Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Resetting the inner clock

I didn’t mention this at the beginning of the year, but I’ve been battling to reset Baby’s internal clock since her summer holidays, and finally, it has been done.

Today, for the first time since the summer holidays when she went to visit her bio mother, Baby fell asleep at nearly 20h00, without prompting or argument. She was watching a TV show she likes, but her body simply told her it was time to sleep and acted accordingly. Yay! Life has gone back to normal.

I know its conventional wisdom in Western culture that kids g to bed at a certain time, but many African children go to bed when their parents do so. Even today in modern SA, a number of Baby’s friends say they sleep when they are sleepy, whenever that is.

Then there are the families who have bed-time for kids, but make an exception during the school holidays. The rationale is that the child doesn’t have to wake up early to go to school, so she can stay up longer.

While I’m strict about bed-time whether it’s during the school year or not, Baby’s bio mother makes an exception for school holidays. So during the past summer visit, Baby stayed up as long as she liked.

They all thought it was wonderful, until they realized that Baby was staying up longer and longer and the late nights were not compensated by morning sleep-ins. She still woke up around 06h00 in the morning, exhausted and becoming increasingly bad tempered.

I think it was the night they heard her pace down the passage around 03h00 and found her watching TV when they eventually woke up around 08h00 when they decided it was time she was returned back to me.

It was a couple of days after Christmas, more than 3 weeks before she was due to come back from her visit with her bio mother. But clearly, the situation was not sustainable.

Getting Baby back on her normal sleep schedule was difficult. Her inner clock was completely off, and she struggled falling sleep at night. And once she did fall asleep, there was no guarantee she’d stay that way. In January, I lost count of the number of times she woke me up because she’d run out of sleep. I was constantly exhausted at work.

To Baby, I became the bad witch who was forcing her to sleep early on weekends. She wanted to know she had to sleep early, when she didn’t have school the following day.

“Because you need the rest,” was my answer, but clearly it wasn’t enough to satisfy her. I wasn’t going to resort to: “because I say so!” That is so juvenile.

Thank God things are now back to normal. Finally, Baby is back to her normal routine, getting the rest she needs, and finally I can relax.

Ironically, Baby’s mid-term break begins tomorrow (ends Tuesday), but she stays on her normal sleep schedule with one exception: she can sleep in if she wants to.

To read story ideas coming out of this event, click here

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