This past week has been a wild experience. E and G were in a play, put together by their homeschool facilitator. She lives a couple hours away, so scripts and music were distributed with Dropbox in September, and after 1.5 months of practicing at home everyone came together for a whirlwind week to rehearse and perform!
That makes this week a strange one to start chronicling with—it was very out of the ordinary for us. But that’s one thing I love about our lifestyle: we can easily accommodate when opportunities come our way, whether it be an impromptu midweek trip to Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park, tagging along with dad to a conference in Edmonton, or spending a wild week working on a play from 9-3 every day.
One of the special things about this week was having to be out of the house, with lunch in hand, by 8:50 am. E has never gone to sleep easily, no matter what time she was put into her bed, and “bedtime” has long been mostly about mom and dad getting “grown up time” rather than having any hope of E sleeping at a specific hour. Thus, a few weeks ago we even went so far as to cancel “bedtime” altogether for her, because Brad and I realized since she does her own thing anyway, there is officially no reason to make her go into her room to do it. Actually, we found that she would sometimes even get to sleeping earlier than when she had a bedtime, I think because she wasn’t going to her bed, then reading till whatever hour. She’d wait to get to her bed till she felt tired, and no lights turned on; no books came out—It was all about the sleeping.
But that means she often sleeps in past 8 am. I’ll be honest—I’m an unschooler of the “existentially tormented” variety. So I don’t let her sleep as late as she feels. If it’s getting beyond 8:30, I start becoming antsy and intervene (meaning, she’s probably out of bed by 9). Still, it’s a way more leisurely schedule than she’d have getting up for school every morning, and I’m happy with that. Both E and G take a particular pleasure in lying awake in their beds sometimes, daydreaming or reading or feeling warm under their blankets, and I love that I can give that to them.
So this week was an interesting exercise, partly because it gave us a taste of life with that morning rush I’ve heard so much about, and remember a bit of from my own youth. Hats off, by the way, to everyone who does that, even earlier, every day of the school year! I relish my lazy mornings! Obviously it’s in the genes, because most mornings I lay in bed with the baby dozing next to me for a good half hour, scrolling Facebook and reading news articles, before climbing out to greet the day.
For E, the first couple nights of drama camp were difficult. She gets excited (just like her mama!) before unusual events and has difficulty sleeping. So she was reluctant to get out of bed. But she did, and although her tolerance was perhaps a bit lower than usual, she managed the long days fine. By day three she was exhausted enough to be sent to bed at 8:30 and actually sleep, so she got what she needed in the end. With the play over, we’re back to choose-your-own-bedtime. Yesterday she went to bed after me. Today she surprised me and headed up before 9:00! The crazy thing is, all these years what I’ve most wanted, aside from evening adult time, was for her to learn good sleep habits. Strangely, for her anyway, complete bedtime autonomy seems to be the most effective tactic yet. Her relationship with sleep seems to get healthier as the weeks go on. She used to complain to me all the time that she couldn’t get to sleep; that she would lie awake for hours. Less and less do I hear any such grumblings.
I do believe very much in giving children direction and parameters. But as they age—and at younger ages than I think most people are inclined to believe—they begin to thrive with increased autonomy and independence. Personality clearly plays a role, too. E has always been fiercely determined to make her own choices and be as adult as possible. So I am finding that the more freedoms I give her, honestly the more our relationship improves. It’s not just that there’s less to fight about. She feels the trust, I think, and steps up to the plate—she acts more mature. It’s superb. If you have a child who fights imposed structure, I’d recommend working with them rather than against them on it, and assessing objectively how necessary your restrictions are—maybe doing away with some altogether like E’s bedtime! I feel moderately confident that this would be successful even if she were regularly needing to get up by 6:00 or 7:00. If it made her tired earlier, then she’d go to sleep earlier.
That being said, if this week has highlighted one thing for me, it’s that I love my leisurely mornings, and I do not envy the stressful pace of most other families’ mornings out there. Good on y’all—glad it’s not me.