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When IS Lost Sleep Worth It and How Do You Manage It?

In my last post, I talked about our experience with our kids needing a lot of sleep and how it's generally not worth it to push that. But sometimes it is! This will obviously vary a LOT from family to family, but here are some times it is worth it for us:

  • Unique and Special Experiences: We attended a Passover Seder a few days ago and knew it would end late. Still, it was our kids' first Seder, and especially since it fell during the Christian Holy Week, it was an experience we wanted them (and us) to have. We also take them to a performance of the Nutcracker each Christmas season, and have attended baseball games, family parties, and school events. We want to live life and enjoy it! If we can, we'll try to suggest earlier times with family/friends. If the timing is non-negotiable, we go and explore and have fun. I figure as long as those events are more the exception rather than the rule, we're good.
  • While traveling: It would be impossible for bedtimes to stay completely on track while traveling. I find that having that expectation helps manage my own anxiety about getting them to sleep. Additionally, I find that my kids actually do a lot better with missed sleep while traveling than at home. There's something about the excitement of new places and lots of attention and family time that helps them relax and manage their behavior better, as well. (And since I'm a bit more lax than normal, we can use bribery to our advantage; see below.)

Here are some things we do to help things go more smoothly when we know it's going to be a late night:
  • Late Naps: This is probably obvious, but if we can, I'll try to push naps a bit later so the kids aren't quite as tired late at night.
  • DO Naps: Nat generally stopped napping about a year ago, around 5.5 (although he continued taking a catch-up nap about once a week for several months after that). Still, even now, if I can wear him out well in the morning, and I have a really good bribe, I can usually eek out a nap if needed. For the aforementioned Seder, I told him how excited we all were to go, but that it would end well past normal bedtime. He had had a busy morning, so it worked well and he was able to nap for a little over an hour, which made all the difference that night.
  • Gear the Kids Up: When we know it's a late and special experience, we try to talk to our kids about it beforehand. We tell them the importance of it and help them get excited, and lay out what kind of behavior we expect. We tell them that if they want to be able to have special experiences like that, then they need to show us their very best behavior so we can trust them to stay up late for special events in the future. It's not perfect, of course, but it helps a LOT when they are aware of the expectations and ramifications.
  • Bribery: Obviously, bribery isn't the very best parenting tip in all the land. Still, I'm a firm believer that it has its place. I tend to be pretty strict when we're at home about food (we don't generally do processed snacks), violin practice, small chores (unloading the dishwasher), etc. So when we're on vacation and those things are a bit more lax, we all tend to relax.
  • Along with that, having low "fun mom" standards at home helps - My kids are always pretty dang thrilled with a baggie of goldfish on vacation, to have some sort of fun markers or crafty thing, or to have some screen time.
  • New Books: My kids are all big bookworms, so having a book about a new place or event is always a big hit. We have several books about National Parks/nature/the United States, so they loved reading those in the car while we were road tripping across the US or through the Southwest. We also read a book about Passover that included different Seder rituals before arriving, and then took it in with us, as well. It was nice that they had some understanding of what to expect, what was happening, and then something to read while there if needed. (The congregation also provided a coloring page with the different parts of the Seder plate, which was wonderful.)

Those are some exceptions we make and things we do to help. How about you?

When Is Staying Up Late NOT Worth It?

90% of the time, I'm a stickler for bedtimes. My kids have always needed more sleep than the average child-bear, and it doesn't usually bode well for anyone if we push them too late.

Just last weekend, we were watching Moana for the first time. I was as into it as the kids were, so we let them stay up a little later. The boys (6.5 & 2.5) usually go to bed at 7, and Kina (4.5) goes to bed between 7:30-8 (she's my longest napper by far, and often naps until 5 or 5:30). Earlier that day, we'd attended a Holi celebration, and it took a while after to get everyone bathed and de-colored and ready for naps. So the younger ones ended up sleeping until 6pm that day. So we figured, hey, they napped late, so we'll be fine. We put toone to bed at 7:30, and let the older kids stay up until 8:30 to finish the movie. So the younger ones each went to bed about half an hour later than usual.

The next day, they were a disaster. They were whiny and crabby and so much squirrelier than usual at church. For our kids, if they're over tired, they don't eat well, which just exacerbates the situation. All for half an hour late!

I should note that Nat actually was able to hold it together. But at 6.5, it's just been within the last 6 months that he's able to do that - able to recognize that he's tired and it's making him grumpier than usual. That's not to say he wasn't still irritable, because he was. But if he lashed out or yelled or something, he was able to reign himself in after and hold it together, while the younger ones just weren't able to control their emotions.

So. My kids need a lot of sleep, and it's generally not worth it to skip naps or push bedtime. But sometimes it is. :)