I cannot sleep.
DH can generally fall sound asleep within 60 seconds of closing his eyes and probably does on most occasions. On the rare instances when he cannot, he visualizes a single drop of water falling on a single leaf … ever… so… slowly. By the time the droplet touches the leaf, he’s out. Either way, give or take a few short minutes, he’s off to dreamland.
Me? Not always so easy.
Our kids? They’re are all good sleepers. They didn’t start out that way but with a little help from Pavlov’s dog we eventually had them ‘conditioned’.
None of our kids ever slept through the night before they were two. Considering we had twins when Oldest Son was 21 months old, that was a minimum of 4 years of continuous interrupted sleep. I was telling OS the other night how he spent Years 3 to 6 coming into our room halfway through the night … and staying there until morning. So, that puts the ‘interrupted sleep years’ number up to about 6. But this story is about getting to sleep not my lack of it in years past.
When OS was about 5 and therefore the twins were 3 we changed their going-to-bed-routine. There was always a routine of sorts, but we stepped it up a little.
Here’s how it went. Snack, bath and then … here’s the trick … we would set the timer on our oven and when it went off, DH and I would announce together… “bedtime!”
I think we told them the timer was set for 30 minutes. (Another tidbit we learned early on was how it helped to ‘prepare’ our kids for whatever was coming next.) But we could set the timer for 10 minutes and they wouldn’t have known the difference.
Wait. There’s more.
Here’s the bonus. Bedtime was probably 7:30pm for them back in those days. I can’t remember for sure. But we could set that timer for 5:30pm and when it went off 30 minutes later, off they’d trot. Just like Pavlov’s dog. It didn’t matter if it was 7:30, 5:30, or whenever. They simply heard the bell and assumed it was time to go. It worked great for those nights we were going out somewhere. (Yeah, like we did that very much!)
We set the routine. They adapted. Or maybe, they accepted.
Back then my day, our day, was stuffed full with little kidlets and I knew my patience limit would be reached come night-time. The kids could whine and cry and stomp their feet, or toss me their soft tender looks in attempt to challenge my decisions throughout the day, but there was no negotiation on bedtime.
Maybe that’s why I gravitate to routine. In those days it was a way to manage the day and find peace in a chaotic life with 3 little ones.
Today with never knowing what’s coming next, which crisis is luring ahead, what sudden surprise will greet me in the day, routine provides comfort, peace, familiarity, safety. Reassurance that all is well in this moment.
I’m not sure you can still train an old dog like me and I didn’t just hear that little bell go off, but my eyes have grown heavy.
And so to sleep….