Wednesday, 14 July 2010

What happened to bedtime?

We seem to have lost the ability to put the Littleboys to bed in this house.

Once upon a time - back in London - I had two little boys who went to bed like clockwork. They didn't need us to lie with them, soothe them to sleep or even to have a light on. It was simply a matter of plonking them into their cots, kissing them goodnight and they were fine. I could put them to bed at 7.25pm and get downstairs in time for the drumbeat of Eastenders. When we had friends round, they used to marvel that the children went down so easily.

Those were the days. Since we moved to the US, the boys sleep in the same room, in bunk beds. If there is any chance that they are not tired, there will be climbing up and down the bunks into each other's beds for hours after their official bedtime. (Often, they end up asleep in the same bunk, curled up together - it's happened twice this week). Since the summer arrived, bedtime has been even harder to enforce- it's light, it's warm and our neighbours' kids are often up till 10pm playing outside. As no gardens here are fenced, we live very much cheek by jowl with our neighbours, and there's no way those boys are going to sleep when they can hear their friends outside the window. On occasion, I've had to chase Littleboy 1 back inside as he's attempted to go and jump on the trampoline after dark in his pyjamas.....

We've tried everything. We put their suppertime back until later so that they could eat with us, and then go straight to bed, rather than messing around and disturbing our meal when they should be in bed. But putting them to bed at 9pm just means they aren't asleep until 10pm.

I've tried tiring them out with swimming and hours of outside play. It just seems to make them more manic. I never let them nap during the day - this is fatal, and means they won't be asleep until 11pm. And I've tried threatening them with all sorts of things if they don't go to sleep - but usually, they just laugh in my face.

You might ask why does it matter? Well, there are two reasons. The first is that I really would like an hour - just an hour - of boy-free time in the evening, in which to relax with my glass of wine and read the paper or watch TV. But often, by the time they've gone to bed, I'm exhausted from chasing them around, and ready for bed myself.

Secondly, they are like grumpy teenagers when I have to get them up and ready for summer camp in the morning. Littleboy 2 in particular is silent and morose at the breakfast table, and highly unco-operative about getting changed.

The only comfort is that they aren't getting up early at weekends. Except, of course, for last Saturday, when The Doctor, on an energy-saving mission, decided to switch their air-conditioner off at 4am. They were up - clammily warm and raring to go- on the dot of 7am........

22 comments:

Vivdora said...

How about a reward system? Or competition to see who is best at going to sleep? Bedtime stories in a monotone? Are there any electrical things in room? It's hard when they won't sleep, you need some peace and quiet!
It will improve but I know that's no consolation right now.
I think you must be very capable ( and brave) to move abroad.
I was married to a Dr too, he died last year aged 57 ( just turned), he had pancreatic cancer. I have 2 daughters aged 24 and 22.
Best of luck with bedtime.

Noble Savage said...

Wait, 7am is EARLY? Damn, that's late for me! Mine are usually up at 5.30-6.30.

If it's any consolation, my kids are doing exactly the same, going to bed very late. Some nights we try to enforce a semi-acceptable bedtime (8.30ish) but on nights when it's clear they're not going to sleep until at least 9 or 10, we have rules about what they can and can't do. Can: help us cook dinner. Can't: scream, shout or race around. Can: play with quiet toys, read, watch TV or play quiet games. Can't: expect us to chase, talk to or otherwise entertain them.

So basically, after 8.30 it's 'grown up time' and if they want to stay up they can but they have to follow the 'grown up rules'. Sometimes my daughter will go get me a beer out of the fridge while I'm reading or on the computer and then I actually appreciate having a tiny servant still awake. ;-)

PantsWithNames said...

Are you living in my house? Exactly the same here, right down to the bunk bed shenanigans.

Last year we had similar and I put it down to the light nights. It all came back together again when it got dark outside. I'm holding onto that thought. Now we seldom get them both down before 8.30. Maybe during the winter they'll be crashing out about 6? I can but dream...

Glummy Mummy said...

Usually, the son goes to bed on time (note that this kid is 10), but if he's playing with his sister, he'll usually wait until 11pm before trudging up the stairs.
And he wonders why he can't keep his eyes open the next morning!

Elsie Button said...

i reckon it might be a phase, maybe? - mine sometimes go for weeks of messing around at bedtime and then suddenly it changes and i don't hear a peep... plus the light evenings makes it really hard. but i agree, having children free time in the evening is a must. good luck! x

Hot Cross Mum said...

I think the bright evenings and warmth are usually unsettling so hopefully they will fall back into the routine in the autumn. It's a nightmare isn't it - epecially when you've been used to a great bedtime routine and suddenly that prescious 'me' time disappears among endless settling and getting increasingly annoyed. Good luck - I hope it gets better soon.

TheMadHouse said...

This is such a topical issue in TheMadHouse at the moment. So much so that I have had my colouring pens out and just drawn a chart for both the boys. It is driving me to dispear. They are up at 6.10 at the latest each morning and I need my me time. So I have agreed seven stickers for a prize! I am dreading the holidays next week hen they dont have school/preschool to go to. I need my sleep!

Mwa said...

Bunk beds! Recipe for disaster!

We have just put our 2yr old in a room of her own, and she can climb down the stairs by herself, which she does several times a night, so I completely sympathise with you.

