The Bedtime Surrender

To call bedtime at my house “a battle” would be a misnomer because it would imply a fight between two opposing parties. It would imply that I have the capacity to fight my children. And because I am, theoretically, the more powerful person in the relationship, it would imply I should be winning the aforementioned battle.

But I am not.

I used to be a bedtime boss. My first two children went to bed promptly at 8. And they stayed in their beds until morning. I ruled.

And then child #3 (Luke) learned to crawl out of his crib at 18 months old, and there began my spiral into what I like to call bedtime surrender.

Until this fateful moment, my older two children were unaware that they could even leave their beds after bedtime. The world of bedtime stalling, asking for more water, peeing for the 75th time, and complaining of a tummy ache were not in their repertoire.

I thought this was because of my quality parenting.
It turns out it was because they just hadn’t thought of it.

Because once Luke introduced the bedtime war, all three children became allies against me. I can’t include my husband in this…because he doesn’t cave to the little humans. But for some reason, I lose all ability to parent at 8 pm.

For years, I viewed bedtime as a battle to be won. But I do not possess the need to win, so I had very little success, as you might imagine.

If I did “win”, I didn’t actually win. Because a win consisted of a lot of yelling. And a lot of regret when they finally fell asleep.

Until I surrendered.

I hate being yelled at, so I can only assume it’s not how my offspring prefer to end their day. And it’s certainly not how I liked ending mine.

I had the thought that perhaps my children weren’t actually at war with me.

Perhaps they’re actually thirsty.
Perhaps they actually have to pee.
Or perhaps they’re neither of these things…but they can’t fall asleep…so it’s more fun than laying in bed bored.

This is a classic case of the apple not falling far from the tree.

As an adult, I have to have a glass of water at my bedside.
I nervous pee like 4 times before bed. That’s TMI. But nothing is worse than having to get up in the middle of the night for a non-kid related issue. Again, TMI. I’m sorry.
And I have a terrible case of bedtime boredom…and check Twitter until my eyes close. Which is why I retweet some very questionable material. In case you’re wondering.

And if I fall asleep before midnight, it’s a miracle.

You know part of my job here at is to show you the many reasons you’re doing a great job at parenting…especially compared to me.

I started writing this blog at 9:48 pm. I decided to show you what each of my kids were doing at that moment in time. I must disclose they stayed up with Brett to watch a movie together. This is still what a typical night would look like, but my two little boys would usually be asleep by 9:15.

Luke is in bed with Levi. Which would be super cute if it weren’t almost 10 pm.
 photo DE3FCB31-7532-4357-A99B-F21E42A48D89_zps872mahjk.jpg
But brotherly bonding is so precious, so I let him stay a little bit longer.

Chloe isn’t so much of a “rule follower”, so she had her door closed (to give the appearance of being asleep) while playing Barbies.  photo 77FB6B77-C6F0-4317-9DCC-0E7960B40B2A_zpsrrmrhrnf.jpg
She asked me to make her hair look like mine did in my wedding while the boys watched the movie. Her hair isn’t normally beauty pageant ready for bed.

Caleb is always reading. A trait he inherited from neither Brett nor me.  photo 2FC0F538-9024-45CD-9D59-9391DC89C69C_zpsxrf8guk9.jpg
But I can’t ever say no to reading.

All of my kids awake at 9:48. With very little sign of turning in soon.

But, if I were to be honest with you (am I ever anything else?), I am not bothered by this.

Which is why I have decided that bedtime is no longer a battle. Our ridiculously late bedtime routine is not necessarily the societal norm. But it works for us. Because I homeschool, my kids can sleep in. And when life happens and our kids have to be up late (at a party, sporting event, when traveling, etc), they are great. A late night and a late start to the day are part of our daily rhythm. I imagine if they were up super early for school, they’d fall asleep earlier.

My kids actually get in bed by 8:30. They just choose not to fall asleep.
They may come out of their rooms a few times with life changing questions that can’t wait until morning…but for the most part, they stay quietly in their rooms.

Sometimes I think we perceive our kids’ actions as an affront to us (hence, the term “battle”). We are told (and I have said and will continue to say) “to pick our battles”.

But I am beginning to wonder if we are merely two humans both wanting our way. And my kids aren’t actually declaring war on my rules. They are mostly disrupting my plans.

Almost every time I get mad at my kids it’s because they’re being inconvenient. Because, truthfully, it is my job to raise them. I chose to have them. The byproduct is expending my time, energy, money to do so.

It’s easy to ignore a tantrum at home. But I make death threats when my child loses his mind in public. Because I’m embarrassed.

If I am catching up on the latest Dateline, and my kids keep coming in my room, I snap (pun not intended and also not literal). Because even though it’s always the husband, I need the full explanation from Keith. Uninterrupted, of course.

Children definitely need guidance and correction. I am not saying become a permissive doormat and allow them to get away with murder (once again, not literal) (hopefully).

I’m just saying be cool, man. Rather than viewing kids’ defiance as a direct opposition to you…understand that they’re figuring out the world…and the world is not an easy place to navigate. So be patient with them (then ask forgiveness when the world becomes a little hard for you to navigate).

Since having this change of perspective, I have noticed my nighttime freak-outs have lessened dramatically. Obviously, I am human and prone to the occasional mommy meltdown…but for the most part, I just tell my kids to go back to bed and to save the life-changing conversation for tomorrow.

I guess the ole saying “pick your battles” actually does apply here. There are definite battles to pick. And maybe bedtime is that battle worth picking for you. My husband goes to bed early, so my kids’ late nights do not effect our time together. I am an extrovert, so I don’t really need the downtime to recharge. I don’t have an infant, so sleep is not as coveted as it once was for me. But maybe it is for you.

So I am not saying become as lax at me at bedtime. I am saying do what works for you, and don’t apologize if it’s not what everyone else is doing. There are definite battles that are worth fighting to me. And there are battles worth fighting for you. Maybe not battles as much as issues to address…but you get the point!

But if the battle isn’t worth fighting, surrender. Peace may be more important than principle. Especially when the principle isn’t all that important to you.


1 thought on “The Bedtime Surrender

  1. Great word…my girls never had early bedtimes..they liked being where the action was and back then we were youth pastors and always had kids in our home. Homeschooling helped because they could sleep in longer. I let them naturally wake up.


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