Thursday, 14 February 2013

Goodnight Children, Everywhere

I admire the way our daughter and son-in-law have devised and stuck to a regular bedtime routine for their children. Every evening at 7 o’clock, it’s bathtime, storytime and bedtime, in that order. Little resistance, few complaints and a guaranteed opportunity for mum and dad to exhale, “phew!” in unison, before savouring some peace and quiet.

Our way was quite different. Blessed with a daughter who resisted sleep with dogged determination, we went for an ill-fated ‘fall asleep when you’re ready’ option. To cut a very long story short, acceptable sleeping patterns only resumed after a deal was struck. Our infant insomniac having developed a capacity for bargaining that any trade union hard-liner would be proud of, at last agreed to make her own way to the Land of Nod without mummy holding her hand. The price? A guinea pig. I wouldn’t recommend bribery, but on this occasion it worked out for all parties.

There has long been a debate over appropriate bedtimes for children, and it seems that it’s still going strong.

Family watching television, c. 1958
Family watching television, c. 1958 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I don’t remember there being too much discussion when I was a child. Although, I recall a time when there had been a little parental discord in the house. My step-father came bursting into the living room, switched off the TV and commanded everyone to go to bed early. And I mean everyone, himself included. It was one of those moments that are precious in your early years, when you just know that the adult has got it completely wrong, but nothing is going to reverse the decision. "Bedtime? What, all of us? Oh, okay then."

I'm reminded of Adrian Mitchell's  wonderful counter to Larkin's poem, 'This Be The Verse'.

Sweet dreams.
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18 comments:

  1. "The fact that all age-groups, pre-adulthood, need a fixed amount of sleep"
    That's cute. I always thought that adults also needed a minimum of sleep.

    In my experience - as mother of four - children do need firm bedtime schedules and rituals. It did happen, though, that reading to them went on longer than my husband or I could stay awake, much to the delight of our children who then fell asleep right in our bed.

    "Goodnight, you princes of Maine. You kings of New England." (The Cider House Rules)

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    1. Merisi, I usually manage around 6-7 hours sleep, now. I'm not sure that the 'minimum sleep' guidance is all that accurate for adults. I had a great aunt who went to bed at 23.00 and was wide awake by 03.00, at which point she got up and played the piano until breakfast.

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  2. As a child - sister three years older, brother three years younger (mum and dad obviously practiced family planning :o])- we all had hot orange juice and biscuits while we listened to The Archers - then happily trouped up to bed (7pm). Big treat at the weekend when we were allowed up to listen to Saturday Night Theatre!

    My sons had regular bedtimes too - although I allowed for the age difference of two years. Not a problem if initiated early in life and tucked in with love and a bedtime story.

    Love the poems - knew Larkin's but not Mitchell's counter.

    Anna :o]

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    1. Anna, I'm not sure how I'd have felt about hot orange juice, but listening to The Archers or Saturday Night Theatre sounds ideal.

      You're so right. If a bedtime routine is established early on, most children seem to accept it without a fuss.

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  3. Wish my daughter would read this! Granddaughter doesn't seem to know night from day!!

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  4. I do recommend bribery ;) it's absolutely how the world goes round!

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    1. Yes, most of us resort to it in the end, just to stay sane!

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  5. i let my boys play during day time that by night time, around 7pm, they are pooped that i literally have to carry them to bed as they are already asleep watching tv in the living room.

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    1. Yes, when they start to rub their eyes, it's a pretty good sign that they're ready for bed, Odette, even though they don't always know it.

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  6. God bless the wonderful Adrian Mitchell. I'd never heard this one before and now it's going straight into my 'Favourites' folder.Thank you Martin.

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    1. It's the perfect counter to Larkin's grumpy effort, Nell.

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  7. Oh you are so funny! My childhood consisted of going to bed at 7 pm so mommy could have her time, ha ha! For my children it was not a bath every night, but for sure a story and bedtime, and I'm happy to report that my own children are doing the same bath (not every night) story time and off to sleep- but as for the grandchildren I have- well it's a bit different, I do my own story telling but only after usually a movie- playing- popcorn- oh yeah there's that brushing your teeth thing everyone does! .........but it's still grand once the eyes are finally sound asleep no matter what right!

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    1. Karen, I love our grandchildren dearly, but after a 'full-on' day, it's great to have a little respite. Story-telling wins out over bathtime, every time!

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  8. I'd not seen the Adrian Mitchell version - thanks! I remember a next-door neighbour saying how strict she thought we were for getting our kids to bed by 7 even though it was Christmas/Easter/half-term/summer holidays .... we didn't see the point of having a routine that got broken so often.

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    1. I'm with you Fran, if you've got them into a bedtime routine, stick with it, no matter what the neighbours say.

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  9. Bedtime was never a battle as long as we allowed the boys to read or listen to tapes till they were sleepy. I treasure the memory of the younger boy (around 5) singing along with Monty Python - 'I'm a lunberjack and I'm okay..'

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    1. That boy's got good taste, Vicki!

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