Thursday, November 25, 2010



One of those things that I haven't seen much of since the kids came about. The oldest friend told me that her sister hasn't slept more than 5 hours a night in the last 20 years. It roughly coincided with when she had kids. I agree.

To make things a little bit easier for ourselves, we have made it a point to get the kids to sleep earlier. Even with that, I'll be lucky if I sleep for more than 6 hours a night.

There is a litany of research that says kids should sleep early. It's better for their health. It's better for their behaviour.
But it's not a common occurrence in Singapore. We are met with a variety of responses when we say that our kids are unable to be with us at dinner parties because it's past their bed time. When we say our kids are down to bed between half 7 and 8 every night and the closer to 8 they sleep, we are met with reactions of surprise and admiration.

I went to bed early as a child. It was terrible because there was no way I could stay up late when I stayed over at my cousin's. And I attribute being able to wake up early to that habit. But because of that, I have no qualms about getting my children to sleep early.

When the twins used to nap in the afternoon and they used to only fall asleep about 9 or so, it was terrible for us because we would end up falling asleep with them and waking up half groggy with half the night gone and not much we could do with it. We would eat dinner either before they go to bed or we would eat it after which would leave us feeling full even at midnight.

Now that we have effectively starved them of their afternoon nap (this began when we were in Perth and out in the afternoons), they go to bed earlier and faster. Of course, there is the constant negotiation of how many stories to be read. Evan would want one of his choosing. Not to be outdone, so would Jordan. That pissing competition would go on till we firmly switched off the reading lamp.

There would also be the usual shenanigans. Wanting to go pee. Wanting to poo. Wanting the air-conditioning on. Wanting to get pillows from our bedroom (all our bedding gets moved to their room every night and transported back when they are asleep!) The ultimate is wanting to sleep in our bedroom (Even if we don't, they end up migrating over at some point in the night and exiling us onto the floor or the couch outside!)

Of course, there are those who once again will make unwelcomed comments about my anal need to get the kids to bed early. Evening and dinner time is family time. Going out for dinner is an important social activity. It inconveniences everyone because our kids are not allowed to stay up past 8 pm.

I'm not sure how it inconveniences others seeing that it is our kids and we are the ones who get them to bed. If they need to be present at dinner, they are forced to nap in the afternoons. The twins are quite used to not napping during the week but going down for a nap on a weekend afternoon. They know that there are activities that await them in the evening on the weekend and sleeping is their passport to the fun activities. If they fail to sleep, we have stood our ground and left the noon-insomniac at home. Of course, that leads to great tragic screams that rips at my heart.

We have also made it a point to work round their sleep schedules. Outings are planned around their sleep times. Right now, Muffin doesn't go out a lot in the mornings because that's when he takes his longest nap. We make an exception for church on Sunday and even though he pretty much survives it, he looks like I do after a bad night. Red swollen teary eyelids. Does he feel left out? He probably knows he's missing out on something. He knows to cry when we leave and he is to stay behind. But his needs are right now and in fact, for a long time to come, more important than his wants.

This sleep thing is something we can do for many reasons. We have help and if we need Muffin to stay behind while we take the older two out in the mornings, there is someone we can leave him with. And much as we complain about our jobs, it allows us to get home early enough to hang with the kids a little bit, read to them, sing to them (in the case of Muffin) and get them all to bed.

A typical after dinner runs like this.

1830-1915- Wash up, brush teeth and watch television.
Concurrently, I get Muffin to sleep.
1920- Packrat herds them in the room and starts the story reading.
1930- Muffin is asleep and I come up to finish up the story reading, pop off the lights, say prayers with them and let them chat a bit.
1945- Out asleep while I doze and Packrat gets dinner ready.

And on occasion, we make a dash for it and try and catch a movie or some fro-yo out. And for a few hours, we forget we have kids.

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