Once upon a time I wasn’t yet a parent. During this season, I would hear stories about bedtime drama from friends with kids, or even witness it firsthand during family holiday gatherings as married siblings wrestled their offspring into bed while I sat by the fireside in repose.
As I looked on, the harried parents would take a deep breath before diving into the process ahead. Books would be read. Songs would be sung. Drinks would be given. Numerous bathroom breaks taken. Prayers said. Kisses planted on foreheads. Little bodies tucked under blankets (and then tucked in again with gentle reminders to “get back into bed”). Then there would be some threatening. And then some hollering assertive-voice parenting. Inevitably another parent would be tagged into the ring. Because, #teamwork. On. Repeat.
And I would sit there with my feet up, enjoying a book, sipping something warm and comforting. Eyebrows internally raised at the struggle. And I would judge. Could it really be that hard?
Fast forward 10 or so years, and I became a new parent to one child.
During this season, I would start the bedtime process around 6:40 p.m. by brushing little Chiclet teeth, getting into pajamas and reading exactly two books. I would sing two songs, say one prayer and give him a kiss before saying “good night, buddy” on the way out by 7:00 p.m., knowing I wouldn’t see him again until morning – exactly 12 hours later. The entire process was quiet, soothing and easy.
I would go back to my living room and I would sit there with my feet up, enjoying a book, sipping something warm and comforting. Again with my eyebrows internally raised at other peoples’ struggles with bedtime. And I would judge. I mean come on. I was right, it wasn’t that hard!
Little did I know, God was laughing at me this entire time. In fact, as I have fully walked into the knowledge of The Struggle of Bedtime with the arrival of a firecracker daughter into our family, I’ve felt God exhale (and probably even smile) as he’s sat back to watch this season of learning unfold in my life.
Because I no longer judge.
Instead, I’ve joined the ranks of those parents who tirelessly WORK to help guide their stubborn little offspring towards the wonders of a good night’s sleep. As easy as my son is to get into bed at night, my daughter is the opposite. We’ve come to realize her natural body clock loves the night. In fact, we joke she is practicing for her future in a sorority because she loves nothing more than to dance and laugh and live. her. best. life. between the hours of twilight and dawn.
But while she will excitedly tell you she is “thirteen” when asked, the reality is that she is three and God designed her body – like all humans – to require sleep. (Sorry, his rules of nature, not mine.) When she slept in a crib, bedtime was still a struggle, but at the end of the day, if she continued to refuse sleep, we could make the decision to leave her in her crib. (Agree with me or not, sometimes they just have to cry…)
Last year, however, we transitioned her into a bed for safety reasons and that’s when it got REAL. Because now? Girlfriend can do whatever she wants at bedtime without the obvious boundary of crib bars.
So as I fully realize and embrace this story of The Parent Who Got What She Deserved Learned an Invaluable Lesson, our reality is still the same: bedtime is a challenge in our household, as with so many other parents the world over. And because every single kid on this incredibly intricate planet is vastly different, I am under no illusion my personal tips and tricks will work perfectly for anyone else, but it feels worth it to set out some ideas for consideration because, really…we’ve tried just about everything.
So here are some of the things we’ve done:
- Spoken with her pediatrician (Honestly, while this didn’t result in any amazing breakthroughs, it did help assuage any worry that her sleep issues could be medically related.)
- Ensure she eats early enough in the evening
- Set up a bedtime routine, which allows her to rely on set expectations for what will happen – both when things run smoothly, and when they don’t (aka consequences)
- Toddler yoga
- Lavender baths
- Kids Sleepy Time Tea
- Shortened (and then ended) naptime
- Ensure she feels safe at night by praying with her, talking with her about her feelings and reassuring her that we, as her parents, have teamed with God to protect her
- Created an inviting environment: room darkening blinds, a white noise machine and colorful nightlight
- Utilize a weighted blanket
- Be flexible and listen to her personal needs … She has FOMO, you guys. Even as a toddler. So for whatever reason, allowing her to leave her bedroom door wide open as she falls asleep helps her stay settled. The lights in our living space are blazing into her room and she can hear us going about our grownup life after hours. But she stays in bed if we allow her to leave her door open. She knows the rules though, the consequence for coming out of her room is a closure of the door.
But at the end of the day, our most successful bedtime experiences are when we embrace flexibility by getting a feel for what she is needing that day – maybe she’s a little sad and simply needs extra cuddles to feel secure. Or maybe she’s overly tired and in need of a firmer parenting approach. In the end though, by setting boundaries and expectations while walking into the evening with grace on our minds and hearts, we can handle this season of bedtime shenanigans.
Because it can’t be that hard, right? Said the most annoying parent (me) ever.
Annie and her husband live in Minneapolis with their two kids and elderly cat. After an extensive tenure working in the fashion industry for a major retailer, Annie opened her own wardrobe and interior styling company, Hudson & Wilde. She is passionate about creating community, and she also loves to read, write, drink coffee, exercise, and travel. Connect with her on Instagram @aevelsizer and @hudsonandwilde!