Several years ago, we were driving home from out East from vacation. We usually don't set planned stopping points but drive until we are tired and then we stop. That particular night, it was starting to get dark and we were wondering how much longer we had it in us to go. Both of us were exhausted. It felt really late. We just couldn't go any farther and we decided to stop in West Virginia. We looked at the clock and laughed. It was 7:30. But we seriously felt like it was almost midnight! We decided that West Virginia must be on different time.
One of the biggest changes I noticed when I became a parent is how early my life became and how schedule crazy I became with my babies. I have never been a night owl and have always been more of a morning person. But I did occasionally stay up past 10:00. Now, I am often in my jammies, settling the kids in for the night, turning the lights off downstairs and I will look at the clock and it will be 7:45. 7:45? Really, I'm settling in for the night at 7:45? Often we say to ourselves, "Where are we, West Virginia?"
When I was pregnant with Laci, my SIL gave me a book, "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" about sleep. It became my Baby Bible. Schedule and early bedtimes became very important to me and I stuck to them. It helps that the daycare has a nap schedule established when the kids were 6 months old. Plus, the kids have to get up at 7 and don't have the luxury of "sleeping in". My babies' bedtime has always been 7:00 by the time they are a few months old and they sleep 12 hours. I think they were better off for it. I am a firm believer in the importance of sleep. What worked best for me is when they struggled sleeping through the night was putting them to bed earlier, not later. And it worked! By the time Laci was a year and a half or so, she was "staying up" to 7:30 or so. Calvin is 18 months old now and he is still asleep by 7:15. He loves his sleep. We still struggle with naps on the weekend for Laci and she stays up too late. Unfortunately, her behavior suffers for it. I know when she doesn't get enough sleep that there will be tantrums the next day. She has a very distinct tired tantrum. It's clear that the tantrum is because she is tired, not naughty.
The only problem with their great sleep schedule is that to get Calvin in bed by 7:15, we have really early lives. Now that he is a little older, we make exceptions and occasionally, he is even able to stay out until 8. I know, crazy. We find ourselves going out to dinner early or saying silly things like "It's getting late, we need to get home" when it is 7:00. We're often the first ones to parties and the first ones to leave. Our weekend activities are scheduled for morning or late afternoon to accommodate a nap. It is a bit limiting. I know that this phase won't last forever. Laci was almost 3 when Calvin was born and we were starting to go out in the evenings more often. We'll resume our big "night life" soon enough. But my happy children with their sleep schedule is definitely worth sacrificing the late nights. Until then, we'll just keep living on West Virginia time.