My toddler used to go to sleep at 8 pm every night and wake every morning around 8. And it was a beautiful thing: I could work, read and have a little time to myself in the evening till I went to bed around midnight. I could even wake up a tad early for a few precious moments of quiet in the morning. We had a nice little rhythm and routine, which was pure gold. He woke up happy and peaceable, and I was patient and engaged, having had an evening to attend to loose ends and to recharge.
But summer is here and it’s all gone to hell now!
Because the sun is up longer and sets later, all that has changed. Now my little Budge sleeps around 9 or 9:30, when it’s finally completely dark outside — and he’s up way earlier at 7.
And it’s been tough. It doesn’t sound like much to someone without kids, but losing at least 2 hours a day has been rough. Any real relaxation has gone out the window. I work ALL the time with no real break. I sleep less, which has been hell on my thyroid — which only makes me feel even more rundown. I write less and read less, and for a creative introvert like myself, it’s a prescription for misery. And because my partner works at night, he doesn’t really get why I’m a bit crankier and sadder, so there’s more friction between us.
In short: I really miss my evenings!
Budge for the most part is fine, though I think he’s a bit more tired as well, and a touch more volatile. He’s in toddler partydown mode! He’s so excited by his day! He’s so worn out that it’s so long! And he’s so confused — why is this so? Why is fun so exhausting?! Then cue up the end-of-day meltdown, add in a harried, fried mama and it all adds up to summer grouching, bigtime.
Still, I’m trying…trying to remember that everything has a season and seasons are short in the big picture. (I should add that to my list of parenting mantras.)
What helps? So far, lots and lots of playtime and fresh air and social experiences. I usually like a chilled-out kind of lifestyle for Budge — think structure and routine, peacefulness, lots of exploration and unstructured playtime — but now lots of people and fresh air and excursions tire him out a bit more. I watch out for overtired crankiness: for him, that’s signs of hyperness and lack of focus. And when I see them, we have quiet time. (We’ve been reading this book together called “Calm-Down Time,” and when I start quoting from it — because I have the whole thing memorized at this point! — he immediately sits down and waits for me to snuggle him.)
But mostly I leave him in the thick of things, let him get his ya-yas out and knock himself out.
So far it’s working, in a fashion. He doesn’t get to sleep earlier, but he stays asleep a tad longer. And I’ve also moved some things I did at night up to earlier in the day — like, uh, showering — so that time doesn’t feel so crammed. And I’m taken more time off and gone out more because, hey, it’s summer and I’m going to enjoy myself, too!
Parenting is often a weird juggling act, a tension between providing consistency amidst the constant change of childhood. It’s making adjustments and improvising on the fly — like realizing singing 10 minutes of “Wheels on the Bus” will keep your kid entertained during the last leg of a car trip when he starts to whine and fuss. It’s as much fact as comfort to tell yourself that everything will change and things figure themselves out, eventually.
Still, I can’t help but tell myself “Winter is coming!” — with a bit of a giggle and some delicious anticipation.