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It has been 4 months since my last musings on bedtime. I was pondering the idea of “unschooling” at bedtime which to me, meant not imposing sleep manipulation on my children at all. Rather, I thought that if I gave them the space to follow their own rhythms, that they would find their own natural bedtime rhythm too.

So, for the last 4 months, we tried pseudo “unbedtiming” our kids. Did they find their own natural rhythm around bedtime? NO! Only a handful of times did they actually go to bed completely on their own! Most days, we’d eventually (around 10-11:00pm) insist that they go to bed because we just couldn’t take it anymore! Something  just feels wrong about kids going to bed after 11:00pm, and truth be told, they were driving us crazy!!

So why would I be experimenting like this? Well, firstly and foremostly I will be the first to admit that I am a very “lazy” mother when it comes to bedtime. I just don’t feel like doing it. I hate that my kids resist it. Their calls for water, food and all the other excuses that I have to “do something about” are just plain annoying.  I just hit a certain point, and I’m done. Now I quote “lazy” because on one level, I think that I am just a normal human being who just happens to be honest about how I really feel, and I am more than willing to question my resistance. Unlike the rest of the working world, we mothers, mother all day without 2, 15 minute breaks and a lunch hour. And we never get to go home after work…..the serving just doesn’t end.  Maybe other parents are just more stoic than I am. They probably don’t make an issue of it. They just put their kids to bed every night at the same time in the same way, and then go about their evening.  Shouldn’t I just suck it up, add a formal bedtime to my daily rhythm and forget about it? Yeah, I could, but that wouldn’t be authentic for me. I truly feel there is a higher way and I am on a mission to find it.

Secondly, I question bedtime, because I don’t think imposing one on someone else is natural. The whole scenario creates resistance in everyone involved, because that is just the nature of it. 

Creating a nurturing bedtime takes a lot of presence and effort. I think it is natural for parents (or maybe it is just me?) to resist bedtime in the context of these little lonely boxes that we live in (or at least, I find them lonely). The whole way that mothers live alienated and 24/7 with the same little people and rarely get a break from spending time with them…..to me, it just seems human to resist giving more, especially when we never stop giving in the first place.  I think it just gets tiring and is unrealistic to be the sole “meeter” of every one of someone else’s needs. Yet I value my children’s need to have a healthy relationship to sleeping and I feel a sense of responsibility to sort out our bedtime misgivings. I am still holding on to the perspective that somehow I will come up with a way that meets that need without imposing on a very personal natural body function of theirs.  I am looking for a way that feels authentic for our family. 

Thirdly, I am experimenting with other “ways of being” around “bedtime” because I don’t want it to be forced on my children like a jail sentence. I value my personal freedom and I want to enable my children to flower into their natural brilliance. I don’t know how I can do that, if I am enforcing them to conform to my preferences, needs, beliefs etc. Now, I know we could go down the rabbit hole with that statement, because we can turn it over and come up with many examples of why it is completely logical that as parents we have to enforce things for our children`s well-being and safety….. but I am looking not for the “right” bedtime method or the middle road of compromise, but rather I am seeking another path here altogether. I keep asking the question in all of my parenting dilemmas (of which there are many), “is consensus possible between parent and child?”

The way I see it, we either have the choice to keep rollin’ with the way things are or change the way that we live with children. I don’t think that it is fair to “sleep manipulate” our children for our convenience. Yet realistically we have to find some way meet their needs and ours in the modern construct, or at least turn our seeing of it, right side up and inside out until another way of living becomes possible. I am still contemplating…..

The truth is, the reason that I feel that the approach that I’m referring to as  “unbedtime” didn’t work for my children, is that it pretty much became “unattachment parenting”  on our part, as we tried to go about our evening hoping that our kids would “do their own thing” until they got tired.

I can see the “unbedtime” approach working for the parent who is exceptionally patient and not truly invested in trying to accomplish something concrete with their time at night. I can see that if both my husband and I were to focus on making the evening about family and leisure time, then we could be patient and attentive until 11pm, but  that is not the case! We are both creative types and want to use our time to “work” on our passions. We crave uninterrupted sequences of time.  

And these are the reasons I feel that they didn’t settle into a natural sleeping rhythm:

1) They were not feeling connected to us. Remember, we were “unattaching”. Because we wanted them to go to sleep, they therefore  felt us trying to disconnect from them causing them to feel too insecure to just “give in” to the sleeping urge.

2) Because they didn`t want to miss out on anything (this is natural, we do this as adults….imagine you are at a party and everyone is having a great time and you are really tired, you try to stay awake and engaged for as long as you can, right?)

3) Because they didn`t want to be alone. They are social creatures. As much as we want to snuggle in bed with our partners, they want to snuggle in bed with us!

In hindsight, I really don`t see a problem here with our kids resisting bedtime.  They are just doing what normal, healthy humans do. So, then why are we trying to manipulate them to “behave” any differently?

Seriously, I need to sit with this. Clearly, the “unbedtime” approach doesn`t meet their needs, as much as the conventional bedtime approach is an imposition on their physiology and freedom.

Being that consensus is a co creation, right now the only truth in this moment that is coming up for me is that I need to ask my children how they would like their evenings to culminate into slumber …. I know that I need to really feel into what my children really need  to truly be peacefully asleep and at peace with sleep.

Sigh…..

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