slSeven in the evening is almost exclusively my favourite part of the day on ANY given day. When all go as planned, it means the kids are already in their room and safely tucked in bed. They could be singing, having a conversation with their stuffed animals, rolling about in the comfort of their own bed or doing all three at the same time, but we know that it won’t be long before they drift off to dreamland.
It is also usually the time of the day when I would shamelessly do a little dance in my head as soon as we close the door behind us, because, believe you, me, knowing that they are about to retire for the night and thus giving us our “us-time” to do whatever the hell we need to do, is one of the best feeling in the whole wide world.
It has been almost 3 years since we enforced early bedtime for the kids. We may have missed out on the occasional social gatherings in the evenings and even snuffed our noses when we learnt that a birthday party ends at 6.30 pm. But! because we tend to be rather inflexible when it comes to winding them down for the evening for their bedtime we sometimes give them a miss or rushed out of their door a couple of hours earlier without regrets.
For us, it has been absolutely imperative that we start winding them down by 6pm and that they are in bed by 6.30 pm; plus minus half an hour give or take. It has been proven time and again that our kids do get horribly and uncontrollably cranky if we ever were to stretch their bedtime past 7pm. Despite the small inconvenience of having to be home at a certain time, all I can say is that after all these years (knock on wood!), it probably was one of the best parenting decisions we ever made.
I guess, after doing this for so long now, we don’t really think about it as it is something we are so used to. That being said, I have to say though that I am almost always a little surprised when I see the reaction of any parent who went, “SIX THIRTY?? REALLY?? Already? That’s early! Through the night?”
While I’m sure some thought that it is a little abnormal (or cruel even!) that kids are subjected to go to bed that early, others were genuinely surprised – and dare I say, even envious – that we have been able to shove our kids to bed early and they STILL are sleeping through the night till about 6.30 am.
For curious parents, we would tell them that the only reason we can do that is because the kids are so used to such early bedtime since they were a few months old. Subtly, that really means CONTROLLED CRYING; one of the more controversial parenting topics. A topic polarized enough to make some parents uneasy and label us as being heartless. Unless asked or probed further, we don’t usually spill how we do it in detail; and not because we don’t want to share, but because we are conscious of being accused of giving unsolicited (bad) advice.
Looking back, while controlled crying was one of the hardest things we have ever done, it was only excruciatingly painful for a maximum of a week. The “training” got better every day and in my opinion, was not exactly a bad thing. In fact, there was an article which backed up controlled crying as a form of baby sleep strategy. (read article here)
Having been through all that for both of my kids’ early days as a few month old infant, I truly believe that the long-term benefits of controlled crying as a form of sleep strategy far outweigh the “cruelty” of making a baby cry themselves to sleep for just a few minutes. Yes.FEW MINUTES. I didn’t mean an entire hour. (I have written about the 10-minute Rule here)
If we have not done that, we probably would be more sleep deprived, extremely short-fused (not that I am not already!), supremely exhausted and likely pushed to the brink of a mental breakdown. And no, I don’t think that entertaining two little kids till 11pm at night would be particularly beneficial to our marriage.
3 years on, both of our kids are happy, healthy, as affectionate as they want to be (when they feel like it) and both are not showing any signs of emotional trauma which we had supposedly exposed them to. They wake up happy, and for us, it means that we get a little bit more rest and freedom when the clock strikes 7.
Sometimes, you really just have to be a little cruel to be kind