What Bedtime Means0

Not to be maudlin or morbid, but how many bedtimes do you have left with your children? Each night represents one of a precious and finite number of events with your children. I don’t mean that anything bad will happen.

It’s more that I can’t help but feel that cliche of parenting— my children are growing up so fast (although amazingly I stay the same age).


Bedtime occurs in the limninal space on the the border between wake and the quiet country of sleep. We are all at our most vulnerable. That’s why it is so special, and why it feels so personal when your children fight and argue at that time.

I still cuddle my boys at night. The younger one, sweet but business like, exiles me from his room so he can go to sleep “in his own time”. The older boy still likes to be squeezed tightly and is reluctant to let me go. But both he and I know the pubertal clock is ticking (he is age 11). I’m sure at some point he will not want me hanging out with him at bedtime because it will feel weird and uncool. (Although he may still also perceive this as a loss— entering adolescence is about creating space for independence while missing the safety of childhood. It sure is complicated. Here’s an article I found on managing this transition.)

I grew up with a lot of physical affection in my family but I clearly remember when I wanted less contact from my parents as a teenager. I wonder when I become uncomfortable with it from my parents. When was the last time they put me down for bed?

I’m a homebody and hate to miss bedtime. It’s silly how much I love it. I mean I wrote a book about it. (The original title of my forthcoming book, Never Too Late to Sleep Train was The Bedtime Habit). Spending this quiet time with my kids is often the highlight of my day.

Once, I was talking with a colleague about why later school start times for teens are so controversial, even though the evidence is so strong supporting them. She observed that bedtime is a private, sacred time in the life of a family, and that not everyone wants an expert intruding in this context. I feel like this is also a factor which makes some people uncomfortable with sleep training, although it is both safe and effective.

Here’s my point. You may be here because you struggle with your child’s bedtime. Even when things are difficult, don’t forget to enjoy the small, magical, mundane moments of childhood. A shared laugh over a book you are reading together. Some cozy Snoopy pajamas on a winter’s night. If you like, share in the comments below.


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