The myth of Super Sleeping Suzie

In the range of annoying things other parents might say about their kids, there may be nothing that cuts to the quick so much as “Oh, Suzie’s a great sleeper!”

While I don’t doubt that Super Sleeping Suzies do exist, most parents I talk to are usually obsessed with one thing: sleeping, and how their little one ain’t cuttin’ it.

This can range from the kid who simply won’t go to bed without all-out war and/or bribery, to the ones who want to get up at the crack of dawn and play. On the younger end, there’s the ones who wake up in the middle of the night for one reason or another – although babies are exempt from criticism of this. (Because babies are exempt from all rules or expectations.)

So, we have this ideal, that our 6-year-old will happily trot up to bed every night at 8:30. After a few stories, he will coo his love for us and fall dreamily into the Land of Nod. At that point, Jen and I will do some sort of grown-up activity, like watch a movie or TV show – even though we both know damn well yours truly will fall asleep in the middle of it. But dad-sleep is another column.

In the real world we live in, Andy is firm in his conviction that sleeping is a serious impediment to his agenda, and he has become absolutely masterful at delaying the inevitable. Like most kids, he does this in 5-minute increments: just 5 more minutes on the video game, 5 more minutes of art, 5 more minutes tormenting his older siblings. When we finally do get him to the “night-night snack” phase, he can attenuate the consumption of an apple or container of pudding to about 20 minutes. When we think he’s finally done and ready to go upstairs, he will remind us that he has to feed his fish (and we can’t argue because he has been told in no uncertain terms that the $#@% fish are his responsibility). Lastly, if he’s feeling particularly glacial, he will literally crawl up the stairs, adding another 3.5 minutes to this phase.

Going potty, brushing teeth and getting into pajamas can take anywhere from 5 minutes (if a bribe is offered) to another 20 minutes. Now that he’s learning to read, we initiated a new tradition of him reading a book to us, so on top of the book Jen reads and the one I read to him, story time has stretched out to another half hour.

It is now almost midnight, and Andy is doing somersaults on the bed, putting pillowcases on his head and other things to suggest that sleep is the last thing on his mind. After he and mom say prayers, it’s time, and the question of whether he’s going to “keep mommy’s pillow warm” or go to bed in the boys’ room comes up. Andy hates going to bed by himself, since his older brothers stay up much later.

Now, I know the issue of “co-sleeping” is one that has filled many a parenting manual. We’ve always erred on the side of a full family bed, if for no other reason than it makes him fall asleep instantly as opposed to creating another process an hour or more long where he tosses and turns, pops out of bed, gets in trouble, sulks, goes back to bed, whines for water, etc. And since Jen works into the wee hours, I like having a buddy.

We’ve started the process of getting him to sleep in his own bed, and some nights it works OK. But as the last of our little ones, I’m still in no rush. He’ll be on his own pretty soon, I’m sure. Maybe next month, or by the end of the year.

Certainly by the time he graduates high school, for sure.

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