My kids have always gone to bed early. We fell into our routine when they gave up their naps around three and four years old. I started having to put them down right after dinner because they fell apart otherwise. 6:30 wasn’t too early.
Now that they’re six and seven years old, bedtime has pushed back . . . but not by much.
They both go to bed at 7:30. Every. Single. Night. Yes, even in the summer and on weekends.
Part of it is for them. They thrive on routine and are growing so much they need sleep to build their bodies back up. They are active to an astonishing level. When I take them to the park or watch them do activities, they never stop moving. I tried to do the monkey bars one afternoon and I was sore for two days. Meanwhile, my kids zip across them back and forth, countless times like it is nothing. This level of endurance is astonishing. They never seem to tire or take breaks.
Of course, when they’re in school, they don’t have the same physical challenges because they are in the classroom all day. They have mental challenges, a level of learning I know is draining. Some days they come home and I can see they have nothing left to give and need to relax without having to focus anymore. This is particularly hard for small children who aren’t used to having to devote the majority of their day to learning and sitting quietly. Going from preschool to kindergarten is a huge adjustment. They usually fall into bed even if they say they don’t want to. They may not feel done, but they are.
But another reason I strictly enforce this 7:30 bedtime is for me.
My husband works long hours, so I’m often doing this alone. And by 7:30, I am ready for “me” time. I need to have everyone upstairs and asleep so I can unload the dishwasher, start some laundry and straighten our home without three tornadoes going off around the house. I need that beautiful quiet time for myself. To stabilize my own mental well-being. To spend a few hours reading or watching TV or talking on the phone. To not feel guilty for sitting on my computer because there’s nothing else I need to be doing, no split attention for a couple of hours per day.
And I also do it for my marriage. After parenting and working all day, we need some time to ourselves. Before we had kids, we had time together every night. After work, we’d grab dinner out and talk and laugh and catch up. After kids, that time is no longer there unless we carve it out. We need to be able to talk without interruption, watch a TV show that wouldn’t be appropriate for them, and have a glass of wine to unwind if we want it. Our marriage is the foundation of our family. Without “us” there would be no “them”. It’s easy to forget in this kid-focused society. We do everything for our children and our lives revolve around them. We do it gladly, but every night we take a couple of hours to ourselves because we’re important, too.
One day, our kids will leave us. They’ll move on to the next chapter of their lives, whether it’s college or work or marriage, and then it will just be us again. Then we will have a lot of time to sit around just the two of us, and it’s not going to be a shock to our systems. He’s my best friend and that relationship needs to continue to grow and evolve, too. Even if it’s just us stealing our hours in the evening.
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