I love sleep. I mean, I really
love it. Unfortunately, the fact that I am a night owl and a parent means that I rarely get to enjoy sleep the way I want: sprawled beneath a ray of soft, warm sunshine well into the middle hours of morning and straight on till brunch.
Instead, I am up reading, writing, or binge-watching Netflix long past midnight most nights of the week, only to find the world demanding my presence by 7 a.m. I don’t care for it, and generally greet the day with muttered curses and promises to sleep longer come the weekend. It is a lie to myself, and we both know it.
Why don’t I just go to bed earlier like a reasonable person? I’ve tried. It is hard. I feel more alive, awake, and creative in the wee hours than I do any other time of the day. For me, trying to go to bed at 10 p.m. is something akin to attempting a nap on a full pot of coffee.
There are plenty of experts that will support my situation with science and theory, but one need look no further than Facebook at 2 a.m. to see that I am far from alone.
The boys, on the other hand, have a history as early risers—at least on the weekends. Give them a school day and you can’t drag them out of bed, but that first crack of dawn on a Saturday? They are off to the races. Needless to say, that sort of behavior posed a real threat to The Summer of Slumber I had spent so many hours fantasizing about the entire school year. It was time to find a compromise.
Luckily, kids need a good block of sleep, especially those like my oldest that are on the cusp of teen years. I convinced them that a few more winks would do them far more good than an extra hour of Minecraft. But getting them to adopt it required a little bit of tweaking.
I decided to let the boys pick their own sleep schedule.
Granted, removing a set bedtime for the summer may make re-entry all the harder when school rolls back around, but it worked. It has introduced a calm comfort of contentment that cannot be denied.
It turns out that my kids are night owls too, which is something long suspected but never tested. Sure, they had the random long night here or the late event there, but to actually have the freedom of saying “goodnight” at the time of their choosing? That came with the summer, and even though we will most likely repeal the ruling once homework and tardy bells become the daily routine, it has been good for them—for all of us.
Staying up late to pursue their own interests, or spend quality family time together has had several benefits. The extended hours are actually causing the kids to get more sleep than they did with an earlier bedtime. As an added bonus, our flexible summer schedule has shifted the morning routine right into my sweet spot.
That’s a win-win.
Now we all love sleep, and the whole family feels better for it.
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What's your bedtime protocol? Do you stick to a schedule or play things a little more by ear? We'd love to hear what works for your family!