Turning the Bedtime Struggle into Precious Time Together

The Nightly Bedtime StruggleI don’t know if it’s her age or that time of year, but the past few weeks Bella has been a complete beast to get to sleep. She whines all the way to bed — through brushing her teeth and hair, putting on her nightclothes, even reading a story. We keep the same routine every night as much as we can, but no matter what we do, she falls apart. She’s up until 10 or later, even with an 8:30 bedtime.

For a while, I thought it was because she was still taking a nap. At four and a half, I know I’m pretty darn lucky to still have a kid that naps, yet I was OK with saying goodbye and switching to simply a quiet reading/play time.

When we dropped naptime, Bella was even more temperamental. She would cry all afternoon about being tired, but then still be up at night until all hours.

We’ve tried essential oils, we have a sound machine, her room is cool, she has a night light, she gets to read with a timer set, and each of those we’ve tried to eliminate for a while to see if that was the issue. No luck. She’s gotten in the habit of popping out of her room and asking a thousand random questions to avoid sleeping, which in turn leaves Sam and I frustrated and on edge with her.

We both are tired of ending our nights cranky and exhausted.

Tonight, she showed me that she’d been drawing in a little journal that came with her Doc McStuffins toys a few months ago. I remembered my friend Casey’s daughter from Life with Roozle drawing each night till she fell asleep, and figured it was worth a shot. I pulled out crayons, a clipboard with paper, and let her go. Instead of kissing her goodnight and leaving, I ended up sitting on the end of her bed listening to her tell me about drawing dragons and fireflies.

She didn’t go to sleep right away after that. What did happen was we spent some time together, just her and me, talking and listening. Sometimes I think I forget how small she still is. How long the nights must seem, how far away our living room must feel to her. Maybe she even feels left out. It can’t change the fact that she still has to have a bedtime, and at some point go to sleep at a decent hour, but it changed my heart and mind a little more.


Diana blogs at Diana Wrote about her life with a daughter here and three sons in heaven, life as an army wife, and her faith. You can also find her work on Liberating Working Moms, Still Standing Magazine, She Reads Truth, The New York Times, and The Huffington Post. Smaller glimpses into her day are on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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