What’s the harm?

I was the kid that hid under my covers with a flashlight and a book. Bedtime was bedtime. If I got caught, there’d be hell to pay. I was breaking the rules. Never mind that I wasn’t tired or that I was doing something conventional like reading.

When my son was young, I decided that reading could be the only allowed activity after bedtime. Kids fall asleep naturally when they get tired. Hence their ability to fall asleep anywhere and in any position.

Let’s be honest, it’s conformity that sends us to bed at a specific time instead of crawling into bed when we are tired and ready to sleep. And what sends our children to bed hours before we ourselves head there? A desire to be alone with our spouse? A need to get stuff done without the little ones under a foot? Some crazy belief that children somehow need more than the requisite eight hours?

I want that time alone with my husband. There are many things I like to accomplish after my kids are out of my hair. Even at 19 and 10, I still need them out of my hair to complete some tasks. After a day of taking care of everyone, I like a little time to devote to myself. Why should this desire mean that my children should have to sleep?

At 19, my son keeps whatever hours he wants. Bedtime for him doesn’t even always include staying in his room. He seems to prefer to do his chores after the house has retired to their bedrooms for the evening. My daughter is ten years old. Bedtime for her is still governed by a few rules. She pushes the boundaries on some of them.

  1. Bedtime means bedtime, no chatting with people as they walk passed your bedroom.
  2. No electronic devices (studies have shown that a digital screen keeps your mind from settling down for sleep)
  3. Lights out
  4. You can read, but there are two conditions
    1. It has to be a paperback book (Kindle screen is a digital screen)
    2. You can use your book light for light to read by

Santa brought her a new book for Christmas. It’s his tradition to give the kids a Christmas themed book every year. This seemed to click the switch back to reading at night. She finished that book, then moved onto another holiday themed book. Both holiday books were animal themed. She then read another animal themed book. Over New Year’s weekend, she read one of my old favorites, The Indian in the Cupboard.

She informed me last night as she began Return of the Indian that her goal is to read five chapters a night. I say good for her. Sure, she’s usually still awake when the husband and I crawl into bed. We also let her sleep in until we’ve gotten a cup of coffee in our systems. She’s getting a full night’s sleep. So what’s the harm in allowing her to stay up late reading a good book?

One of the great things about being the parent is that we make the rules. We get to do things differently than our parents did. We get to change the rules that always bothered us when we were children. The things we never did figure out why our parents did them that way. After all, who says we have to do it their way?


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