As I see it, sleep should be as welcome and satisfying to a tired child as food is to a hungry child. And just as I've strived to avoid doing battle over food, I've done the same with bedtimes. My kids choose their own bedtimes. Who knows better than they do when they are tired? My job is to help them see patterns and connections between their sleep choices and their moods and energy and ability to take part in various activities, and to facilitate any problem-solving they might need to do.
Generally speaking the kids just happily head for bed when they feel tired, but they do tend to keep an eye on the clock too, since sometimes they get wrapped up in something, or the evening routine is unusual, and they're prone to losing track of time. Lately Sophie has been choosing to get her pyjamas on at 9:30 pm, because that serves as a useful landmark for her, marking the passing of the evening. Half an hour or so later she settles down to do some math and/or handwriting. Then she'll have a snack, spend a few minutes playing on the computer, and request that we start our readalouds. It's been working really well. Sophie's routine of pyjama-donning has become a landmark for the rest of us too. Noah knows that if he's going to do some math, he'd better get busy. Erin knows that if she hasn't done her piano practicing she has less than an hour before her dad goes to bed and the piano is off-limits.
Except that lately she's tired of pyjamas. What she wanted, she said, was a nightie. Her old ones are all too small. The "Le Corbeau" nightie, passed down first to Erin by her friend Leah, and then on to Sophie, is too small. It was time to pass it on to Fiona. "I want to make a new one," she said.
I confess she said it repeatedly over the course of a week or so. "Sure, good idea," I said. "We'll have to look for fabric." We talked a little about what type of fabric she wanted (a knit), but I didn't actually make the 15-foot trek to the closet where the fabric lives. "Maybe tomorrow," I said, probably more than once.
Yesterday she showed up with about 1.5 metres of lovely deep purple heavyweight interlock print looking hopeful. Not only that, but she carefully tidied everything off the sewing table. Everything. She didn't say a word. She knew she had me. I mobilized.
We found the right pattern book. We traced the pattern pieces. She picked out a ribknit (slim pickings, but she had a good eye and chose a light blue that picked up the middle of the flower motif). We laid out the pattern -- just enough fabric!
And today I set her to work, pinning and serging and pinning and sewing and trying on. She chose the sleeve and body lengths to allow for a couple of years' growth, and we checked these with fittings. She eagerly tried it on at every stage of assembly. Her other sewing projects (gift bags, beanbags, skirts) had been less complex from a construction standpoint, so she had fun experiencing the way the garment gradually came together.
I helped with setting in the cuffs and neckband, and setting up the machines, the serger especially. She's getting pretty slick with the sewing machine set-up, though, and may not be needing my help for long. She did the hem on the machine too, after serging the raw edge. And after we cut the last few thread ends and tucked in the serger thread tails, she tried it on. It fit! And the time? Nine twenty-nine p.m.. Perfect!