Though many parents will agree that an “early to bed and early to rise” sleep schedule is the most appropriate for a child, one of the difficulties of implementing such a schedule in this part of the world lies in the fact that we are inherently a “late to rise and late to sleep” culture.
Simply looking at the hours of operation and office work hours is indication enough for the kind of schedules we keep. Shopping malls open at 10am and sometimes 11am, and they don’t close until 10pm at night. Parents are officially at work in the office until 6pm but usually stay back late for OT and may not get home until 8pm or later. In order to see their parents and spend time with them, children inevitably stay up late and sleep in to catch up on missed sleep.
I used to attend Fitfor2 where I knew some mothers who used to live in Finland. Having been used to a very different lifestyle, their children were often awake by 6am or 7am. They complained about the lack of activities available here since the earliest most businesses opened their doors was at 10am. Back in their home country, shops opened earlier. Parents could expect to be home early for dinner because the official closing time for the offices is about 4-5pm.
As a result, Gavin has always been late to bed and late to rise. However, since starting him at school, we have had to make a massive shift in his sleeping habits to accommodate the school schedule. It took us over a week to get him into some semblance of a sleep routine appropriate for the early start to school. Even then we were still out by an hour or two on occasion.
The new change in his sleep schedule has also had a huge impact on our evening activities. After dinner, there is only a brief window for activity before Gavin must begin his pre-sleep activities – bath, wind-down, story and sleep. Since Gavin started school, hubby and I have hardly gone out in the evenings. Gavin, too, has missed his regular days at the shopping mall. This is most evident when he refuses to go home whenever we chance to visit one. Most outings are reserved for weekends only.
After the difficulty and stress I endured to rearrange Gavin’s sleep cycles, I was naturally reluctant to make accommodations when Gavin’s holidays came. I wanted to maintain his new schedule as much as possible so we wouldn’t have to readjust his sleeping patterns again when school restarted. All might have worked out well if we hadn’t traveled down to Singapore for the weekend. Being a new environment, it was only natural that Gavin would resist sleep with the kind of will power even a parent has to be impressed by.
Here’s the lesson that I learned:
There are times when you need to enforce the rules and times when you need to relax them. The trip down to Singapore was clearly a time when I needed to relax the rules about nap time and bed time.