Sunday, June 19, 2011


What about Bedtime you ask. Surely you don't let your 2 year old decide for himself when he will sleep? Won't he just stay awake all night? And then sleep all morning?

Well. Yes to everything.

I'm not sure if K has EVER been a fan of bedtime though...or sleep really. I mean, he LIKES his sleep in the sense that he GOES to sleep, but he was never one of those babies that takes two and three naps a day and then go down for a 12 hour night sleep. In fact, I distinctly remember sleep as being a huge question mark as far as I was concerned on the parenting spectrum.

There's sooo much hype about the amount of sleep children need. It can get to a person. It had me convinced for a while that I was somehow failing in the mothering department because my kid (if compared with the research, parenting books, and advice I was receiving) LITERALLY never slept.

I distinctly remember it starting back when I was pregnant. As part of our Bradley birth class, N and I were asked to fill out a rough schedule of a day with a newborn. It was supposed to show us that a baby was ridiculously time consuming and to prepare us for what lay ahead. Frankly, it was terrifying. But, what I remember most is that the baby was supposedly doing nothing but nursing, pooping, and sleeping. NOTHING else.

And then we brought K home. *sigh* He didn't really seem to sleep that much. He was wide awake half the night, most of the day, and I remember walking around the block in the snow because there was nothing else to DO with a wide awake infant in the middle of winter.

It wasn't detrimental to N and I at all. I mean, it was unexpected given what we had been told, but I just wore K wherever we went so he slept when needed and watched the world around him when awake. To tell the truth, I didn't give it much thought except to wonder how other babies were sleeping all the time.

When K was around 6 months old, I began to get worried. He was crawling. He was in to EVERYTHING, and he didn't nap. AT ALL. (I'm really not kidding.) He woke between 10-11am, and stayed up wide eyed and bushy-tailed until N and I collapsed around 1am. I had started going to a few Mom groups, making friends, and doing a good deal of parenting research and suddenly it seemed as though K wasn't sleeping enough.

I read a few books on night sleep training.

I commiserated with a fellow Mom friend who's child honest to goodness never ever slept.

I thought that I needed to instigate a  Bedtime.

I started up a routine, warm bath, massage, bedtime stories, nursing, ect...the whole works. But nothing worked. K wouldn't sleep unless we ALL went to bed, and somehow N and I always seemed to stay up late irregardless of the Baby.

We moved to Puerto Rico when K was 12 months old, and suddenly he was taking a nap in the mid-afternoon and crashing for the night at 8pm. Just like that. I didn't change anything. He was walking and running and spending every day at the park, the beach, and out in the hot sun, and he was actually needing more sleep.

Imagine that.

Of course, we weren't unschoolers just yet. We were still struggling with our own hang-ups about parenting without authoritarianism. N and I were, essentially, still deschooling ourselves from what we thought represented a 'good' child.

So, I ignored what was probably THE most obvious indication that my child was perfectly capable of deciding his own sleep schedule and became a bit rigid about bedtime and naptime. I won't lie. It was WONDERFUL to KNOW that the baby would be down at 1pm, sleep for two hours, and then go down for the night at 9pm.

But at some point in those next few months, K stopped needing all that extra sleep. It started getting REALLY hard to get him down for a nap. And 'bedtime' became an unbearable battle of wills that left me stressed out and frustrated at the 'wasted' hour of nursing that resulted in nothing but a recharged toddler.

Even as recent as 3 or 4 months ago, I was struggling with my issues regarding K's sleep.

I was more lax. I 'let' him stay up until I saw signs that indicated he was tired and then I would scoop him up and settle down in bed for a long nursing down. Which, often didn't work.

But, for the past two months or so, we've been trying a less stressful approach. N stays up late. He's just a night owl. I stay up mediocre late...about midnight and then I really need to lay down, chill out for a bit, and go to sleep. K varies. Some nights he's asking for milk and stories in the bedroom at 8pm, some nights he stays up until 5am perfectly content. (TOTALLY not kidding!)

So, now, I go to bed when tired. That's just it. I have released whatever last resolve I had about bedtime for K, and I worry about myself. I respect that he's done NOTHING but show me he can choose for himself when he needs to sleep, and I have stepped back.

Nighttime is a LOT less stressful. I play with K without dreading the hour or two of nursing that may or may not get him to sleep or nagging him about whether or not he's tired. N and I have lost some bit of our 'alone' time, but we can still talk and cuddle. N and K get some quality time together that they both enjoy. We all seem a bit more chill.

And, yes. We all sleep late. It's rare that we're all up before 11am, but we are aware of that and make sure not to schedule anything for the morning.

It's not a bad deal.

It's funny how some of the hardest things I've had to do as a parent involve letting go of my own perceptions of what constitutes a childhood, a 'good' parent, and a 'good' child. Sometimes I wonder if K will have a much easier time of raising his children. Will life be more fun and games right from the beginning because he can't remember or imagine any other WAY to raise a child?

This post was part of Unschooling Monday sponsored by Owlet Designs.Make sure to check out the rest of the participating posts!


  1. Our nights look similar to yours... Definitely less stressful most of the time, now that we don't try to force bedtime. I hope to write about sleep soon. Especially in the wake of the infamous "Go the F--- to Sleep" book. There is so much fighting ans stress around sleep. And it's sad to me.

  2. Yep, they really are all different and I've found that letting go of expectations just makes everything just that much easier. Respecting your own needs while honoring theirs is really the best thing you can do. Having said that, we've always encouraged an early bedtime... just because it works for all of us. I expect it will change one day, and that's just fine :)

  3. So well written.
    Funny about what we learn, what we choose to do when we let our children lead the way. Simplicity is always best.


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