When IS Lost Sleep Worth It and How Do You Manage It?

In my last post, I talked about our experience with our kids needing a lot of sleep and how it’s generally not worth it to push that. But sometimes it is! This will obviously vary a LOT from family to family, but here are some times it is worth it for us:

  • Unique and Special Experiences: We attended a Passover Seder a few days ago and knew it would end late. Still, it was our kids’ first Seder, and especially since it fell during the Christian Holy Week, it was an experience we wanted them (and us) to have. We also take them to a performance of the Nutcracker each Christmas season, and have attended baseball games, family parties, and school events. We want to live life and enjoy it! If we can, we’ll try to suggest earlier times with family/friends. If the timing is non-negotiable, we go and explore and have fun. I figure as long as those events are more the exception rather than the rule, we’re good.
  • While traveling: It would be impossible for bedtimes to stay completely on track while traveling. I find that having that expectation helps manage my own anxiety about getting them to sleep. Additionally, I find that my kids actually do a lot better with missed sleep while traveling than at home. There’s something about the excitement of new places and lots of attention and family time that helps them relax and manage their behavior better, as well. (And since I’m a bit more lax than normal, we can use bribery to our advantage; see below.)
Here are some things we do to help things go more smoothly when we know it’s going to be a late night:
  • Late Naps: This is probably obvious, but if we can, I’ll try to push naps a bit later so the kids aren’t quite as tired late at night.
  • DO Naps: Nat generally stopped napping about a year ago, around 5.5 (although he continued taking a catch-up nap about once a week for several months after that). Still, even now, if I can wear him out well in the morning, and I have a really good bribe, I can usually eek out a nap if needed. For the aforementioned Seder, I told him how excited we all were to go, but that it would end well past normal bedtime. He had had a busy morning, so it worked well and he was able to nap for a little over an hour, which made all the difference that night.
  • Gear the Kids Up: When we know it’s a late and special experience, we try to talk to our kids about it beforehand. We tell them the importance of it and help them get excited, and lay out what kind of behavior we expect. We tell them that if they want to be able to have special experiences like that, then they need to show us their very best behavior so we can trust them to stay up late for special events in the future. It’s not perfect, of course, but it helps a LOT when they are aware of the expectations and ramifications.
  • Bribery: Obviously, bribery isn’t the very best parenting tip in all the land. Still, I’m a firm believer that it has its place. I tend to be pretty strict when we’re at home about food (we don’t generally do processed snacks), violin practice, small chores (unloading the dishwasher), etc. So when we’re on vacation and those things are a bit more lax, we all tend to relax.
  • Along with that, having low “fun mom” standards at home helps – My kids are always pretty dang thrilled with a baggie of goldfish on vacation, to have some sort of fun markers or crafty thing, or to have some screen time.
  • New Books: My kids are all big bookworms, so having a book about a new place or event is always a big hit. We have several books about National Parks/nature/the United States, so they loved reading those in the car while we were road tripping across the US or through the Southwest. We also read a book about Passover that included different Seder rituals before arriving, and then took it in with us, as well. It was nice that they had some understanding of what to expect, what was happening, and then something to read while there if needed. (The congregation also provided a coloring page with the different parts of the Seder plate, which was wonderful.)
Those are some exceptions we make and things we do to help. How about you?

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