I am not a night owl. I like going to bed early, and I’ve discovered that by nine o’clock the efficiency of my brain is significantly impaired. On the other hand, I am quickly awake in the morning (when I’ve had enough sleep), and I think best in the morning.
Not all my children work that way. From the time she was an infant, Bethel has stayed up after everyone else is asleep. It has never been unusual for Lee and I to go to bed at ten or eleven and hear a bright “Good night, Mommy and Daddy!” from her bedroom.
This year I started giving Bethel (age seven) the ability to stay up later to read or write or sing or play with her playmobil. The only catch is that she has to stay in bed and be relatively quiet. All the children have small lights that clip onto their bed, so Laurel (who is not a night owl and shares a room with Bethel) is not usually disturbed and can go to sleep while Bethel’s brain is happily buzzing.
Several mornings after being told she has this freedom, Bethel has dragged herself out of bed and been grouchy. She says, “I stayed up too late last night.”
I figure it’s good for her to learn that while her brain works well at night, in the real world, we must adjust to other people’s schedules. So I told her if she’s too tired to function in the morning, she needs to go to sleep sooner. She is learning. (This is a skill that many night owls don’t learn until adulthood. Why not let her learn it now?)
If we have something going on that requires us to all be up early, I will tell her that she must go to sleep at the normal bedtime. And if Lee and I have stayed up late and her light is still on, we’ll sometimes tell her to go to sleep.
Adjusting to a flexible schedule has taken about a year. At this point, unless I need her to be awake early, she goes to bed when she wants to. (Her brother and sister have the same ability to stay up, but they choose to go to bed right away.) I really don’t know when she goes to sleep, but it’s usually around ten o’clock. She typically wakes up about a half hour later than her siblings.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about a new experiment that I’ve been trying with letting her do her schoolwork at night.
This has been a fun experiment for me. It’s been a helpful reminder that God made my children different from me, and I want to be helping them learn about how God made them. (Of course, not everyone can so easily accommodate a night owl. Families and schedules are different!) I need to be looking for more ways that I can be sensitive when their interests, motivations, fears, and personalities are different than mine.