Putting kids to bed is one of those exercises that seems to get harder the more you practice it. A lot like golf, only far less fun.
Our bedtime routine has turned into a bit of a farce lately. Every night we go through the same charade of getting the girls bathed and dressed for bed. I then read for Maisie and Frances while Susie settles baby Rita. Susie and I then both attempt an exit strategy at about 7.30 which sees all girls safely and securely tucked into bed. We then spend the next 12 hours, on and off, trying to convince the girls to stay in bed.
Maisie is the early offender, casually strolling out of bed at about 8.30 every night to find answers to such profound questions as whether animals breathe, why clocks are round and whether cheese must always be yellow. In any given night we can field half a dozen of these questions right up to about 9.30pm. Thankfully Maisie’s mind begins to slow its rapid whir about then and she can ease herself into sleep.
Then it’s Frances’ turn. Some time between 10.00pm and 10.30pm Frances makes a break from her room, down the hall and into our bed. We can usually hear all of this from the lounge room as it takes Frances several trips to transport her menagerie of stuffed toys, collection of house keys, shoes and other essentials from one end of the house to the other.
The first time we climbed into bed to find Frances at home among our sheets, Susie and I felt pretty proud. Our little girl had obviously waited until she knew the coast was clear, and then, knowing that she was doing something she shouldn’t, made her way to our bed. Our little girl was now a fully fledged rule breaker – it was a true Kodak moment.
We’ve allowed Frances to continue her night time escapades only because we are able to successfully execute 'the transfer' by gently putting her into her own bed without her waking up. But it would be foolish to think that’s the end of it. If she wakes during the night Frances, in a state of minor outrage, makes her way back into our bed to finish her nights sleep by which stage we concede defeat. Maisie, too, still drops in for the occasional a.m. visit.
Of course, it wasn’t always like this. When Frances was a baby we thought we had it made. Whereas Maisie was 18 months old before she slept straight through, Frances was always keen on her sleep. From very early on she would spend all night soundly sleeping in her room, while Maisie was a big fan of the 2am wake-up call. In one of the many perversions of the universe that only applies to parents, once we cured Maisie of her need to seek us out in the middle of the night, Frances started. Touch-wood, Rita is to sleeping what Brendan Fevola is to controversy: a true natural champion.
I know that some baby raising text books favour military like regimes for putting babies to sleep with the threat that if these regimes are not strictly adhered to then you as parents have FAILED and will NEVER get a good night’s sleep again in your life. But surely these night-time shenanigans have to naturally stop at some point, don’t they? Don’t they???
Should we let the games continue and allow Frances to press on with her stealth, or is a firm hand needed to prevent slumber disaster?
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