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10 to Twins

By Jessica T

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About this blog: I'm a late thirties mother of a ten-year-old and infant twins. My family moved to Menlo Park 6 years ago from Virginia - where I grew up, went to college, got married, had my first born, and got an MBA (in that order). I'm a manag...  (More)

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Enforcing bedtime

Uploaded: Jun 23, 2014
Several months ago we had dinner guests, a couple of childless poets. They arrived at 6:30pm, about an hour before the twins' bedtime and two hours before my eleven-year old daughter's bedtime. During cocktail hour, they cooed over the babies and held them. My younger daughter even fell asleep in the female poet's lap. Before we sat down for dinner, I gathered my son and asked my friend to accompany me as I put the twins to bed.

She looked at me nervously as she picked up the baby, trying not to make any sudden movements lest she wake her up. "Can you put her in this sleeper?" I asked as I changed my son's diaper. I popped the twins' pacifiers in their mouths and tucked my daughter's green dinosaur blanket and my son's tan bunny blanket under their arms. My son turned his head and closed his eyes, and my daughter raised her legs in the air as she does before going to sleep. I turned off the lights, turned on the nightlight, and took the poet's hand as I led her out of the room. I shut the door quietly.

"That's it?" she whispered.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"You just put your kids to bed?"

"Yes."

"It's that easy?"

"Yes!"

We sat down at the dinner table as she recounted to her partner that "Get this - they just put their kids in bed and walk out of the room and that's it!"

It became clear that in this era of Attachment Parenting, they had never, ever seen a bedtime with little ones go so smoothly. The female poet described going to friends' homes where there were kids everywhere at dinner and especially bedtime. I cringed to think about how they must have braced themselves before agreeing to spend the evening with us.

My eleven-year old joined the adults for dinner and recounted a book she was reading on Greek mythology. The poets loved it and impressed our daughter with their nuanced understanding of characters and scenes from the Iliad and Odyssey.

"OK, my dear, time for bed," my husband said after giving her a sneak preview of the apple tarte we were having for dessert. My daughter got up good naturedly and went to her room to put on her pajamas and brush her teeth.

Again, the poets were dumbfounded. "Maybe we will have kids after all. We sort of want to hang out with your daughter."

Now that the kids were out of our hair, we settled into adult conversation and uncorked another bottle of wine. Our adult evening had begun.

The next day, my husband and I reflected that putting kids to bed painlessly has become uncommon - so much so, that we have friends whose homes we'd rather avoid at dinnertime and beyond. The children of our friends and family often have bedtimes not much earlier than their parents'. I can't speak for other parents, but our kids have always needed their sleep and benefited from early bedtimes and have appreciated our help enforcing that structure.

Likewise, I can't imagine how depressed I'd be if I had to retire from an evening with friends to put my kids to bed with a long and painful bedtime ritual. When we have guests, our kids (even the babies) seem to understand that it's a special night. Having extra attention, adult conversation, and maybe a special before-dinner drink or dessert takes the place of baths and bedtime stories for one night only.

Comments

Posted by townie, a resident of Cuernavaca,
on Jun 24, 2014 at 8:24 am

Perhaps you could have expanded on how you established such a reliable bedtime routine? Right now, your blog seems too boastful.


Posted by Jessica T, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Jun 24, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Jessica T is a registered user.

Hi Townie,

Right around 2-3 months of age, all of my kids started falling asleep around 6-8 pm and doing a long sleep stint until about midnight. I recognized that as their bedtime. From there, we built a bedtime routine around getting them into bed at that hour: a final feeding, a bath, putting their pajamas on, and then putting them to bed. Now that my twins are one, it's been their routine for 9 months. Ever so occasionally we might be out late, but we try to get them into bed with the same routine every other night. As a result, they've never questioned their bedtime and it's always been painless. Every child and family are different, of course, but that's what's worked for our kids.


Posted by Katie, a resident of another community,
on Jun 24, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Having babysat for your family, I can attest to how painless bedtime is. I was shocked too! When I have kids I'm coming to you for advice!


Posted by Otto Maddox, a resident of Monta Loma,
on Jun 24, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Poor townie, thinking it's impossible to get your kids into a routine.

I've got two kids and they go to bed at 7:30pm and 8:30pm. Bath time around 6:30pm, a little down time watching a little TV.. read a book.. sing a few songs.. and good night.

What's even more interesting is when we have to deviate from the routine. Like skip a bath? My daughter takes a few more minutes to fall asleep. She needs that time to unwind I guess.

Kids are all about structure. They need to know what to expect. Get them on a routine and you can pretty much get them to do anything. I've found the hardest part is getting parents on a routine first. Seems they don't want to held to a schedule most of the time.


Posted by Chris, a resident of another community,
on Jun 24, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Our toddler goes down easy like this. We read & followed the advice in 'Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child'.


Posted by townie, a resident of Cuernavaca,
on Jun 24, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Thank you Jessica T. The advice was not for me as my children are much older. They have always had good sleep habits since they play sports and get tired. For parents who are struggling with bedtime, I think Jessica's advice is a helpful addition to this blog. It may seem straightforward to establish bedtime routines, but perhaps try to be more understanding of your friends and family instead of celebrating your success at their expense. Other households may have different challenges to work around: maybe older siblings, or sports practices, or parents who work odd hours and have long commutes. I was a toddler with teenage siblings so our house was never quiet before 11:30. I remember coming out of my room every time I heard laughter because I felt I missing out on something. My friend is a single Mom with a night shift job and her kids have attachment issues as you describe. Their family is recovering from a divorce and some drastic economic setbacks. Sorry if people are put off by households with scattered bedtimes but sometimes there is a lot more to the story than just what seems like inept parenting.


Posted by Susan, a resident of Castro City,
on Jun 25, 2014 at 2:51 pm

As the oldest of 4 kids we almost never made a fuss about bedtime. As the little ones went down I got a bit more time with Mommy and Daddy which was soothing and became a ritual and I felt a bit more special. Today I still get 8 hours a night. More and more information is coming to light about how important restful sleep is. That's when our bodies repair and replenish many things that can't happen while we are moving around. Some of the comments from really old people is to get enough sleep! Hard to argue with a 100-year-old! Just saying. AND, keep the electronic devices out of the bedroom!


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