rooms, filled with paper, crayons, pencils, etc. Maddie’s desk has a crossword puzzle book, and Cora has a picture search book. Maddie’s got a Doodle Loops book, and Cora has another picture search book.

The point is, they’ve got low-tech stuff to do.

Once the girls are in their rooms, in a perfect world they’d stay there until they awoke the next morning. In the real world, we play Whack-A-Mole nearly every night: a head pops out, we pound it on the head and it goes back in. Then another pops out, then the first comes again, and so forth.

Tell me I’m not the only one.

But since we instituted the craft desks, the girls don’t come out nearly as often. We used to get both of them, multiple times a night, saying such things as “I’m bored,” or “I just can’t get to sleep. And I’ve tried REALLY hard.” Now, if that comes up, they’re sent back to their activities.

On most nights, Cora will go through the nightly routine, then settle in on her bed for her Creative Period. She’ll write letters to family members, or do some sticker mosaics, or some Wikki Stix, or simply look at a half dozen books. Then she’ll hit a point where she’s ready to go to sleep and she’ll turn out the light (after neatly cleaning up after herself, bless her) and go to sleep.

Maddie, on the other hand, doesn’t often turn to her craft desk. Since she can read (and loves it) she’ll usually read herself into sleep, and many times I’ll come into her room, reading light still on, her slumbering frame surrounded by open books. Maddie needs more sleep, but is also my worrier, and sometimes she can’t get her brain to turn off. So she reads until she drops from exhaustion and finally falls asleep.

And as less-than-perfect as that may be, she’s found something that works for her and I respect that.

Occasionally Maddie will have a specific worry, and she’ll know she needs to get her brain turned off. On those nights she’ll turn to Doodle Loops or a math workbook or her crossword puzzle, and eventually (hopefully) that will segue into books and sleep.

So there you’ve got it- that’s our system. Works pretty well most nights, though not perfectly. We still get occasional visits after bedtime, though less rather than more. On the whole, though, the girls are content to have a small amount of autonomy in their rooms and are learning to self-regulate and get themselves wound down. And that’s pretty important.

Most importantly, though, Mommy and Daddy are finally able to start squeezing a television show of their own in at night.

Most nights.


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