New Series and Why Won’t They Sleep?

Words on Wednesday

Welcome to a new series here on my blog!

As the picture says, I’m calling this Words on Wednesday and this is going to be my ramblings on life observations. Parenting, marriage, volunteering, living, loving, laughing, and everything in between. My hope is that you will first and foremost relate to what I have to say but I’m totally okay with it if you don’t. These are my thoughts, my opinions, my life observations and they will not always be shared with the majority.

What makes me qualified to speak on these topics? Nothing.

I’m not an expert. I do not play one on TV. I do not pretend to know everything (that’s my husbands job!)

I have lived on this world for 42 years, in five different countries, and nine different cities. I’ve suffered loss on a scale most people crumble from. I’ve clawed my way back from life threatening injuries. I’ve birthed three daughters. I’ve managed to stay married for 13 years and can honestly say I have no intention of ever leaving this guy. I’ve gained weight, lost it, and gained it back with some added company. I’ve not been able to walk and I’ve run a half marathon. I’ve seen a lot in my 42 years and damn it, I know stuff!

I am beautifully and wonderfully flawed. But aren’t we all?

That being said, today I wanted to talk about sleep. Specifically to do with kids and the lack there of.

My wonderful, talented sister-in-law was interviewed the other day by CBC Radio (listen to the whole podcast here or skip to the part on sleep which is at about the 23:50 minute mark). The subject of sleep has come up a lot in our house over the years, but I think for the most part our girls are doing fine. It did get me thinking though. How prevalent a problem is this? And what services are out there for parents who need help?

My SIL was taken to task, by the expert on the show, about giving her boys the odd bit of melatonin to try to help them get the rest their little growing bodies need so badly. I’m not advocating it one way or the other. I’m all for drugging my kids to the gills when they have a cold with the hope that it will allow them to sleep and heal, but I’m  not so sure about “natural” remedies like melatonin. Since it’s something that our bodies secrete anyway and is designed to regulate our natural sleep cycles, it might be okay in small doses. But don’t you think it would be better to find a way to get and keep your kids into a “good” sleep cycle? How does one do that?

Why has sleep become such a hot topic? Or has it always been?

I suspect not. I suspect that in today’s world of technology, of screens everywhere, of instant access via text and email, of constant bombardment, it has just become harder and harder to shut down. We all know that for optimal health, guidelines suggest getting 7-8 hours of sleep at night. But who’s kidding who? When was the last time you actually GOT that amount of sleep? Well, okay, I may have achieved 7 hours last night. Gold star for me then! And what about our kids? Mine are between the ages of 6 and 11 so apparently they need 9 – 11 hours of sleep every night.

Woah! Does that shock you? It shocked me a bit.

My husband and I are a bit old school when it comes to parenting. Okay, really old school! We believe that our kids have to learn to eat what is given to them and if they choose not to, the consequence is that they will go to bed hungry. We believe that they are old enough, and have been taught well enough, to get themselves to and from school without parent supervision (we live two blocks away!) We believe that they must do their own homework – we already graduated! We believe in disciplining bad behaviour and poor choices, and rewarded exceptional achievements. We believe in allowances, chores, and financial independence. And we believe that the kids need to learn to go to bed when we tell them to, and stay in bed. That evening time is Mommy and Daddy time. That’s sometimes the only time you get as a couple to connect all day! It’s important and downright sacred. I mean, when else are you going to get to watch all those HBO shows you’ve PVR’d?!

Now before you go off and say “I work from home and the evening time is when I can finally get at my computer without interruptions”, or “I work shift work so my spouse and I are rarely at home in the evenings together”. I get it! I worked a part time job until fairly recently that had me getting home at 10PM some nights. And I hated it! Even if we are both on our devices while the aforementioned HBO show is on, we need that time together. (And don’t get me started on our habit of both being on our devices! That is a topic for another Words on Wednesday I think!)

As our girls have gotten older, bedtime has become more of a battle. Not the physical kind of actually putting them to bed, they’re fairly compliant in that regard. But the “what time is a decent time to put them to bed” kind. Of course, being 11, our eldest is the one battling the hardest for later and later bedtimes! Currently they are all staggered – 8:00 for the 6 year old, 8:30 for the 9 year old and 9:00 for the 11 year old. Their bedtime has always been, and will always be, directly proportional to how well they are able to handle their level of activity throughout the day/week without flipping out. Right now we are just coming off Christmas Holiday mode and the transition back to real life schedules is being felt the hardest by our eldest. There are a few meltdowns in the near future from her I think!  There is a temptation to relax bed time too much over the holidays. A temptation we were pretty careful not to fall into! We were not quite so strict over the break, but we did maintain a fairly normal routine. Littlest in bed by 8:30 at the latest, next one by 9, and biggest by 9:30. That’s not to say they were asleep at those times!

Heaven forbid!

As it stands, our youngest is still the only one who (99% of the time) will be asleep about five minutes after you turn her light out. She’s a pretty active little girl (somersaults while watching TV for crying out loud!) so I’m guessing that she just wears herself out in the day so much that it’s literally lights out for her when you flip that switch by the door. The older two take a bit longer to wind down. Especially during the holiday when our tech/screen time rules were WAY relaxed!

You know how I said that their bedtime is directly proportional to how well they manage to not meltdown due to lack of sleep? Well, I think it’s safe to say that their LACK of ability to fall asleep at night is directly proportional to how much screen time they’ve had that day.

Ding! Ding! Ding!

Bells and whistles are going off in my head. Perhaps the reason this generation of children is having so many issues in general, and with sleep specifically is because they have forgotten how to play, imagine, and be still in their own minds? How many of you would create elaborate fantasy worlds that you would only visit as you were falling to sleep? I was usually some super model being fawned over by the members of A-Ha! Hmm, that sounds naughty. But in all seriousness, I don’t think our kids know how to use their imaginations like we did because they don’t have to anymore. They are spoon fed computer games that do all the work for them from well before they can talk. How many parents out there have “entertained” their fussing babies/toddlers with their smart phone? “Here kid, watch a Dora video, Mommy needs her Starbucks!” Every time one of my girls comes up to me and utters the words “I’m bored” I cringe! Usually it’s because we are on a non-screen time. What does that say?

It tells me that perhaps the answer to life, the universe and everything, isn’t ’42’ but NO MORE SCREENS!

Before you think I’m some sort of off-the-grid, tech-hating, kind of hippy … I own my own website people. Clearly I love my screens! But I did grow up without TV so I think that has coloured my opinions somewhat. Also, pretty much every member of our family has a screen they can waste hours on so we’re not that strict! And we’re still learning the best ways to control what they access, when they access it, and for how long they access it. Currently all (kid) screens and the TV go off at 7:00PM on school nights. It helps but I think we can do better. I think my husband and I need to lead by example (something he in particular has trouble doing!) and turn off OUR screens at 7 too. He’s addicted to watching the 6:00 news which is usually when we are eating. I could do without it but I don’t think that’s an argument I’m going to win any time soon. Our weekend rules need to be tightened up though. Right now they are very loosey goosey – watch all you want but when we’ve said you’ve had enough you’d better get off the screen ASAP or suffer the consequences!

Yep, we can do better!

What about you? Do you have rules dealing with tech time? Any pointers? Please share in the comments. It takes a village, right? This is my village! Help a girl out!

Until next Wednesday then.

Switch off!


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