You would think with two 11 year olds and an 8 year old the bedtime battles would be over but they're not! Sure I can get them to go to bed, stay in bed, and sleep through the night but now that we have entered the tween stage we have entered a new battle: the fair bedtime battle.
I am not some sort of routine or sleep Nazi but my kids have always had a pretty early bedtime. This is mainly due to the fact that they've always had to get up early for school. Experts still recommend children ages 7-12 get 10-11 hours of sleep. Over the years my kids school schedule has dictated how early that have to get up from 5:45am until 7am. For my 8 year old who has to wake up at 7am and truly needs more sleep than the older to that means to get 11 hours she would have to be sleeping by 8pm. For my two 11 year olds who get up around 5:45am and need a little less sleep, in order for them to get 10 hours of sleep they would have to be sleeping by 7:45pm.
Getting ready for bed, bedtime, and when the kids are actually asleep are three very different things in our house. I will admit how smoothly the process goes depends how involved I am that night, if they had after school activities, how early I was able to serve dinner, and how early we start the process. The earlier we start getting ready for bed, the smoother the process goes, and the earlier they are sleeping. Up until this year 8pm was their bedtime and we would start getting ready at 7pm. Usually all three take showers at night which makes the process a bit long but alleviates morning stress. They also pack their lunches, pick out their clothes for the next day, pick up their rooms, do their chores, and take care of their other personal hygiene items like brushing teeth and hair.
Last year Brennan was in 5th grade and began complaining about his early bedtime. Most of his friends had bedtimes of at least 9pm and he felt he was being babied. He really began bringing this up at the end of the year while we were preparing for our move and hubby was living in Colorado already so I told him we would reevaluate this year when he entered middle school. With three children 2 years 8 months apart it is difficult to institute separate bedtimes, especially for the older two who are only 6 months apart. My youngest needs more sleep but the older two get up earlier so the same bedtime makes sense. After some discussions we decided on an 8:30pm bedtime, and 7:30pm get ready for bed time. This seemed ok if it was strictly enforced but it seems like life keeps getting in the way and they aren't sleeping until 9pm a lot of nights.
I began to realize the later bedtime wasn't working especially for my middle daughter who goes to the middle school for math so she is up early and at school late. Her school day is 1 1/2 hours longer than the other two kids. There have been several instances over the past few months where I have sent her to her room at 5pm or 6pm because she was in trouble only to go up there and find she had fallen asleep and stayed asleep the entire night. They truly need the sleep and I was tired of bedtime always getting pushed back.
So yesterday I instituted a new rule. We now start getting ready for bed at 7pm. Anytime they are ready before 8pm is their free time to play video games, watch TV, etc. but at 8pm I want them in their beds to start winding down. I told them they can read or listen to music quietly or relax but they had to be in bed. I then came around at 8:20pm last night and tucked everyone in and turned the lights out. It was a lot less stressful for me because I had some quiet time after they were sleeping before I went to sleep. I know the bedtime isn't too early because they all fall asleep right away. A long day of school with a 40 minute bus ride each way makes for a long day. Plus whatever we do after school usually wears them out too.
I hate being the mean mom or the strict mom but sometimes it needs to be done. We are only one night in but I hope I can keep it up and keep them on track with their earlier bedtime and getting the sleep they need. I guess we will see.