Not long ago, probably two months, I was up. Again. It was somewhere near 4am and my son was bouncing off the walls. Between a long, late nap, teething troubles, and all around general suckiness in terms of a schedule, we really were not handling things well.
Even though he’d sleep late after staying up so late, I always felt like my schedule (and routine) were off quite a bit. But how on earth do you convince a child who isn’t yet two that sleeping earlier is good for him?
I had no idea. And after one sleepless night too many, I realized it was time to bring in the expert… my mom.
See, she knows everything when it comes to parenting, or at least, from my perspective, she does. And she actually had a really smart idea.
But again, how do I get a toddler to stick to a routine like that? Well, the answer was obvious, right there in my face, and I simply didn’t get it.
If I wanted him to go to bed early… I had to power down, too.
In this age of tweeting and texting and facebooking and blogging and working on the latest, greatest project to share with you guys, I would get caught up in work and often would be editing photos on my laptop while trying to get him to go to bed, or replying to an email on my phone.
The constant screen time meant I was saying “Okay, just a minute!” to Zach while I saved just “one last photo” and published “just one last post.” But what I didn’t realize is that my work and my screen time was negatively affecting his schedule.
It was time to switch off.
Zach now has a routine in place. The “big light” overhead stays on for 30 minutes after we head to our room, so he can color quietly at his desk, play with blocks, or read books. We then read a book together, and turn off the big light, switching to the “little light,” a small lamp on the bedside table. During this half hour, he and I can read books while he’s in bed, or he can play educational games on the Kindle or catch a few minutes of a favorite show like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. At exactly 10 (we start the whole routine at 9:00), the little light and the Kindle go off, and in our dark room, we cuddle and I tell him I love him. We talk quietly for a few minutes, and then I say “I’m going to sleep now.” and close my eyes. He does the same, and within minutes, he’s out.
Having a routine helps him, because he knows that this is the set schedule he goes through every night, and he’s able to sleep soundly, without protest that it’s time to power down. Why? Because it’s at that time that mommy powers down, too.
Before our new routine, we were fighting because I would tell him to turn off the kindle, but I was unwilling to part with time spent on my laptop or phone to give him the uninterrupted nighttime cuddles he needed. Sure, he was getting my attention, but it wasn’t my undivided attention, and I wasn’t shutting off everything to give him that mommy and Zach time.
Why should he have to sleep if mommy wasn’t sleeping?
The routine works for me just as well as it does for him. During his big light time, I am able to tie up any loose ends that MUST be taken care of before he sleeps. And really, it also gives me a chance to let anyone I’m talking to know that from 9:30 until Zach falls asleep (before 10:30), that I cannot be reached. This is his time with me, and I’m not interrupting that for anyone else’s needs. The world can live without me for an hour!
It helps me wind down for the evening, too, and relax in a way I never did before. My day usually consists of running from computer to phone back to computer, albeit with some spots in between for playing with Zach and working on other projects. This one hour of time where I’m not tied to twitter, facebook, wordpress, instagram, and every other social media tool I use is nice, because it’s time where I can just… be. I can enjoy the forehead kisses my son gives me, and giggle over his ham-like personality. I can just gaze into his blue eyes, and spend time holding my son. And that is priceless in a way that spending time on social media or trying to capture these moments with a phone app just isn’t.
It is hard being a mom in a digital age. That’s why I created this blog– to help parents in a digital era learn how to balance, and how to be that pro at everything from baking to entertaining with minimal effort and time spent away from the kids. But as a blogger, and as a mom, I have to remember that balance is a big part of life, and that not every moment can be spent attached to my tech.
The internet will still be there when Zach falls asleep at 10:23, or 10:10, or 10:34, or whenever he crashes. And there will be a lot less bedtime tension if mommy takes some time away from the computer, just to spend time with him.