I’ve always been a night person, not a morning person. It’s easier for me to stay up all night and watch the sun rising, than it is for me to go to bed early and leap out of bed in the morning. When my son was smaller I’d spend all day with him and then start working when he went to sleep at night, even if “working” was just doing household chores. As a single parent, it’s hard to get everything done in daytime hours when you’ve got a small child following you around demanding your constant attention.
When my son was little, say 3 years old, he started waking really early. Okay, I know “really early” means different things to different people. To me, it is like… 5:30am. I was not happy to have to crawl out of bed to supervise my son from this hour. Often it meant I’d only had 4 to 5 hours sleep. Not enough!! So I bought him a sleep training clock.
The one we settled on is a friendly looking elephant called “Mumbo” which makes calming ambient jungle sounds at the set wake-up time, instead of a loud beeping alarm sound. When you set it at night, it closes it’s eyes. When it’s time to wake up, it opens it’s eyes and makes it’s jungle noises. I simply set it for 7:00am and told him he had to stay in bed until Mumbo’s eyes are open. It took him a while to get used to it, of course.
To start with, he’d just get up whenever he felt like it. I had my own alarm set for 7:00am too. So if he was up and about too early, I’d just send him back to his bedroom. I told him that I didn’t mind if he played quietly in there, but that he had to stay in bed until Mumbo woke up. When he did stay in his room till 7:00am, I’d shower him with praise. It took months to work consistently, but work it did! For the past 5 years he’s slept until a respectable hour and not bothered me on the rare occasions he does wake up early. Mumbo saved my sanity!
In the last year or so, as he’s become more sensible and responsible, I’ve taken it a step further. When it was school holidays or the weekend and I knew I wanted to sleep late, I’d tell him I was tired and ask him to please let me sleep later, so that I wouldn’t be grumpy. I hate being grumpy with my child, but no doubt you know it’s hard not to be when running on little sleep. And when he did let me sleep late, I’d reward him with praise and treats like pancakes for breakfast or organising a friend to visit. Success!
I think it was the bribery that worked the best. Now I could sleep late most weekends if I want to. Of course, because weekends can still be busy we’re often up early anyway, getting ready to go somewhere or do something. But on those rare occasions when we have nothing planned, I love staying snuggled in bed and catching up on some of that sleep I missed during the week.
When I occasionally tell friends and family that I slept in until 10:00am, they are always astonished. Apparently this is not something that most parents of 8 year olds, single or otherwise, get to do very often. It wasn’t all smooth sailing. Plenty of times he let me sleep in, while making a massive mess of the kitchen or lounge room. But, in the end, it’s been worth it.
Do you ever get to sleep in? Please share any advice you have on how you get your child to cooperate.