Kids are different. My second and third appreciate sleep. They go to bed easy and like to stay asleep until they have to get up. My first and fourth have a much more mixed relationship with the world of slumber. These temperamental differences have been there since babyhood. I did not do anything much different with one or the other. People are who they are.
That said, I was in my 20s when Kid #1 came along. I’m 40 now. I am pretty sure my energy for coping with kid sleep issues is less now than it was then. Which means we have to figure out other ways to deal with the ramifications.
The little guy — who is turning four this week — likes to wake up early. If he naps, he goes to bed later; if he doesn’t, he goes to bed at a reasonable time for a pre-schooler (around 8 p.m.) He’s definitely tired then. But regardless of when he goes to bed, he likes to wake up early. 5-5:30 is pretty standard. I thought this was getting better, but I think that was just a lovely 1-2 month grace period when the nap was fully gone. Now his sleep needs are shifting lower, so even without the nap he’s back up.
He’s old enough to entertain himself in his room, so we’ve tried the colored clock (that turns green when it’s time to get out of his room) but this is much like a sticker chart in that it doesn’t work for a kid who does not care about getting a sticker. We taught him to read the time, and he knows his numbers well enough that he fully comprehends the idea that a first number of “6” or “7” is OK to get up. But again, he doesn’t care. As he told me this morning when he came to wake me up, “5 is close to 6.”
In theory, he could just go play in the basement or something if he feels like getting out of the bedroom, but what I like to think of as his “experimental” streak is strong. The only thing that we can guarantee will keep him out of trouble is…YouTube.
And so, a typical morning in our house looks like this. Little guy comes to get parents at 5-5:30 a.m. One of us gets up and turns on the home computer. We set him up with a snack, we turn on the light in the bathroom (so he can go if he needs to) and he watches videos of excavators or dump trucks for 60-90 minutes. We go back to sleep.
I knew internet essay protocol (the irony!) calls for feeling guilty about this. And at times I wonder if I should feel that way. But then I realize this might be making a problem where there isn’t one. The settings are such that it would be very hard for him to find horrible things. He’s happy as a clam. I need my sleep. He gets plenty of non-screen attention and stimulation the rest of the day.
And so I find myself feeling grateful that he is old enough to find YouTube entertaining. When he was a baby and toddler we had no choice but to get up. Now I can start my day for real when the clock number starts with a “6.” (And I can idly fantasize that someone will get me a clock and only let me out of bed when it turns green…)