Why bedtime was easier when my kids were little

lily and mom sleepinglily sleeping

I may sound crazy, but parents of newborns and toddlers you are currently living the bedtime dream.

I once believed that when my kids were older I would get to sleep again. I dreamt of the day when I would tuck each of them into bed without nursing them every few hours, without swaddling and walking the floor, without endless stories and monster spray and trips to the kitchen for “new, fresh water.” When my work would be done circa 8:00pm, my husband and I would put our feet up and congratulate ourselves on a job well done. Yes, there were sweet moments in those early baby years, but there were also ENDLESS ones. My guess was that when they were around 7 or 8 years old we would be home free. And as with many of my early parenting theories, I was wrong about most of it.

First, I didn’t realize that by spacing my kids out over 10 years I would be 14 years into the parenting gig and still be putting a 4-year-old to bed (I’m not exactly a planner). And second, and more baffling, I didn’t realize that the 14-year-old would be 1000 times worse to put to bed then the 4-year-old. Because, for the love of all that is good and holy, I forgot that 14 year-olds DO NOT GO TO BED. I now remember being one and having all the energy in the world starting around 8:00pm. But that energy is now gone from this 40ish-year-old bod and my oldest kids are just hitting their stride at 8:00. During the school year, it’s not out of the question that the 14-year-old is just unpacking her backpack to start her homework at this ungodly hour. The 12-year-old is not far behind and the 10-year-old is showing signs of nighttime energy that just might be the death of me.

For the record, the 4-year-old is tucked in, and even with a high maintenance bedtime routine is down for the count by 8:00. He may crawl into our bed every night, but since I now know this eventually passes I just scoot over and go back to sleep (not sure you’ll find this move in any parenting book, but hey, my goal is to remain lying down so I say win/win). And the 8-year-old? Yup, she’s a dream and has been for a good year. One book, kisses and hugs and she’s out. So I was right about one thing. At age  7-8 you are home free. This nighttime honeymoon period will last until your child is about 10 and then it’s all over. Enjoy this time if you have one child … it will be briefly peaceful and serene. But if you have kids that overlap a few years in either direction, you too may never know smooth sailing at bedtime until your kids have flown the nest.

Parents of littles who are hanging on by a thread because your kids won’t go to bed, I would love to be the voice of hope for you. So I’ll try and look at the bright side and tell you what is better about older kids staying up later. Mind you I’m writing this as my 10-year-old chats at me from the kitchen at 9:00 pm, sharing a riveting Pokemon saga even though he was supposed to upstairs in bed 30 minutes ago, which means I’ll have to dig deep.

I guess one upside is that they can get things for themselves. Gone are the days when I have to deliver them a sippy cup of water for their bedside table or dig around for a lost lovey. And there is a bonus, in addition to being able to   get themselves their own water, they’re also able to whip up a quick batch of before bed Mac ‘n Cheese while they’re at it. And if you’re hungry they might even share with you. They will definitely let you clean up after them if you so desire, and there is nothing like a 4th round of dishes to round out the day. So there’s that.

And the fear of monsters and use of monster spray is long gone, but here is a bittersweet one. The actual fears of life kick in around “bedtime”. And they are often big ones. The ones that are not solved with a swaddle and walking the floor and I miss that now seemingly easy fix (insert mom’s of babies reminding me here that it is NOT EASY.  I hear you sister).  Will I get invited to the party? What if I don’t? Is my best friend still my best friend? Why does it seem like all the other kids get this school thing and I don’t?  You guys are going to die someday, we all are, how in the heck am I supposed to sleep when that is true? What if I can’t have a baby someday and I really want one? What if I never know what I want to do when I grow up? What do you really think of God? Is it OK if I love you guys more than I love Him?

These are actual questions that I get asked at just about the moment my brain has completely shut down for the day. But this is when they want to talk and their hearts and ears are open. So again, we dig deep and cuddle up for a chat during which I pray in my exhausted head, “Please, dear God, let it be your words they hear and not mine. Speak through me.” And He comes through and answers with actual things that come out of my mouth that make sense and sometimes even teach me a thing or two. Sometimes He reminds me of the wise and thoughtful things my parents said to me and I can use that to help the person in crisis. I’m so thankful for that partnership – it’s the ultimate I-am-empty-fill-me-up moment of my day which can turn this all into a blessing.

And then, of course, there are those rare nights when the stars and moon align and they are all in bed at a decent hour and are actually sleeping when I look around and realize the house is too quiet. I totally miss them and they are adorable while they sleep and oh my they are going to leave me someday and then I lay awake and stare at the ceiling because I do not want this to be true (yup, now I can’t sleep). I would much rather stay on bedtime duty forever. And I vow to hang onto that feeling the next time I am doing math at 10:00pm with a freshman (!)…wish me luck.

lily sleeping_2

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Amy

18 Comments

  1. Jodi King on September 9, 2015 at 2:03 am

    As I read this (9:00 p.m.) all 4 of my kids are waiting for me to ‘tuck’ them into bed. I will do this, but at 10:00 p.m. they will all return to me because they are hungry, thirsty, forgot to do an important homework assignment, or maybe just to show me some funny video on their ipod (hey – wait a minute – didn’t I tell them to turn off their devices???), etc. etc. Thanks for sharing this – it brought me much joy knowing I am not alone.

