It's almost midnight, and finally I'm going to bed. Exhausted, I mount the stairs, ready to drop into my nice warm bed. Then I hear it. "Hi, Mom!" It's 11:45 p.m., and my 8-year-old is still wide awake.
Of course she is. She's always wide awake. Except at 7 in the morning, when it's time to get up for school and she's miserable because she was up late the night before. But late at night when normal kids are fast asleep? My kid is raring to go. Lucky me.
This is my new life -- parenting an 8-year-old with insomnia.
If I sound resigned to this fact, it's only because I'm exhausted -- both physically and emotionally -- after months of trying to get my daughter to sleep. The fact is, she's not unhealthy. We've checked (of course we have!). We have also done everything the pediatrician has suggested to get her to go to sleep.
She has a bedtime routine. It's the same one we've had for years (shower, book, the whole nine). She goes to bed at 8 -- a reasonable time for a kid her age. She does not drink caffeinated beverages, and the only light in her room is a dim one. Not to mention her room is in a spot in the house far from distractions, and there are no electronics allowed.
Short of sitting on her chest and holding her eyelids shut, we've done just about everything we can to encourage her to sleep.
I've learned, however, that you can make a kid go to bed. You can make a kid stay in bed. But you really can't make them sleep.
Cue a mom lying in bed, reading, only to hear cackling from down the hall, followed by: "What kind of animal shouldn't you play cards with?"
Mom replies: "Good night!"
8-Year-Old: "No! A cheetah!"
Mom: "Good night!"
8-Year-Old: "Isn't that funny?"
Mom: "What's funny is that I thought I said good night."
Do I sound cranky? Well, I was. That happened after 11 on Thursday. You would have been cranky too.
I read to fall asleep, but most nights I can't get more than a few paragraphs into my good night read before a question is shouted down the hall.
Ignore it, you say? I've tried. Five seconds later she'll appear by the bed, suddenly requiring my help to straighten her mis-buttoned pajamas or define a big word in her book.
Last week I'd fallen asleep already, and my husband -- fresh out of the shower and headed for bed himself -- caught her standing in our darkened bedroom saying, "Hey Mom, Mom, Mom!" She wanted to tell me about the book she'd been reading.
Yes. Very sweet.
But it was three hours past her bedtime, and I was exhausted.
I'd be lying if I didn't admit I miss the time I used to have after my daughter went to bed. The time to watch adult TV without interruption. The time to read my self to sleep. The time to, ahem, cuddle with my husband. We need couple time. I need me time. It's when I get things done around the house and when I recharge myself for the next day.
It's time most kids give their parents.
True, most kids do hit a stage when their brain actually forces them to stay up late. Scientists have found that teenagers quite literally can't fall asleep until after 11 p.m. because of the way the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin levels change in their body.
Like my daughter, I struggled to get to sleep as a kid. As I got older, the problems only worsened. I recall many a 3 a.m. when I was the only one awake in my house. But like most teens, I was independent. I wanted to be in my room, with the door shut. I didn't want to have anything to do with my parents.
That's the way it's supposed to be. By the time kids want to stay up late, they're also supposed to want a little distance, a little time to themselves.
Go ahead and tell me that I should be relieved that my daughter still wants to talk to me and tell me jokes. Too soon we may face the slammed door and the music cranked to high volume.
In fact, I love that I have a little girl who is still very much a little girl. I just wish she'd contain it to between the hours of, oh, 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.
What time do YOUR kids go to sleep?
Image by Jeanne Sager