Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Thanks, Pavlov

Last night I went out with some neighbour friends for "coffee." Not unlike owning a "coffee table," going out for "coffee" doesn't mean that you actually have to have coffee. I don't drink coffee but it wasn't awkward at all because my neighbour across the street doesn't drink coffee either—and she's the wife of an evangelical pastor. She and I got the Caramel Apple Spice drink...from the kids' menu. It was divine!

But I digress...

Besides Relief Society meetings I've never had a "girl's night out" before (because I've always gone out with friends, all our children in tow, during the day) but I think it's a fabulous idea. Benjamin tagged along, of course, but he's cute and doesn't interrupt conversations (too badly). We were able to sympathize with each other about the difficult day we'd had with our children while simultaneously giggling that we'd left our husbands in charge of them while we were out having grown up conversations. Of course, our conversations had the same subject matter that they do when we visit on the porch steps while our children play in the front yard, but we were at least able to visit with each other without interjecting commands ("If you found that on the ground don't eat it!") and reprimands ("Next time you pull hair we're going home!") or answering random questions ("No, you can't have any gummy bears. We don't even have gummy bears!").

Because I was planning on going out this evening—after Andrew got home from school but before bedtime—I moved our bedtime routine back a bit so that I could do story time and the whole shebang before I left so that the girls would go to bed nicely for Andrew. He's taking a killer stats class this semester and has been so stressed out about homework that I didn't want him to have to fight them to bed.

We'd actually had a pretty good afternoon. The girls were determined to earn "smiley face" status for their reward chart (they can get a frown, a straight face, or a smiley face—the latter is obviously the best) and were helpful and kind for most of the afternoon. Things did get a little wild for a while but didn't ever descend into complete chaos like they had on Monday.

I explained to the girls while we were eating dinner—grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup (I burned one of the sandwiches quite badly because I left it on the stove while I attended to some of that wildness I mentioned, which was apparently a bad idea)—that I'd be going out so we'd just start getting ready for bed right after dinner but that they'd still have about an hour before bed after Daddy got home.

Much to my surprise they finished eating, cleared their dishes, put them in the dishwasher (with a little guidance), got on their pyjamas, brushed their teeth, and were sitting on the couch, ready for stories before I could even tell them to. I didn't prod or nag or anything. It was amazing.

We read a couple of short stories and were in the middle of a chapter from On the Shores of Silver Lake when Andrew came home. We finished up our chapter, read scriptures, said family prayers and...

The girls went and got in their beds! At 7:20 PM! Without being asked!

Talk about a pavlovian response.

"What do we do?" I fretted to Andrew. "There's still forty minutes until bedtime!"

"Are you crazy?!" he whispered back. "We let them go to bed! I mean, they put themselves there. They didn't complain—and, look!—they've already tucked themselves in!"

"Good point."

So I went in and sang lullabies and helped the girls say their bedtime prayers while Andrew got them their ice water and vitamins. Then I left with Benjamin. Benjamin, who stayed awake the entire time we were gone—which wasn't all that long (we were home before 10), but still! He'd been awake since about four in the afternoon (and the only reason he'd napped at all was because I vacuumed while wearing him in the sling). It seemed he was determined to stay awake for the rest of his life!

"I know we're at a coffee house" I said to Benjamin, who was still awake even after I'd nursed him, "But, come on! I'm drinking cider here!"

"Does he sleep well after staying awake for so long like this?" my friend asked. "Because my girls always seemed to sleep worse if they were awake for a long time."

"I know," I said. "Sleep leads to sleep, as they say. He's been pretty unpredictable with his sleeping, though. He sleeps when I think he won't and doesn't when I think he will."

(Maybe the solution is to just stop thinking...)

Benjamin slept through the whole night again (for second time in his life—the first time being Saturday night).

The girls slept through the whole night, too. They fell asleep right away, Andrew said, and didn't come out of their beds for anything, even though they'd gone to bed an hour earlier than usual, which has got me thinking. Maybe bedtime needs to be moved back. Maybe our house would be a happier house with that extra hour of sleep under our belts. Seven o'clock seems so early for bedtime, though, and we've already determined that thinking is, perhaps, the problem altogether.

But having my girls put themselves to bed and having Benjamin sleep all night? I could get used to that! 


  1. Our bedtime was 7:00 for our kids for most of their lives. It's now 8:00, and it's been a bit tough! I'm getting really excited for daylight savings so I can readjust it to closer to 7 because hey, it's already park outside so it must be bedtime!

  2. Sometimes I feel like a really awful day is followed by a really good, and vice versa. It;'s like the universe needs to balance itself out somehow. As for bedtimes, Espen went to bed at 7 for the first two years of his life, and has been going to bed between 7 and 8 for the past six months. Naptime has been a little sketchy of late, so I'm not sure what that will mean in the long run. I do know that I absolutely rely on having him asleep by 8:15 so I can have the rest of the evening to myself. That way Espen gets a much happier mama in the mornings! Of course, two months from now that will change and who knows what kind of sleep we'll all be getting then.

  3. All of our kids go to bed at 7pm and are supposed to stay in their beds until 7am. It is so nice to have a couple of hours in the evening. Although 7pm bedtime is hard during soccer season.

  4. Put them to bed at seven! You can do it!

  5. I LOVE it when that happens! My boys were in bed at 6:30 last night when the doorbell rang and our new neighbor was bringing us an FHE treat. :D I'm ALL in favor of early bedtime - but it means that they almost never see Josh when he's working and it puts a damper on our social life because 8 is a much more common bedtime. Whatever, it's totally worth it to me. I put them to bed at 8 and they're up at 5, I put them to bed at 7 and they're up at 7:30 or 8. I wonder what they'd do if I put them to bed at 4 when I've had it with them? Hmmm.... :D (seriously, experiment and find that sweet spot!)