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Monday, February 14, 2011  

Lights Out

Trash and I both have fond, ancient memories of lying awake in our beds reading much later at night than we were supposed to. We always agreed that when we had our own kid, we'd never limit his or her reading like our parents limited ours.

What idiots we were.

In less than a year, we've gone from where he couldn't or wouldn't read at all to where if we let him, he'll stay up past midnight reading. Who knew?

Besides our parents, of course, and every other parent ever.

His relatively new ability -- not to mention willingness -- to read has drastically altered bedtime. Used to be we'd read him three to five short books, or a couple of chapters from a long book, and then leave him for the night to stare at his walls and interact with his stuffed animals. Which would be exciting enough to keep him alert and entertained for a while, but he'd eventually crash once he got tired of begging us for more books and ran out of other stalling techniques (i.e. another bedtime snack, a request for a hug and kiss, a truly epic visit to the bathroom).

Once he could read to himself, we'd read the same number of books, then give him a small stack of books to read to himself. That worked well, until he would get through that stack and then holler, "Can I have more books?" as though instead of being stored in a shelf two feet from his bed, his books are kept under lock and key in a vault under the garage of someone else's house.

Eventually, reluctantly, he got the message that he can grab his own damn books, and Trash and I enjoyed knowing that he would soon get into the habit of "reading himself to sleep," and those precious few minutes between his 7:30 bedtime and 10:00 would be ours again.

There were only two problems with this scenario. One was that he never completely got over the habit of asking for more books. And the night he asked for them at 11:30 PM on a Wednesday, we realized the "read himself to sleep" thing was not working.

Fortunately, we had mad a recent and serendipitous discovery. The weekend after New Year's we were heading back from Iowa in the evening. It was only six, but it was full dark, and the battery on his portable DVD player wouldn't charge. And we had a four-hour drive ahead of us. He figured out some good ways to entertain himself, though: eat some drive-through fast food in the back seat, beg us to let him watch a movie as though there were anything we could do about it, and then promptly fall asleep a half hour into the drive and stay that way until we pulled up in front of our house.

There was only one possible conclusion: darkness and forced idleness help him get to sleep! This should probably go into a medical journal somewhere.

As a result, we instituted a new phase of bedtime cleverly called "lights out." We read to him for a while, he reads to himself for a while, we turn off the lamp that used to stay on all night, he engages in a brief but intensive period of bitching, and then he falls asleep faster than he has in years.

Sometimes he protests that he gets nightmares when we turn the lamp off, but in those cases he's welcome to call us when he wakes up. And besides, I have a nightmare of my own I'm trying to avoid, and that nightmare is living with a kindergartner who's subsisting on seven hours of sleep per night.

So that takes care of the issue of when he's reading. Soon I'll talk about how we're dealing with what he's reading.

posted by M. Giant 2:44 PM 1 comments


Man, I always hated that my parents wouldn't let me stay up reading all night. Even though I always regretted it in the morning, I couldn't never make myself stop at a reasonable hour--not until I literally couldn't keep my eyes open, often at two or three a.m. When my parents starting stringently enforcing lights out, I would either sit next to the night light to read, therefore straining my already defective eyes, or I would go into the bathroom to read, since my parents couldn't see the light under the bathroom door from their room.
Of course, this led to many mornings of being discovered passed out either on the floor of my room, next to the night light, or in the bathtub.

By Blogger Unknown, at February 21, 2011 at 7:30 PM  

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