Thursday, May 22, 2008

By the Light of the Moon

Yet another fine example of my deluxe parenting skills is the fact that I haven't exactly been diligent with getting my daughter to bed on time.

Part of this is because I like to think that since she doesn't go to school regularly (only 2 mornings a week) she doesn't need to be in bed at the exact same time each night.

Part of it is because it is just too darn easy to have her fall asleep on my lap, or to cuddle with her until we are both good and drowsy.

See? Stellar parenting, pointed out and graciously handed over by yours truly.

I know it's wrong. I know I should make her a bedtime and stick to it. But is it so wrong to want a little quiet, alone time with my last baby, while she is still young enough for it to not really matter?

I'm pretty sure the answer to that question is yes, and no.

Yes it is wrong. Children need schedules and regularity in their routines. Children also need to be able to go to bed on their own at this age. They shouldn't be reliant on a parent in order to be able to settle down. Children need the structure of bedtime. Okay, I get it.

But in other ways, it isn't so wrong. My daughter will sleep in, sometimes until 10am on days when she doesn't have to get up for anything. No harm in that, yet. She falls asleep peacefully, without fits (usually) and in her own way. No harm in that yet, either.

We also share some of the happiest, funniest and loving moments of our days in the evening hours when the boys are slumbering and I don't want to lose that time with her, especially since she'll be going off to kindergarten one day and I'll be required to enforce a proper bedtime when that time comes.

So I find myself stuck in the middle. Stuck in the middle of wishing I'd stayed more "by the book" with her, and on the other hand, not so much.

And nothing could have been more glaringly in-my-face with my poor parenting decision not to remain routine about her bedtime than listening to her tell me, "I don't want to go to school tomorrow Mommy," as she rubbed her tired eyes (at 9:30pm) and said over and over again that she was not ready for bed yet.

"Why don't you want to go to school honey?"

"I don't know."

"You like your friends at school, right? You have fun there, don't you?"


"Than what's the problem?"

"I don't like to wake up in the morning. I am tired in the morning," she finally told me.

This is where I am - between that rock and hard place that follows the realization that what I've been doing has been being selfish. Incredibly selfish.

Sure, she's the last. No, there won't be any more babies after her. But my baby needs her rest. And since a 4-year-old isn't a good judge of when she should be hitting the hay, it is my job to help her learn . . . by giving her a bedtime, sticking to it (mostly) and helping her fall asleep peacefully and contentedly. Just because I enjoy her company isn't a good enough reason to keep her up. In fact, it is kind of lame. Lame and irresponsible and, well, selfish.

Sure, since she's still a pre-kindergartner, it is okay to let her sleep with me on the occasions when my husband is at work, once in a while. And on those occasions I can curl up next to her, run a finger across her still-plump yet getting less so cheek, and whisper "sweet dreams" into her teeny tiny little girl ears.

Those other nights, the ones where I will re-establish our bedtime routine, well, they can be just as sweet. It wasn't that long ago that she would read along with me all the words to Goodnight Moon before clutching her baby doll and closing her eyes as I reached to turn her lamp off.

We just stepped off the path for a bit, and now it's time to find our way back.

*If you'd like to read about my Big Baby, head on over to Seattle Mom Blogs today!


Kyla said...

The thing is, I'm sure that time has been priceless and neither of you will regret having it. As soon as you realized she wasn't getting the rest she needed, you corrected it. I don't see anything wrong with any of that. Don't be hard on yourself.

Wendy said...

I agree with kyla. Give yourself a break. You have time to gradually get her down earlier, which she'll need if kindergarten starts early (one here is 8am with bus pickups at 7:15!).

An Ordinary Mom said...

I actually think you are a stellar parent ... go back and reread your entire thought process :) !! I think you have found a wonderfully balanced solution where you two still get some precious time together and where she gets more sleep.

Parenting is such a difficult task, mainly because we have to learn as a mother what is best for each of our kids ... not what others think, but what we know deep down is right for them. And then we have to execute our decisions and learn not to worry or be bugged by what other people think or say.

Anonymous said...

Hey... summer's almost here! You will have a WHOLE different schedule then, right? But funny thing, I wasn't the night owl you are and I guess I needed to get everyone to bed so I could go, too.

Are we in trouble? They didn't go to bed at our house until 10 last Friday...McRae was reading in "his" room & having HIS own time; G'pa and i tooko turns reading to the other 2. What is it with "Mouse Soup", anyway?


Janet said...

I'm having a similar experience with my middle child. Not that I don't try to get her to bed at a decent time, but her older brother and younger sister are both able to stay up later (him, because he's two years older, the baby because she still takes 2+ hour naps in the p.m.) So even if I put Hailey to bed before them, she lies in bed listening to what's happening downstairs and feeling left out which means she doesn't fall asleep until she hears the other two coming up to bed. Then in the morning she is a complete grump of a bear. She is definitely sleep deprived but I can't seem to rectify the situation.

Yikes! Sorry for the comment hijack. Can you tell I have been brewing a post on this issue in my brain too? ;)

flutter said...

I would have a hard time letting her go for even the evening, too

painted maypole said...

how about a firm bedtime, but you cuddle in bed with her for a little bit before leaving her to fall asleep on her own?

jennyonthespot said...

I agree with these people here. You will NEVER regret this time you have had with her. She will not join a gang because her mom didn't give her a set-bedtime. She may remember it too... I remember my great-grandmother doing that.

I think you are awesome for taking precious moments, for considering options, and listening to your daughter...

Ann(ie) said...

I think you're a fabulous mama. That quality time is pretty important, too love. Don't beat yourself up.