Thursday, January 20, 2011

On Sleep (Or, If the rooster crows, I'll shoot 'em)

Do you remember being a kid and not wanting to go to bed? You believed sleep was a punishment depriving you of the adventure of living. Do you remember being a teenager who wanted to stay awake but could do nothing but sleep? Naps were frequent and sleeping until lunchtime on the weekends was commonplace. Are you now a parent who finds glorious ecstasy in waking and realizing you slept more than five hours?

Sometime after age 11, we start to see the merits of sleep. We make it through adolescence and then our 20s until parenthood hits. Suddenly, sleep isn't simply something of merit but rather a holy grail as unattainable as a low mortgage rate. Sleep is numinous. In fact, I'm surprised more songs, poems, or odes haven't been written about this basic yet often elusive life function.

Like our brain cells, sleep slips away with age. I seriously consider it a good night if I wake up in the morning after sunrise, can count more than seven hours since I went to bed, and realize I only got up once during the night to pee. Truly a beautiful thing, I tell you, yet as fleeting as my dark brown hair, which is now more than 50% overrun by gray strands (but you’ll never know it!). It is because of how much I treasure sleep that I completely lose it when my nine-year-old daughter fights with me every night about going to bed.

“Can’t you be sweet to me at bedtime?” she pleads.
I respond, “You get sweetness for five minutes. After 45 minutes, my love, you’re S.O.L.” (She knows what that means.)

My son, who is already in the throws of puberty, naps with the cat (who doesn't need puberty as an excuse).
This is bliss.
My daughter, on the other hand, wastes so much of my evening fighting something that is as basic a need as eating and pooping when I could be doing something else to bring me closer to doing the exact thing she is resisting. It infuriates me. I hate how our days often end on this bad note, which is why I always greet her in the morning with a kiss and a back scratch as I try to wake her for school. As you can imagine, getting her out of bed on a school day is as challenging as it was getting her into bed the night before. Did I mention she’s only nine? I dread what is to come when puberty sets in.

I am open to any ideas for how to manage the bedtime routine better so long as they don’t include alcohol or tranquilizers (and don’t think I haven’t considered that many times). I’ve already tried threatening to take away privileges for the following day (and following through), professional counseling for her alleged sleep fears, bedtime stories, nightlights, melatonin, redecorating her room more times over the past nine years than any girl deserves, and even being a kinder and gentler mommy at bedtime (which usually requires alcohol on my part). It’s time to think outside the box, people. Hit me with your best shot!


  1. Nope, I can't help. I fought ever losing battles with all of my three over sleep.
    It's an amazing relief when it becomes their responsibility.

  2. I have no answers but tons and tons of sympathy!

  3. Oh blimey Wendy, I have no advice to offer as it sounds like you are trying so many options already. I really hope it works out for you both and you manage to get some sleep!

    The word verification was 'bedlit'. Is that trying to tell us something?!

  4. Jayne, "bedlit"...hah! I've tried that. I believe they call it the bedtime story :-)

  5. I have loads of experience with this--my non-morning person/sleep fighter son is now 21! Ignore the grumpy morning person--it's not a personal attack, it's just how they adjust. At night, be consistent and kind but firm. I used to get so frustrated with "challenging child" because my others were angels. Repeat, it's not personal and you'll do great. I haven't been checking your blog lately--I'll be back!!

  6. My 13 year old son is now in the phase of life when he stays up all summer night long and sleeps all day. I don't fight him too much on it because to me it is a rite of teenage passage as I did it myself and my mother could never get me to follow a reasonable sleep schedule. But come Fall all it will be back to dragging him out of bed seven o'clock in the morning for school.

    How envious I am as I do miss those mornings when even an atomic explosion could not wake me up. Nowadays if a fly could fart I will be jolted out of bed. ... and yes, about having to pee in the middle of the night, I wish there was a pee fairy to visit in the wee hours and do it for me.