How did Bedtime Get So Late?

A 3 week old swaddled infant

They used to sleep! -- Image via Wikipedia

As I write this, it’s 10:15, and both of my 10 year olds are still awake.  Oh, they’re in bed.  Have been for 45 minutes.  But they’re up. Isn’t there a law, or something about this sort of thing?  Don’t my parental duties – legally speaking – have to end sometime around 9:30? (Barring blood, vomit, or a really, really bad dream, of course.)  I do believe that the parental bill of rights guarantees the mom and dad, after the infant phase is over – at least two hours of quality evening time during which the children sleep calmly in their beds, don’t wander into your bedroom, or call out for water, or another tuck in, or just have one more question they NEEEED to ask.  I read that when I signed on for this gig.  I’m sure  I did.  And if I didn’t – well I should have, and I’m going to petition the parental authorities for my right to at least one or two drama-less, pre-10pm bedtimes per week.  And what with all those conservatives taking over in the midterm elections, I’m sure I could get it passed.

I mean, there oughta be a law!

When my twins were newborns, I got them on a strict sleep schedule: 7:30 bedtime.  They kept that 7:30 bedtime until about second grade, when it became 8:00…and then 8:30 and then 9:00, until sometime during the first half of 5th grade, 10:00 was starting to be pretty normal, and anything earlier than that was a bonus.

How did that happen?

Homework is how.  And sports.  And playdates.  And then before I knew it, my alone time – my time with my husband and NOT my kids – had been reduced to a few glazed-over-after-fighting-about-bedtime minutes before we stumbled, beaten down and demoralized, into bed ourselves.

I’ve tried to take a stand.  I’ve threatened, and cajoled, and gotten into my own bed at 9:15 just to see what would happen.  And you know what happens?  Nothing.

I’m sure we’re just negligent parents.  I’m sure some other, better, parents would still have that 7:30 bedtime. Or at least 8:15.  I’m sure those other parents have children who never forget to put their clothes in the hamper, never have to be reminded to clear their place, and will undoubtedly win Nobel Prizes in physics, literature, and applied math before they’re thirty. But I’m also sure that I don’t know any of those parents…and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to.

The truth is,  kids get older and their bedtimes change. Perhaps we’ve changed too fast, but nothing – save parental exhaustion – lasts forever.  And exhaustion while…exhausting, kind of goes with the parenting territory. But like  Sacagewea,(who my daughter happens to be studying at the moment) I’m going to forge ahead, break new ground, liberate myself from the confines of my circumstances.

In other words, I’m giving up.  But I’m also starting a new rule: after 9:30 pm, I’m off duty. (with the blood/vomit/pestilence rule an exception)

Hey, if they’re old enough to stay up so late, they’re old enough to handle to rest of whatever happens post 9:30 themselves.



  1. Ann Marie says

    I feel your pain. I long for the good old days when the evenings were: bathtime, storytime, prayers and goodnight kisses. All completed by 8:30. It’s 9:55pm I just said goodnight to my 10 yr old & and I can hear my 2 girls getting ready for bed. I’ve lost that “me time” from 9-10pm too.

  2. says

    Love your “off duty” plan…I think it’s great!
    I think my mom held us to a 7:30P bedtime until about 2nd grade too.
    We could never watch the Muppet Show except on Fridays! 🙂

  3. elissaPR says

    Oh I so hear you. It will be 10:15 pm and I start whining: “My day is SO DONE with you…THAT’S IT! I DON’T CARE if your blanket/room/pj’s are too hot….”No! A little bit more in a chapter does NOT mean 10 pages!” Honestly. (And YES, I really do talk like that…)

    But really? Why 10 year olds get to bed so late? I blame American Idol (does not finish til 10!)…and of course, Glee. Which finishes at 9, but DD10 is so wound up after it, there’s no way she’s going to bed right away…

    p.s. Can’t believe this is the first time I’ve read your blog. Shame on me.

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