My husband opened the door to our 3-year-old’s bedroom around 6:45 a.m. last week, when he normally wakes her up so the kids can get to school.
“Good morning!” he said cheerfully.
“DON’T TALK TO ME LIKE THAT!” our preschooler cried out, hiding her head under her blankets.
I think it’s safe to say that she’s not a morning person.
Our two oldest kids, ages 7 and 9, are happy to wake up at the crack of dawn, no matter the time of year or whether it’s a weekend or weekday. Luckily, my husband is also a morning person, and never could sleep in, even if he tried. When our kids were babies and toddlers, my husband used to relish the early morning hours before work, because it was a special “daddy” time where he could hang out with the kids, curled up with them in the recliner, watching cartoons while the kids were still in their footie pajamas.
There are some kinds of people who are inherently cheerful when they wake up early in the morning. Three-fifths of my family is that way. I am not one of them, and apparently neither is my 3-year-old.
Since my husband and I had our first child almost a decade ago, we’ve had this unsaid policy: I’m the one to get up at night with the kids. My husband is legally deaf, so it never made much sense for me to wake him up after I was already awakened by a crying child. When the kids were babies, I breastfed them too, so my involvement was kind of a necessity anyway. I can handle the middle of the night, stumbling down the hallway in the dark with one eye shut. I can handle changing diapers in the pitch black or fumbling around the kitchen for a sippy cup at 3 a.m.
I cannot, however, handle 6 a.m. without caffeine.
And so, our unsaid policy has included me sleeping in, unfettered, on the weekends whenever possible. I don’t mind getting up to change diapers or feed babies in the middle of the night. However, I never imagined I’d being doing that for almost a decade straight. Our youngest child, age 3, has somehow reverted to getting up once or twice a night. Now, when she wakes up, it means our two dogs wake up as well, and the pooches want to be let out or fed. It means sometimes our 3-year-old crawls up into our bed while we are asleep, only to be awakened by a tiny-sized foot in our side or a tiny little person only inches from my face who says “Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Hi.”
And that means everyone is tired.
It’s been years since I had a newborn, and yet with two school-age kids and a preschooler and a puppy in tow, I suddenly feel like I’m on the newborn nightly schedule again, getting up so much at night. Perhaps it’s a growth spurt. Perhaps our 3-year-old is reverting back to old sleep habits now that’s she’s finally potty-trained and in a “big girl bed.”
I’m not sure of the answers. I only know that I’m tired and need sleep. (We all do.)
Here are some tips for healthy sleep habits, from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
— Make sleep a family priority.
— Keep to a regular daily routine. The same waking time, meal times, naptime and play times will help your child feel secure and help with a smooth bedtime.
— Be active during the day.
— Monitor screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping all screens — TVs, computers, laptops, tablets and phones out of children’s bedrooms, especially at night.
— Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle of juice, milk or formula. Water is OK.
— Avoid overscheduling. Take time to wind down and give your children the downtime that they need.
— Learn to recognize sleep problems. These could include difficulty falling asleep, nighttime awakenings, snoring, stalling and resisting going to bed, sleep apnea and loud or heavy breathing while sleeping.
— Talk to your child’s teacher or child-care provider about your child’s alertness during the day.
— Talk to your child’s pediatrician about sleep. Discuss your child’s sleep habits and problems with your pediatrician, as most sleep problems are easily treated.
— Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Reach her at email@example.com.