Saved by the clock - FamilyEducation

Saved by the clock

March 10,2008
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

A lot of people complain about Daylight Savings time; a lot of parents complain about it. I have never minded it so much. I don't mind setting the clocks back in the fall and feeling the anticipation of the winter holidays, and I certainly don't mind setting the clocks forward and having the extra daylight, especially since I always feel as if there are never enough hours during the day to get things done anyway. And although I was terrified that very first Daylight Savings time when our son was only a few months old (what will it do to his schedule? How will we cope?) that particular Daylight Savings came and went and life continued on normally, bedtime schedule and all. Somehow, out of all the parenting advice we were exposed to beginning some seven years ago--the advice on how to get your kid to sleep through the night, how to wean them off the breast/bottle, how to introduce solids, how to feed them solids, how to potty train--out of all of that the one bit we took to heart and internalized immediately was the advice about establishing a smooth and regular bedtime schedule from Day 1. Our bedtime routines with both kids involved lots of steps when they were babies--some of these steps were pleasurable, and still are--like the bedtime cuddles in the dark, and the stories; others--like having to pace the room with T. latched onto my breast for upwards of an hour while I crooned soothing songs, not so pleasurable. But the routines have saved us, so many times. They have saved us when we travel, even as far as across the Atlantic, and the kids, away from home, are lulled into sleep by the familiar: warm baths, stories, cuddles, all in a rhythmic sort of order that wraps them up safely like blankets, even in the strangest of places. The routines have given us the time we need together, too. We are lucky to both be able to spend significant daytime hours with both kids, yet we work full-time, both of us. Lots of work ends up being pushed into the evening hours and then it's a race against the clock and exhaustion to get it all done. We spend most of our evenings sitting side-by-side on the couch, tapping away at the computer, or reading, or writing, and always grading, it seems. We watch TV, or listen to records, and pause now and again to talk a bit about other things. We always eat dinner together every night as a family, even though sometimes it's a truly mind-numbing experience, but we save dessert for when the kids are in bed, and we can savor it more, just the two of us. After I walked the dog last night I returned home to find the kids still bouncing around the family room, and Scott cleaning up from dinner. Time to get ready for bed! I announced cheerfully to T., whose bedtime is about a good hour before L.'s. She paused, turning her face to the windows in the room. But there's still light! She said, pausing in mid-play, her face puckering up in confusion, and her finger pointing indignantly at the window. That was the only protest we got out of her last night. Not long after I scooped her up and carried her upstairs, she was in a warm bath, then zipped her up into her jammies, and I watched her pick out her two books from her bookshelf, tuck in her Care Bears, and spread her favorite blanket out across her pillow, just the way she likes it. Long gone are the days of marathon nursing sessions and even lullabies (although sometimes T. does still ask for a silly song), and even more faraway are those days of rocking L. to sleep; those hours spent patting his back and rocking and patting, until his little downy head stayed down at last, against my shoulder, and I could tiptoe away. Our kids have always needed their bedtime routines and clearly my husband and I need them, too. Perhaps, even, we need them more than our children do, those magical steps that move them closer to sleep, and which open the doors onto the time in the evening that belongs, finally, to just the two of us.