    • Amy on September 9, 2015 at 2:44 am

      Yes! I am so feeling you sister! I am tempering the excitement of getting this blog up and running with helping Ellie find cash for tomorrow and listening to her talk about all everything I had asked her about this afternoon that she had no answers for. Now of course she is ready to give me the full scoop. We are in this together.

  2. Dana on September 9, 2015 at 2:37 am

    Totally hilariously, goose-bumpily honest wisdom! Thanks for having the courage to put your precious voice out into the world. It is a voice worth hearing.

    • Amy on September 9, 2015 at 2:44 am

      Oh my! Thanks so much for that…you know how much it is appreciated!

  3. Sarah W on September 9, 2015 at 2:48 am

    You’re speaking my evening. I have 1/2 the amount of children as you. Yet all the same Pokemon and friendship and life and death stories.
    Tomorrow night I can remember I’m not alone in it, and that its all worth it:)

    • Amy on September 9, 2015 at 3:27 am

      Yes! I can definitely say it is all worth it now that all of my kids are actually asleep.;-)

  4. kami on September 9, 2015 at 3:12 am

    I miss you! I have to get to bed so the tooth fairy can come, possibly the last time. They grow up too fast! I can’t wait to read more from you and Erin.

    • Amy on September 14, 2015 at 7:12 pm

      The tooth fairy is a whole other post….most stressful thing ever!!

  5. Jodi on September 9, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    Great stuff, Amy! Thanks for being brave & sharing your expetience, your wisdom and a piece of yoyr heart 🙂

    • Amy on September 14, 2015 at 7:12 pm

      Awww! Thanks so much Jodi!!

  6. Kathleen Harwood on September 9, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    As the mother of 3 grown children and grandmother of 6, I would like to throw some encouragement your way. Those late night talks are your ticket in during a phase of develoment where parents are the uncoolest people on the planet! Plus, like the baby phase, it won’t last forever. Enjoy!

    • Amy on September 10, 2015 at 1:46 am

      Thank you so much for the encouragement!!! And you are right…I am totally the uncoolest person on the planet many days right now. Glad that passes too right?

  7. Joann Kayser on September 9, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    And then come the college days where they are home for the summer or just for the weekend and you hear them making another meal at 2:00 am or are just leaving the house to meet up with friends at 11:00 pm to then sometime return a few hours later and slam toilet seats, brush teeth, grab a snack, etc., etc. and we lay awake thinking we are missing out on as much sleep as we did when they were infants. Or the calls in the middle of the night to tell you about the ” great time” they just had or “thought I would call and tell ya now so I don’t forget tomorrow ” calls at 1:00 am. “Wait, did I wake you Mom?” But, despite the multiple sleep interruptions even during their college years, I wouldn’t trade it for the world as that means my little chicks are back in the nest even if t is just for a few days and they still want to come home. Thinking this phase will lead to the next phase of grand babies waking us up….oh I can’t wait! Each stage is a blessing!?

    • Amy on September 10, 2015 at 1:48 am

      Oh Joann I love this! I remember so well being that kid coming home!! I will remember…each stage is a blessing.

  8. Kirsten on September 9, 2015 at 11:17 pm

    Yes!!!!! As in, “Yes! I’m right there with you !” Why is it that the same children who won’t say two words to me from after school until bedtime, feel the need to suddenly discuss all the wonders of the universe and quantum physics an hour AFTER they were supposed to be in bed?!?!?! Okay. Maybe not those exact topics, but still.

    • Amy on September 10, 2015 at 1:48 am

      EXACTLY! And thank the good Lord above mine are not talking about quantum physics. The joys of multiplication have me almost undone….

  9. Kristie on September 10, 2015 at 3:08 am

    Oh man.. You nailed that one.. I tuck in, read, talk, water server , blanket finder, lunch packer, organizer between the hours of 8 pm-9:30 pm… Shhh, all are asleep in their own beds.. Than between the hours of 1:30 am and 6 am little bodies, sometimes all 4 of them make their way into our bed, thank goodness for ther person who invented a king bed! I don’t get much sleep, but I do nap often, my
    Body huts from bring squeezed in between multiple children.. I love it and cherish it as I know it won’t last forever.
    Great work on your blog ladies

    • Amy on September 14, 2015 at 7:13 pm

      We still have a queen bed…ahhhh! Someday we will look back on it all fondly!:-)

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