It’s 9:39 and quiet, for the first night in a while. 
For some reason, my girls have been fighting sleep. It started with my oldest, a shift I felt right after we returned from our July vacation when our family had slept in the same room for a week. She started getting anxious when I left her at bedtime, sometimes working herself up into a state of panic over the prospect of going to sleep.
After ten years, you’d think this would be easy by now, wouldn’t you?
Things would ebb and flow from week to week, from “normal” to “not”, but it wasn’t until this past week when my middle daughter started to exhibit anxiety at bedtime that my ability to handle this cracked. Every night: Up and down to the bathroom, 6, 7, 8 times each. Stomachaches. Tears. Crying. Sometimes by me.
I fluctuated from Understanding Mother to Samuel L. Jackson reading this book. I took away TV privileges and allowance. I tried reasoning with them during daylight hours, assuring them that their bladders could not fill up in ten minutes without them chugging a gallon of water. I sat on the floor outside their room for so long, my butt grew numb.
Then I found an article online this morning on a godawful-looking website that really helped. I had hesitated to even search for articles because, seriously, who the hell has 8 & 10 year old kids who can’t fall to sleep on their own? 
Oh, Google, I should not have doubted you. I was amazed at how many people I found online with older children who were literally shaking at the prospect of going to sleep. Maybe it has to do with kids reaching an age when they realize how helpless they are while asleep, or maybe they worry about death or fire or theft, but I don’t think we are the only family going through this.
Tonight, I took a different tact—calmer, with rules for when they could visit the bathroom “one last time”. I stopped in to check on them a few times, to reassure them that they were okay, and there were hardly any tears. 
The sound of three sleeping children is a beautiful one. 
And now I will knock on wood because, heaven help me, I have never been able to say a good thing about my kids and sleeping without it coming back to bite me the next day. In other words: Tomorrow night? Send cupcakes and wine. I think I’ll need it.


  1. I've gone through this a few different times with E, who is now almost 7. It's so maddening, and it's just like you describe. The bathroom trips. The anxiety. The last minute panicky questions about [insert thing to be worried about here]. The fact that we'll go for a while where it's good, then BAM. Suddenly I'm extra tired and stressed too.

    Of course, I know my getting angry won't help, but sometimes (many times) it comes out and just makes things worse.

    Fortunately, sometimes I can remember to be calm and that usually helps. I just wish it didn't take so long for me to remember that.

  2. solsticemom says

    My son (almost 9) goes through periods where he's afraid to sleep alone, etc. He says he gets nightmares. It's sad that young kids are having bad dreams.

  3. Suburban Correspondent says

    Yes, somewhere around 9 years old, they realize how big and alien the rest of the world can be. My daughter had nightmares every night for over a year. It was awful.

    Do the girls share a room? Would that help?

  4. I have an 8 & 10 (plus 6) year old that can't go to sleep on their own either. I dread the whole bedtime thing. By the time we get everyone settled, its usually close to 10! I sympathize.

  5. My sympathies. Mine are only 4 and 6, but we struggle with bedtime NIGHTLY around here.

    One or two trips downstairs for an extra kiss or whatever is fine, but sometimes it goes on forEVER until I just want to cry.

    I have had success with a couple of things.

    First, they get to read in bed before it's lights out.

    Second (with my daughter), if she really seems uneasy, I give her my pillow to cuddle. Bizarrely, this works really well to get her to sleep. I miss that extra pillow at night, but….

    Third, if they are just inventing reasons to get up, I tell them that awake kids can be cleaning kids. And I make them go pick up toys until they are wailing that they want to go to bed. I've only had to make them do it a few times, now the threat works.

    Good Luck.

  6. By chance, we got this book out of the library yesterday. I thought of you. I thought of us. Oh, to have a full night's sleep…

    Jake Stays Awake:

  7. I bring my kids (7 and 4) to bed and stay with them until they sleep. It takes between 10 to 20 min but I never once had cries or not wanting to go to bed ;). It is so easy and in the time I just think about the day or what I want to do tomorrow :D.

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