Tanya (Bump2Basics) said...

My sis and I had bunkbeds and I was a nightmare with going to bed so I'm probably going to get my comeuppance with LLC! Think my parents took away the ladder at one point but I still climbed down the back.

I hope you get your "me" time back soon - I now understand how important this is.

Expat mum said...

Probably the lack of real routine, and the excitement of not being in regular school. It will pass - when school starts up again.
Not to want to start a fight - I have to take issue with Vivdora - it doesn't always improve. Well, it might, for a few years but I have a teenage son who rails against any bedtime during the summer and yet can't understand why he's completely zonked in the morning. A right pain in the neck.
I mean, what's the big deal about staying up as late as you can? Sheesh.

conuly said...

Try heavy curtains to block out the light.

If worse comes to worst, you can always sit there with them and enforce STILL and QUIET until they fall asleep. That works with my nieces.

nmaha said...

We have the same problem. The munchkin was sleeping 8 hrs a night for a whole year and now suddenly she gets up at three a.m. and demands that daddy sleep with her.

Home Office Mum said...

My two are the same. They're also in bunk beds but they don't try to climb into each other's beds. Their bed is their sacred space and they wouldn't dream of having their brother invade it.

Their bedtime has gone from 7 to 8pm and they're often still up at 9. But by up I mean lying in their beds looking at books. If they arse around, I threaten to put them in the spare bedrooms on their own without books, and that seems to work.

Part of me really wants to let them stay up though to enjoy the summer evenings but late nights make for utterly vile children the next day

Nota Bene said...

Brandy in their cocoa...my only recommendation...

Blissful Mum said...

I really feel for you, my boys would never get any sleep if they shared a room, they are bad enough as it is! Can't really add to the good suggestions mentioned on other comments,other than keep perservering & good luck!

nappy valley girl said...

Vivdora - thank you, it's good to hear from someone with years of experience (and I'm very sorry to hear about your husband). Reward chart would probably work with LB1 but his brother doesn't really 'get' them yet. Still, worth a try.

Pants - Ours were slightly better during the winter but not brilliant. I think it probably is down to the bunks, but at the moment we don't have a choice....

Glummy - LB1 would be fine on his own, I know it. But together...

Elsie - I do hope it's a phase! I hope going back to the UK might snap them out of it - has to, really, as LB1 starts school in September and will have to be on the bus at 8.15am.

HotCrossMum - I do really look forward to that time, and it's just exhausting when you don't get it...

Madhouse - I feel for you. Getting up early is knackering too - at least I am escaping that at the moment.

nappy valley girl said...

Mwa - it was so much easier when they were in cots!

Tanya - yes, their bed has a shelf they can climb up and down even without the ladder...

ExpatMum - I kind of expect this in the teenage years. I just hope we get some respite in between!

Conuly - Ah, but these are boys. The concepts of still and quiet are completely alien to them....

Nmaha - that's rough. Mine do sleep through - at the moment - which is good. I have always tried to tough it out if they tried getting up.

HomeOffice - I put them in other room too, but they just come out again. Which both think is hilarious....

NotaBene - I am seriously tempted.

BlissfulMum - thank you. When we go back to the UK I am going to demand a house big enough for separate rooms for them.....

Metropolitan Mum said...

I shouldn't read this. You are destroying my illusion of baby-free evenings for the future to come. SO. What IS the solution? Whisky?

Maris said...

Although I would suggest getting them separate rooms, I just don't have the heart to really vouch for it, since I know that doing so takes away that precious bonding time between siblings, which may not last past their childhood days. Maybe talking it out with your little gentlemen and reaching a compromise would help do the trick.

Anonymous said...

Conuly - Ah, but these are boys. The concepts of still and quiet are completely alien to them....

When left to their own devices, my nieces climb up the ropes of their hammocks and flip upside down. They jump from the chair to the couch, or across the ramp in our backyard. They climb over the rail of our porch and jump off. They kick balls into fences and yell "GOAL!"

Moving around and making noise are NOT gendered - ALL children do these things.

To make my nieces sleep, we sit there and every time we fidget we say "Keep your leg/arm/hand/head still" and every time they talk we say "Keep your mouth still, no talking". If it gets bad enough, we put a hand on the moving body part, or even flat-out hold it down.

ALL children will move and fidget and talk after lights-out. It's not a boy/girl thing.

~Uly (OpenID is busted right now for me!)

Lakeland Jo said...

This brought back so many memories for me- i remember how difficult it was to get my now teenager to sleep on summer nights. Too hot, too light, too noisey, sounds of friends outside, then the inevitable tired and miserableness the next day. All I can say is - it passes so damned quickly. He is fifteen now and goes to bed very late, and gets up very late and I had forgotten it was an issue. It will pass. Just enjoy them XX

nappy valley girl said...

Met Mum - for them or for me? A nice glass of Jim Beam does work wonders for me!

Conuly - OK, point taken - girls can be just as noisy. I could sit with them, I suppose - but then I'm not getting my evening back either....also, I think that having me in the room might make them even more excited, as they're not used to it. But I will give it a go if it carries on much longer.

Maris - I also love that they share a room (and we don't have much other option at the moment). It is very sweet when they are curled up in bed together too. I'm sure there will come a time when they don't want to share, though....

Jo - thanks for the sensible reminder; this too shall pass. I know.