What is bed time? For an adult, bed time is generally considered to be the time when the adult has finished doing whatever that adult is doing and no longer wishes to remain conscious. At that point, the adult will generally find a soft horizontal surface on which to lay and will then be silent and motionless until a state of sleep is achieved. This is how it normally works.
For a child, bed time is the time at which that child's primary authority unit (typically a parent) says that the child should also find a soft horizontal surface on which to lay, be silent, and remain motionless until a state of sleep is achieved. Generally, it is helpful for the child if the place where they lay is quiet, dark, and comfortably warm (or cool, depending on the time of year).
For my three children, bed time has three very different meanings.
For my youngest son, bed time is immediately preceded by a drink of water, a hug from one of his parents, and a story. This child will usually then climb into his bed and will then proceed to chatter for several minutes about very random stuff until his parent eventually makes an excuse to leave ("I really have to go to the bathroom!"), says goodnight for the thirtieth time, and walks away. He will usually be found asleep ten minutes later.
For my daughter, bed time is a process whereby she turns on a lamp that shines a dim rainbow across her walls (and in her face! despite her parents telling her not to do that) and stares at it until it turns off after it's ten minute timer expires. At that point, she will turn it on again and stare at it some more. This sometimes will happen three or four times until she finally drifts off to sleep.
For my oldest son, bed time involves at least one act of dishonesty. Every night at the appointed hour, he is instructed to go to bed, and every night, with a yawn, he agrees that it is time to do so. He will then go to the bathroom (slamming the toilet seat down in the bathroom right next to his sleeping sister's and brother's bedrooms), get a drink from the bathroom sink by noisily turning on and off the sink, and then slamming his door shut as he goes to bed. All this is done without any thought -- any thought -- on his part as to the effect it may have on his siblings.
Last night, he took a book with him into his room as he was closing the door. Knowing my son very well, I told him not to take the book in his room with him, as it was bed time and he needed to sleep. He then told me he wasn't going to read, but wanted to keep it in his room so he knew where it was in the morning. I told him to leave it in the hallway and he could get it from there in the morning. I also reminded him that he typically doesn't have time to read in the morning because he is often slow moving (and grumpy) when getting ready for school. He then assured me again that he wasn't going to stay up and read, and insisted that he would be quick when getting ready for school in the morning. Skeptical, I allowed him to take the book with him.
Half an hour later, my wife and I decided to go to bed, too. As I always do, I checked on the kids before I went to sleep, and sure enough, I found my daughter was still staring at her rainbow, my youngest son (happily) was sound asleep, and my oldest son had his reading lamp on and was reading. I took the book away, told him he was being dumb about this as he knows he needs his sleep, and threatened him that he better be quick to get ready and not give his mother trouble in the morning. His totally lame response? "I wasn't going to read when I went to bed." Uh huh.
This appears to be a regular routine for us for his bed time. Why doesn't he recognize how noisy he is being when he does his final stuff before going to his room? Why doesn't he recognize how hard the next day will be if he doesn't go to bed on time? Why doesn't he comprehend that the process of falling asleep requires that he be inactive, with the lights out and his mind idle? And most importantly of all, why does he insist on breaking his insistent promises to not stay up late reading? Because he's a stupid pre-teen, that's why. Studies have shown that children of that age don't reason properly, logical decision-making is impaired, and selfishness and self-centeredness is common.
I shake my head in bewilderment. I love my son, and I am grateful for him. Even so, I look forward to him getting through this stupid phase. I hear it will take another ten years ... *sigh*
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