I recently wrote about how Owen liked to stay up until midnight (ok, 9:00, but it often felt like midnight) and asked the internet at large for advice. By far the leading contender in the Advice Olympics was "put the child to bed earlier." Which seems like a no-brainer, right? But sometimes, especially when you have been sleep-deprived for going on five years now, the obvious does not seem so obvious. Many people suggested that we gradually move Owen's bedtime earlier to help him adjust to the change. But what really rung true for me was a comment from Sabrina. She said now look, this child isn't going merrily along until 9:00 every night at which point he drops like a stone, so it isn't some ingrained circadian rhythm that is keeping him up. It is that it takes an hour to get him to sleep, so if you want him in bed an hour earlier, start the whole hullabaloo an hour earlier.
Um, ding ding ding ding ding? Yes, of course. Owen stays up late because we let him stay up late. We let him stay up late because it took so damned long to get him to sleep that we thought staying up later might make it go faster. And it did, for a day or two, and then it didn't. So we let him stay up later still. Lather, rinse repeat until insanity ensues.
So we realized that we were the problem. We also realized that Owen has never had his own bedtime routine, at least not since he stopped nursing. We've been doing Mia's bedtime routine and basically just trying to keep Owen from interfering, and once that is done he gets either dumped into bed (bad) or taken downstairs to watch cartoons (also bad).
We've made some changes. Owen now goes into his room at 7:00 every night with whichever parent is up in the rotation (we alternate kids nightly). That happens regardless of where Mia is in her bedtime routine, which has meant that she has had to endure some changes to her usual schedule, but she's been very gracious about it. So Owen's door closes at 7:00 and he is in his room for the night (well ok, the first part of the night). He gets stories and cuddles and his lovies and his blankie and his music turned on and Mommy or Daddy sitting in the glider reading (to ourselves, not to him) until he falls asleep and clearly this is still far from perfect, but you know what? He's been asleep by 8:00 three nights in a row now, and sleeping until 7:00 most mornings. He's also cut his naps down from 1.5 hours to 1 hour, but that still means that I usually get 15 minutes a day with both children secured in their rooms and that is generally enough to preserve my sanity.
And finally, we moved him out of the crib, which was two months overdue. It has only been two nights, and he is waking up more often at night confused about where he is, but he likes to climb in and lie down, so it has helped the falling asleep process at naptimes and night.
Next challenge, getting him to sleep through the night, but one thing at a time, right?