For Little Ones, Holiday Fun Leads to Holiday Fatigue
Changes in routine are anything but routine changes.
"Never underestimate the power of the bedtime routine," my mother admonished as she and I watched my son repeatedly hurl himself onto the sofa.
It was Christmas Eve and already two hours past his bedtime. Because we still hadn't gotten around to opening gifts, I convinced myself that he could hold it together for a little while longer. It had been about an hour since he began exhibiting the signs of sleep deprivation.
We were long past eye-rubbing and well into "Phase II," the constant movement of some or all of his body parts in an effort to keep himself awake. I knew the inevitable breakdown was imminent, but because I had walked that line so many times before, I was confident I could sweep him up and get him into bed just seconds before the meltdown.
Well, I don't know if it was the extra tablespoon of rum in my pecan pie, but this time I missed my opportunity. Let's just say whoever wrote Silent Night didn't have an exhausted toddler in the house on Christmas Eve.
That bedtime routine you worked so hard to establish during your baby's first year of life goes right out the window when the visiting relatives, holiday parties and neighborhood gatherings mean staying up later than usual. With no school, and the urge not to spoil the moments spent with out-of-town cousins, we convince ourselves that postponing bedtime just one more night won't be so bad. Yes, they may still wake up around the same time, but don't be fooled. They are tired and that fatigue will rear its ugly head at the most inopportune time the next afternoon.
In our case it was just after we bundled everyone up, tied all the skates and completed less than half a lap around the new ice rink in downtown Silver Spring.
Sure it's okay to take your eye off the clock at bedtime every once in a while - but just like the extra serving of pecan pie, there are consequences for every decision.
If you find the children are repeatedly getting to bed late, be sure to factor that in when making plans for the next day. Perhaps schedule a family nap when your child (or you) starts showing signs of fatigue. Plan to go out in the morning or early afternoon rather than the evening. Throughout the day periodically ask your child how s/he is feeling and remind her that it's alright to let you know when s/he feels tired.
If you do find yourself negotiating with a whining, crying, irrational child, try to remember that it's your fault that s/he is tired, not theirs A hug, a silly joke to make them laugh and a lot of patience will help both of you get through that challenging moment.