I'm not the world's most anxious parent, truth be told--especially now that we are out of the zero to three category of parenting where mere survival is a work of art. Now that my kids are school-aged, I'm happy to let things unfold for the most part, read up on everyone's developmental tasks and go from there.
I do have one or two areas that make me slightly mental and one of them is bedtime. I don't care if you stay up way past the sun all summer long, but come school time, I want you on the schedule and fast. I don't mind anyone crying in their cereal if he's having an honest emotional moment (not to name any names here), but please, dear God, don't let it be because you didn't get your prerequisite eleven hours of sleep. (And trust me, it's eleven.)
I promise I'm not making it up. Every year we do our annual research on how much sleep everyone needs for their specific age and stage. (Your pediatrician is your friend on this one.) Then we get out a piece of paper and factor in how much time everyone needs to actually get ready for bed and then truly fall asleep. Those numbers put together help us find the ideal bedtime. And yes, when you add in all that dawdling for a certain person in our family, that means you have to start the process at five o'clock.
But really--factoring in prep time does eliminate tons of stress for me when I have to get everyone moving. When you've already confessed you need ten books and one hour to fall asleep, you're less prone to argue when I ask you to at least get started. Now. I still struggle to get everyone in bed and asleep at the ideal hour, but at least bedtime is more of a group project and not just some edict Mom passed down from on high.
If there's one thing I don't want at the end of the day, it's any sense of being rushed or hassled or of being a bother. I don't want bedtime to be a task to be completed or a chore to be accomplished. I want my kids to end their days gently and without too much drama. Figuring out a reasonable time that my negotiating firstborn can respect and my free-wheeling second born can accept helps every single one of us so much.
When we get off track, I can confess to the kids that I'm feeling stress over the thought of everyone not getting what they need in the sleep department. That's a lot less stressful for kids to hear than me yelling, "Get to bed! You have school tomorrow!" Nobody enjoys that.
I know sleep is a very hot issue with no easy solutions. How do you navigate the Sandman at your house? How are things going for those of you trying to easy younger kids onto a first time preschool schedule? We'd love to know.