Monday, July 2, 2012

Ask and answer

"Just curious - why do you let Ryan stay up till the wee hours? I've been reading your blog. Can't find in any post why you choose to let him dictate his sleep hours." - Anonymous commented on "Still here", 18 June 2012

I read this comment a while ago and wanted to pen a proper reply but, as you all know, there was a ton of other stuff happening at the time, so it had to wait. Anyway, here it is. I hope my response gives some insight into how we choose to parent our children.

Before I get into this, I must say, first and foremost, that my response is not meant to be defensive, judgmental or anything like that. I appreciate the comment and I appreciate the opportunity it gives me to record how we do things in our home and our reasons for doing things our way.

When I first read this comment, my reaction was to smile and say, "Why not?". I showed it to Richard and, without any prompting from me, his reaction was also, "Why not?" We have never discussed this issue about sleep, so it was good to hear Richard express the exact same mindset as I have.

And indeed, why not? Why shouldn't I let my son "dictate his sleep hours"? I can't force him to sleep if he is not sleepy. I can't even force myself to sleep if I'm not sleepy. 

I'm sure most parents don't force their children to do most things (unless safety is an issue). We don't force Ryan to play if he doesn't want to play, to read if he doesn't want to read, to paint/swim/sing/dance if he doesn't want to. The difference in our case is that this approach extends to everything Ryan does, including when he goes to sleep and when he has to wake up. Another area where we differ from a lot of parents is meals - in our case, we don't insist that Ryan must eat certain food, or that he must finish his food, or even that he must eat at all.

We are not strict about it because, in our view, a strict and constant bedtime is only reasonable if the daytime has been spent in a constant manner. Ryan doesn't have that. His day can be pretty unpredictable. As most of you know, Ryan doesn't go to school. Sometimes he naps for 4 hours, sometimes he doesn't nap at all. Sometimes he gets to go out and exercise, sometimes he stays in the whole day. Sometimes he wakes up before the crack of dawn, sometimes he sleeps in till 1 pm. Therefore, we do not feel that it is reasonable to pack him off to bed at the same time every night, without regard for what his day was like. 

Believe me, we do give it a go. We all get into bed, switch off the lights, and cuddle up. But if Ryan isn't sleepy, he's not going to just fall asleep, no way. He will be constantly moving, talking, even jumping up and down on the bed - and you don't even have to prompt him, he can do it all on his own - and he can go on for hours. I have even had him suckle at my breast for more than an hour to help him to sleep - I fell asleep and woke up to see him looking at me, wide-eyed and still suckling. Usually, when we can see that he's not ready, Richard will take him downstairs to let him do what he needs to do (play some more, dance some more, read some more) while I try to get some sleep (this was when I was pregnant). If Richard is dead tired, then I will do it.

I should add that Ryan does get enough sleep. He sleeps whenever he wants to for as long as he needs to. He is extremely healthy and his mind is tip-top, so I have no concerns there. Also, going to bed in the wee hours of the morning does not happen every single night - I pen these nights down precisely because they are out of the ordinary. Ryan has been getting to bed very early this past week, as early as 10+ pm - yes, that's early in our book, because we all go to bed together! It's also fairly unusual, our usual bedtime is around midnight.

So Anonymous, I hope that answers your question and gives you an idea of why things are the way they are in our home. Thanks very much for your comment, hope you drop by the blog again!


MieVee @ said...

It's certainly impossible to make an unsleepy child sleep. Ha... I'm simply amazed at the energy that you and your hubby have to accompany Ryan during those hours, esp when you're working parents. Bravo to your teamwork! :)

My boy isn't schooling too, and we have quite a routine schedule at home. If he isn't sleepy at nap time, he can roll about / jump / etc like what you've written for 1-2 hours. Then when I'm about to end nap time, he sleeps like a log and it's tough to wake him up cos if I do so prematurely, he'd throw a tantrum. Then at night, he will repeat the same stance till midnight at times. Gosh!!!

Finally, we started dropping his afternoon nap last week and he's been going to bed at 9-10p.m., giving me a breather. I handle him (+baby) the WHOLE day, so this is a relief indeed.

All the best! :)

Grace said...

thanks for this post! i always feel sorta guilty that i let my daughter sleep whenever she wants, and like you with Ryan, we've tried all possible ways to sleep early last time. Like turning off all the lights, pretending to sleep, but she just wants to talk and play. So now, i don't bother anymore. I might as well spend more time with her awake since she's up for it.

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