Confession: I put my children to bed early.
Like really early.
Like before the sun goes down early.
When my son was born, a friend passed on a "first year schedule" to me that was my security blanket as I navigated the different life stages with a newborn, baby, and toddler. Even though the nap times and feeding times fluctuated depending on the day, the bedtime NEVER did. I was a bedtime drill sergeant. My family and friends would laugh and joke about this routine, but I never wavered. "Put them to bed later and they will sleep later," they said. Nope! My children woke up at the same time every morning, whether they went to bed at 6:30 or 8:30.
Our family thrived on the early bedtime routine, especially when my daughter made her appearance 19 months after my son. Our bedtime routine looked like this when the kids were itty bitty...
5:00 - children ate dinner
5:30 - bath time
6:00 - watch TV, cuddle, relax
6:20 - brush teeth, read books
6:30 - prayers and lights out
6:31 - adult time!
In those early years with two little ones, our adult time at night was a lifesaver. My husband and I ate dinner together, talked, watched our favorite TV shows, and just hung out. Or, if it had been a super long day, I could climb into bed and go to bed early, too! On date nights, the kids were already asleep, so babysitting was easy for the grandparents.
Early bedtimes were a sacrifice at times, but it was worth it for our family and our children's happiness. No one wants to be around an overtired toddler. Did we miss birthday parties or family events? Yes! Did we leave events early to make it home by 6:30? You bet!
As the kids have grown and become more mature, we have extended their bedtimes. They can handle a "late" night for a special occasion, family event, or sports practice. Bedtime doesn't rule our house anymore, but it still sits on a pretty high horse.
These days, our routine looks something like this...
5:30 - family dinner
6:00 - bath time
6:30 - relax, watch TV, finish up homework, play
7:00 - brush teeth, read books
7:15/7:30 - prayers and lights out
7:31 - adult time!
I know this routine may not work for everyone, but it is a perfect balance of structure for our family. I need that adult time when my kids are up and ready to take on a new day at 5:45! And no - even today - putting them to bed later does not equal sleeping in for my two!