Partly because of the clocks going back, and partly because the day had involved tennis, climbing, a play date and more tennis, my son’s bedtime routine turned into one of *those* circuses earlier this week.
Moaning, screaming, protesting, objecting, insisting, crying, lying on the floor refusing to move, we had it all. And there was absolutely no way out of it, because the little man’s one and only demand was that he was not going to bed until we had to gone through his entire bedtime routine.
When the carnage had dissipated, the toys were back in their boxes and the snoring was well and truly under way, I began to wonder how many points ambidextrous would score at Scrabble. After discovering the answer is 24, my mind returned to my little man’s bedtime routine. Did it need to be more flexible? Had it served its time and become a bit of a rod for our own back?
Flashback to 2018
Before I answer these questions, I want to take you on a journey back to the summer of 2018. France were winning the FIFA World Cup in Russia, George Ezra’s Shotgun was riding high at the top of the charts and my son was a 2.5-year-old with absolutely no interest in going to bed. Evenings were a nightmare. And nights were worse. My wife and I were on the brink of capitulation. Then something magical happened. For some reason or other, our 293rd attempt at instilling a bedtime routine began to work.
The Bubster’s breakthrough schedule went as follows: have a shower, put on pyjamas, pick two books, read two books, do a pre-bed pee pee, wash hands, brush teeth, say “night night” to the sun (we had and still have a Groclock), close eyes, stop talking, sleepy time.
Did he start going to sleep instantly every night? No. Did he begin to at least lie in bed when we told him to? Yes. And things improved from there until we got to the point where the little man went to sleep on his own and only woke up once or twice a night.
Random aside, while writing this piece I noticed I was wearing the below jumper. Subliminal messaging or what?
A bedtime routine regression
Wow, that really was a random aside. Anyway, let’s skip back to the present. A time when my son is fast approaching the age of 4 and his bedtime routine has been in place for 18 months. In general, it’s successful, but, due to the odd horrific witching hour battle, I am trying to work out whether it is beginning to become a victim of this success. I mean, does the fact the Bubster knows exactly what we do each night give him the power and leave us wide open to tiredness-induced meltdowns?
In a bid to answer this question, I shouted “is your bedtime routine the same every night or flexible?” really loudly on Twitter, in the hope that other parents would answer. Thankfully, they did.
Parents! Quick Q about bedtime routines. Are your kids’ ones flexible or inflexible – i.e. do you do the same thing each night or freestyle?— Father-Hood.co.uk (@fatherhoodcouk) October 29, 2019
In total, 35 mums and dads responded to my poll, with 66% revealing that they went through the same bedtime routine every evening and 34% saying that they were chilled out and flexible.
The comments were interesting too…
I started off with daughter #1 being very ridged, then #2 came along it got a little less, still tried to do roughly the same. However once 3 then 4 came its impossible to have any 2 nights the same, clubs, homework ect, they now ask if it’s mum Reading or them and for how long.— Mum Memoirs (@MemoirsMum) October 30, 2019
Same thing most nights but if it’s half term/weekend/special occasion then it can be flexible. I don’t stress out if we’re not brushing teeth at exactly 7pm!!— Claire Lock (@clairewoods93) October 29, 2019
We do Same Thing, but our 5 year old would appear to be doing Freestyle!— Leader Of The Lost Plot (@LOTLostPlot) October 29, 2019
Our issues are normal
So, what does it all mean for my son’s bedtime routine? It means that from tonight it’s getting ripped up and replaced by an egalitarian holistic vegan bedtime plan where he kneads sourdough bread in his underpants before drifting off to sleep while listening to the soothing sound of a Tibetan yak whistling. Just kidding. It means that our frustrations and issues are completely normal, so there is absolutely no need to make any sweeping changes.
That said, I do think it’s become a bit too ingrained and inflexible, so I am going to attempt to switch things up by developing a system where my wife and I mix and match between the following three options.
- The tried and trusted routine we currently use – for those times when we are running on time and my son is in good spirits.
- A new, extended routine – for those times when a) we are trying to keep the little man up later than usual, or b) we start the routine early and have a bit more time to play with.
- A cut-down version of the routine – for those times when we’re running late or my son is super-tired.
A flexible way forward
Is this tweak to the bedtime routine wise? Only time will tell. But I do think it’s worth trying. I do believe that introducing the longer option will make him more cooperative to the idea of implementing a shorter version, as it will seem like part of a change rather than a punishment. And I do think that becoming a little more flexible is something that could benefit us all.
Until next time…