In Praise of Early Bedtimes

September 30th, 2011

If I were to pick one single “thing” that we’ve done right as parents, it would be this: early bedtimes for our kids.

It’s 8:05pm and both my children are in bed, presumably asleep.  Buggie is definitely out, Miss Mouse not far behind.  This gives me about two hours for me to do the things done that I need to in my life.  It’s time to clean the kitchen, exercise, read a book, start some laundry, write a blog, or catch up with my husband (it’s hard to get a word in edgewise when your three-year-old is conscious!).

This nightly “me time” is what keeps me from going round the bend when life as a working mom gets hectic.  It also means that I can focus entirely on my kids when they are awake and not have to be forever putting them off — “just a minute, honey, Mommy’s got to do XYZ.

I understand that some families have different schedules — parents who work late, evening commitments, etc. — that necessitate later bedtimes for their kids, but this is definitely what works for us.  The key has been establishing a good bedtime routine early on and then sticking to it.  Evenings at our house look something like this:

6:15 – 6:45 — family dinner
6:45 – 7:00 — playtime
7:00 — bathtime for Buggie
7:15 — storytime for Buggie and Mouse
7:30 — Buggie in bed
7:30 – 7:45 — quiet reading time with Miss Mouse
7:45 — bathtime for Mousie
8:00 — Mouse in bed

Miss Mouse also has a sort of sub-routine closer to bed.  She gives hugs and kisses to me, then heads upstairs with Josh.  They read a story, say a prayer, sing a song, and he tucks her in.  If I’m putting her to bed, we often add some snuggle time in there.

The brief time between Buggie’s bedtime and Miss Mouse’s is special time.  It’s quiet time.  We read stories together, or work on a puzzle, or look through family photos.  Miss Mouse loves being the center of my attention and you can see her visibly powering down from the day.

We’ve been working a version of this bedtime routine forever.  As soon as each kid was old enough to have a bedtime (i.e. when they settled into a more regular sleep pattern) we ritualized it and kept the routine in place.  Now everyone knows what to expect and we rarely (though not “never”) have trouble with bedtime.

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