We Shall Only Rest

We used to have a teeny weeny problem with sleep in our house. At 3, my daughter despised bedtime with every ounce of energy her pint sized body could muster. And the kid could muster.

Bedtime involved crying, kicking, hurling herself at the door. Anything to avoid being tucked into bed. I referred to this as “wrestling Rosemary‘s Baby”. I was done wore out. Short of restraints and duct tape, Lil Miss Thang was not going to sleep.

Until… my boyfriend brought peace and harmony with one little phrase.

“You have to rest. You don’t have to sleep” he whispered to her one night. So simple. I beat my head against the wall. Why didn’t I think of that?

We picked out a special basket. It lived by her bed. Part of our bedtime ritual become filling the basket. A few special books. A stuffed animal. A nifty flashlight. A cool rock from the last trip to the park. We’d do the usual bedtime thing. Bath. PJ’s. Bedtime Stories. Then it was time for rest. But not sleep.

The only rule: she had to stay in bed. She could read, talk to her stuffed animal, pet her rock – flex her imagination and conjure up a wonderland in the hills and valleys of her bedspread.

And within 30 minutes – she was zonked out with a rock and flashlight in hand. Her little brain had time to unwind. Squeezing out a final few minutes of motion and chatter.

My mistake- insisting the end goal was sleep. A time of missing out on the magic of Awake. Simply because her eyes closed.

10 years later she still “rests”. The favorite rock has long since been misplaced. She reads until her eyes get heavy. She talks to her dog and strums an acoustic air guitar until sleep sneaks up and calls her to the other side. Rest but not sleep. Serious semantics.
What are your bedtime rituals?

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  • Karla
    November 29, 2012 at 10:06 AM

    Love it! We use much the same with our 3 year old daughter now! My 8 year old and my 13 month old twins- perfect sleepers, now. They have the easiest of good nights, a prayer kiss and cuddle and lights
    Out. Miss 3, has always been hard to put to bed recently has gotten better, she has to go to bed with the normal goodnights and An extra ‘don’t want to see you or hear you until morning, go read or play quietly in your bed’ some nights she will come out and ask for me to sit with her because she is ready to fall asleep other nights she just falls to sleep mid play! Sleeping kids are bliss aren’t they! No matter what age, A sigh of relief that comes with the end of a long day 🙂

  • Lisa Waszkiewicz / Franny Bolsa
    November 29, 2012 at 3:28 PM

    Sleeping kids really are bliss. I love my Girl Wonder when she’s awake. Even when we both have “not so awesome” moments. When she’s asleep I get a chance to remember just how deep my love for her runs – despite dirty socks on the floor or a dirty spoon and cereal bowl on her desk. Plus, I can then watch whatever I want on Netflix 🙂

  • Madeline
    November 29, 2012 at 4:30 PM

    We tried the “you don’t have to sleep, you just have to stay in your room,” but it wore off after a few months. Finally, after talking to some people whose opinion I respect, we realized maybe she just wasn’t tired at bedtime and maybe she wanted some alone time with Mom and Dad without her little brother around. So we do our bedtime routine, but when she comes out, we let her sit with us. She never wants to play or cause a rukus, she just wants to sit with us as we watch tv, fold laundry, read, or whatever. The first night, she slept with us (which she never does!) and a month later, she was back to her regular bedtime. If she gets up, we let her hang out, but she will now be shooed back to bed after a bit without much of a fight.

  • Lisa Waszkiewicz / Franny Bolsa
    November 29, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    Every kid needs something different don’t they. Only problem is we, as parents, have to play detective to figure out what there little hearts and minds need. Once we find there “slow down / off” switch – life is better for all.

  • Sandy H
    November 29, 2012 at 10:14 PM

    I used the same language of rest rather than sleep with the little boy I nanny in relationship to his afternoon nap. If his mom comes home and asks if he took a nap he will say “no, I took a rest”. He doesn’t nap on my days off, I think because mom and dad are still saying “take a nap” so he fights it tooth and nail! It’s amazing how that simple word choice can make such a difference!

    • Lisa Waszkiewicz / Franny Bolsa
      December 9, 2012 at 9:21 PM

      Just go to prove that words matter! Thanks so much for reading.

  • jJolene
    December 8, 2012 at 9:48 PM

    We do something similar. We have a basket of quiet toys we only pull out after dinner. We put away all noisy toys and toys the get them hyper. After dinner we don’t allow toys in the living room. When it is time for bed we turn off all the lights except for the light in their room. My husband and I use our laptop/tablet in the dark while the boys play quietly in their room. When they fall asleep we watch TV. It works pretty well in the fall/winter when it is dark at bedtime and they have been at school all day. Summer is a whole different story. We have a 5 year old boy who has autism and a typical 3 year old boy. We have found that we can’t just tell them to go to bed. There has to be some kind of wind down. I love this post. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one that has trouble keeping a three year old in bed.

    • Lisa Waszkiewicz / Franny Bolsa
      December 9, 2012 at 9:24 PM

      You are soooo not alone. I think sleep on command is a challenge for a lot of kids, even grown ups. Even at 13, my girl still needs that wind down time to shut off the day and shift gears. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and I appreciate you taking the time to read.