Monday, April 11, 2005

Child-led bedtimes

I guess way back when Erin was born I missed reading that book about getting your baby on a schedule. When Erin was an infant she had her own ideas about when to sleep and when to wake up and I never thought to try and change her mind -- I just adapted. She was never much of a sleeper. She catnapped on my shoulder, she wanted nothing to do with a crib. At 18 months she gave up naps. By age 2 she was sleeping less than 10 hours out of 24. Throughout most of the past 11 years she's gone to sleep for the night after 11 and woken up no earlier than 8. For the past three or four years her sleep hours have generally been between 1 a.m. and 10 or 10:30 in the morning. I've occasionally joked that she homeschools because she refuses to do mornings. She always manages to be up in time if our schedule demands it, but her general preference is to sleep well past 9.

So imagine my surprise a couple of weeks ago when I realized she was actually in her pyjamas ready to go to bed before Sophie and Noah were ready for their bedtime story. It was only 10:30 pm! I commented about the early hour, and she said "Haven't you noticed? I've been going to bed half an hour earlier each night for the past week."

Three days later she was heading for bed at 9 pm. I was flabbergasted. I asked her whether she was going to bed at 8:30 the next night. "No," she said. "Now I'm going to work on falling to sleep within 3 hours of going to bed."

And so she did. Now when I get up at 7, she's sitting at the dining room table reading magazines and drinking tea. Why?

"I like getting up early."

She's been incredibly disciplined about it. She rushes to her practising directly after supper so that she'll be done in time to head to bed by 9. She comes in the door from orchestra rehearsal and heads straight to bed. She leaves in the middle of a video if it's 9 o'clock. She bought herself an alarm clock this week, because she's discovered that if she sleeps past 7 am she has trouble falling asleep by 9 pm.

It's truly amazing what children will choose to do when we trust them to make good decisions for themselves.

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