Monday, September 26, 2011

Bedtime Battles...

...sword battles that is.

It was evident from very early on that this little boy was not going to be lulled and sung to sleep, the way that I had imagined all children could be. Instead he likes to laugh himself to sleep; usually while running, rolling, dancing, jumping, and bouncing (sometimes literally) off the walls.
And I have come to love this about bedtime with my boy.

When I decided to become a parent, one of the things that I really wanted to establish was a pleasant bedtime routine. I didn't want to have the fight every night that so many parents talk about, where they feel like their children are intentionally trying to derail their evenings just to be difficult and the children can't feel any better about their parents' intentions. So I read all kinds of books and articles about kids and sleep and bedtime rituals and routines. I thought I had all of the best ideas about how to create a peaceful, loving, calm bedtime routine.

Then my baby was born.
He has had a playful spirit from the start (from in utero, really) and none of the normally suggested bedtime rituals seemed to induce sleep.

There was no soothing warm bath—he thought it was wildly amusing to splash and giggle.
There was no reading bedtime stories—the book was a toy, often a drum or a projectile.
There was no sleepy snuggle blanket—he used that for peekaboo.
There was no calming lullaby—he made faces and noises and found every word hilarious.
There was no amount of cuddling and rocking that would calm the urge to play at bedtime—he wanted to laugh!

None of these things created the sedating effect that the experts had me believing they would. It's not that he doesn't love all of these as comforting and quiet activities, just not at bedtime.

Nowhere did I find an expert who would condone jumping on the bed, wrestling, tickling, sword-fighting, splashing, or any form of physical, active, energetic play at bedtime. But why not? Sure, not everyone can fall asleep shortly after a wild romp, but there must be others who need this one last hurrah before they can wind down for the night. It started to seem like the advice given by experts about bedtime was really more about parents' convenience than what children really need.

When I thought about what I really wanted, it wasn't so much that bedtime be calm and peaceful but for bedtime to be a bonding time that was free of conflict. What he wanted was some active physical play with his parent/s at the end of the day. I realized that if I could let go of my notion of how bedtime was supposed to happen, we could both get what we wanted!

This is bedtime at our house: it's loud; it's wild; it's fun; it's bonding; it's exhausting; I love it.


  1. When A was born we too decided to avoid the battles that we heard were inevitable, thus the boy who wants to build late into the night. But we've had one argument in 5 years. We don't do bedtime here and everyone is happy well rested.

  2. We don't have a set bedtime here either, but we do tend to end up in bed around the same time most nights (within an hour or so) which leaves us with plenty of sleep.
    I'm glad you have been able to avoid the battles. And I'm sad that it is just considered normal to have bedtime fights.

  3. I LOVE this, Angela! So unique! This makes me smile way deep down. :)

  4. My daughter sounds just like your little one! Every night she has a bath after dinner and it seems to give her a second wind. Evenings are our most fun time of day by far. Jumping on the bed, doing somersaults, dance parties, you name it! It's all part of OUR bedtime routine. Our nickname for her from the very beginning has been "party, party, crash". A little snuggle at the end of our play session and she goes from a complete monkey to a sleeping angel in a matter of minutes. I wouldn't trade our routine for anything!

  5. Thanks Leslie! :)

    Anon, your bedtime sounds like fun! Love the nickname "pary, party, crash", and that you found what works for your family.