• Jude-Anne Phillip

Sleep wars

Why don't kids like to sleep? I just don't get it. It doesn't matter how tired they are they just refuse to go to bed.

As adults we love sleep, we long for it, we beg for it yet we could never seem to get it. But children, mine in particular, actually wage war against sleep and everything related to it, even my two month old. He actually gets angry with me and baby screams at me when he realizes that he is tired and his little eyelids are just too heavy to stay open.

My 5 year old however, takes the fight to a different level and getting him to bed happens in phases.

Step 1 - Preparation

At this stage I start to slyly get him ready for bed. He is tired but does not want to admit it and has started the war by keeping active, very active. Any lack of movement will result in unwanted slumber so he jumps and runs and climbs and screams and roars and...well you get the point.

I make him take a bath, brush his teeth and put on his pajamas but he does not have to actually sleep for another half an hour, so he is amenable at this point.

Step 2 - Pre-bedtime Bedtime

During the half an hour before his bedtime he is allowed to watch a show, but this has to be done in bed. This is my Jedi mind trick to get him to calm down while allowing him to think that he is winning the anti-sleep war. What he doesn't realize is that during this time he typically gets even more drowsy and, on some lucky days, he falls asleep while watching the show. Game point - mummy!

However, on those unlucky days we go to Step 3.

Step 3 - Bedtime 

This step usually involves the following dialogue:

Me: "Ok hun time for bed, turn off the show and cover up"

Sleep War Mastermind: "Ok mummy" (how compliant of him you think, just wait)

Sleep War Mastermind: "Oh I need to pee mummy."

Me: "Ok hun go to the bathroom and come right back to bed."

One minute later he is back in bed and I foolishly believe that this is it, this is where the fight will end, until this:

Sleep War Mastermind: "Mummy I am thirsty, I need some water please."

Me: "Here is your water baby now go to sleep."

Sleep War Mastermind: "Mummy I didn't write my letter to Santa."

Me: "We can do that tomorrow honey, go to sleep."

Sleep War Mastermind: "Mummy I need to get my other teddy, I can't just leave him over there he will get lonely."

Me: "He will be fine honey, plus he is already asleep, so it's time for you to sleep too." (You start to say anything at this point)

Step 4: Post-bedtime Bedtime

Yes, it has gotten this far and this phase is pretty much just me repeating "close your eyes, close your eyes" until he actually does close his eyes long enough for them to stick.

I don't think that I will ever understand what it is about sleep that kids hate. Maybe they think they are missing out on a huge party with bouncy castles, superheroes, edible chocolate trees and ponies while they are asleep, I don't know, but I will say this, seasoned war Generals can learn a thing or two from a child who doesn't want to sleep.


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