I have a confession to make about a constant, and at times, overwhelming parenting problem.
A great struggle at our house is getting our kids to sleep at night. By this admission, I am venturing into a hotly debated parenting topic and opening myself up to ridicule. Despite the potential wrath of the reading public, I understand that this is a problem that transcends both nature and nurture.
I have to admit, I am likely the genetic source of our children’s sleep aversion. Before we had kids, I burned the candle at both ends. I was late to sleep and early to rise. In fact, that aspect of my routine had my future wife decline an offered introduction to me — when our mutual friend described me as a “person who never slept,” she immediately told her friend that she was not interested. My wife enjoys and appreciates her sleep. Our pairing, despite my sleep issues, is a much longer story.
The nurture side of our sleep battle comes from our own jam packed schedule. We just have too much going on.
The sleep battle usually begins at 8 pm. I take our son up to bed while my wife spends time with our daughter. The battle starts quietly. He feels the need to make sure his cars are arranged just so and settles down by being read a story. In the course of this routine, there are usually several attempts to get out of bed. When it is time for lights out, my wife may hear from our daughter “I don’t want to go to bed” or a stealthy plea for “one more story.” As she deals with these stall tactics, I am having my own difficulties with our son.
I get a request for water. Our daughter walks upstairs to bed, accompanied by my wife. I pass my bride in the hall and she gives me the look that tells me it’s another night of late to bed — at least for us. Shortly after 10 pm, with the bedtime battle almost over, we meet in our own bedroom. As we wind down and talk about our day we realize and even comment on what time our son will venture into our room to crawl in with us. Usually it’s around 5 am — about the time I have to get out of bed anyway. If his sister joins us, we are definitely out of room in our queen bed.
Just before I go to sleep I check on our kids to ensure they are breathing and resting comfortably — a holdover habit from when they were infants — and bask in the beauty of their peaceful sleep. I savor the moment, realizing it is only for a short time that they are truly kids, and that they remain truly mine, both in nature and nurture.
Matt Reger is the sleep-deprived father of two. To send Reger a comment or question, email firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line “Diary of a Dad.”