Why My Kids Don’t Have a Bedtime


Why My Kids Don't

Yes, I am the same mom who wrote about sleep deprivation, before you start putting two and two together on your own. “Ah, problem found!” you might think. But I invite you into a large part of my life to understand why some of us run it a little differently…welcome to BEDTIME.

Our family has a few factors that are slightly uncommon:

First of all, we were enduring a family tragedy when my first was born, which caused him, in some dark days, to be the only source of joy. He knew nothing of a schedule, since our days were unpredictable and spent largely out of the home, either at our family’s house or the hospital. By the end of a year, he was still being nursed and rocked to sleep and spent most of the night in our bed. I had unintentionally become a model for Attachment Parenting in the sleep department.

Secondly, my husband and I had a goal from the beginning of our parenting journey to try to be as uncontrolled by our children’s schedules as we could. Looking back, I can see it was highly motivated by my/our selfishness and pride to “not be those parents,” so I do openly admit that this was not proper reason for our philosophy. But I remember that we both came to the realization that we could either hunker down in our new baby bliss and keep things regulated, but miss out on the opportunity for relationships and service to others, or we could stretch ourselves and our little ones to be able to continue with our friendships and passions that we were participating in outside of our family.

"Helping" Daddy
“Helping” Daddy.

And lastly, which is a much tested but medically unproven point, I think my kids just have a hard time going to sleep. Ha, is that a cop out reason or what?! But really. They cannot fall asleep without a struggle. Once or twice, maybe, in the five years of our parental trek, have we heard, “I am sleepy, I want to go to bed.” There is not one bit of relief in their eyes or hearts when we announce bedtime. “Bedtime is the enemy! Do not let it win!” is the battle cry they scream to each other every night.

So, combine all of the above and you get parents-who-never-got-it-right-in-the-beginning-who-kind-of-don’t-want-to-follow-the-rules-anyway-plus-kids-who-hate-sleep-and-will-battle-late-into-the-night-no-matter-what-kind-of-plans-we-make. Result=no bedtime for this family.

We are finally learning to read the signs our boys give when they are tired and could probably go to sleep without an hour’s struggle. Sometimes on wonderful days, we can begin bedtime at 8:15pm. Some nights, we feel it is more important for our kids to be involved with helping us invest in others’ lives and so we don’t get them in bed until 9:30pm or 10pm. And some nights, it comes back to the first point and we need to be with family, even if it means sugar at 9pm and falling asleep at 10:30pm. Even if our kids do have a hard time falling asleep, I have to be publicly thankful that they are very adaptable and can adjust themselves well to the variances of their nightly rests. We are in a wonderful situation of not having to start our days until 7:30am, so they always have some wiggle room to sleep in a little if they feel the need.

It’s not a perfect system and it isn’t a route every family should take, but I am writing about it because it is what we have chosen to stick with and to own. And that is what parenting is all about.

We have found what works with the goals of our family, the aspects of our habitat and the characteristics of our kids. When you approach areas of parenting, it is important to be filtering your decisions through these three areas and then make your decisions and own the consequences that you get. It is kind of a bummer to me that I can’t count on always getting the same amount of “after bedtime-time” every night or that no babysitter will probably every be able to put my kids to sleep, but I try to focus what I am benefiting from in my choices rather than what I am losing.

Our kids have had opportunities to watch us, as well as work with us, in various capacities. They have helped do projects, decorate weddings, prepare meals and participate in children’s camps; it might be true that they didn’t help as much as hinder, but we have almost always heard thanks instead of complaints that we were willing to bring our children and be involved. We are also able to enjoy the occasional late activity of drive-in movies, NASCAR races or fireworks as a family, because our kids are already adjusted to enduring a late night now and then. It can get tiring or stressful, but I know that when I have had a chance to rest and reflect, I will be thankful, and so I try to own my decisions, instead of complaining about another bad bedtime.

Night race with Daddy!
Night race with Daddy!

Have you had to make a hard parenting decision that seems to always be up for questioning? Don’t feel alone–share it with the people! When we logically explain why we do what we do, respect and camaraderie can live where previously only judgment and assumptions once resided.