It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Early? Nope, both counts.

“She looks pretty tired. She not have a good night?”

Nissa’s face is pale, her eyes drooping and blue-shadowed, her entire demeanour uncharacteristically still as she stands, leaning into daddy’s leg.

“No, it was all right. She was up early, though, out of bed at 6:30.”

I’m surprised enough that it blurts out a bit more bluntly than is my normal style.

“Six-thirty’s not early for a child this age.” Unless… “Though I suppose it might depend on what time she goes to bed.” I’m curious now, because the fact is that anything past 6:30, for an under-two, pretty much constitutes sleeping in.

Dad starts ruminating. “Well, let’s see… she had her bath early, about… we got through supper early and she had her bath… it was early… probably 7:30, so she was in bed by eight.”

Okay, now. An eight-o’clock bedtime for a 22-month-old isn’t outrageous, but it is not, by any stretch of the imagination, early. Which makes me wonder, what’s normal in their house?

Oh, well. There are things I control, and things I don’t. The total hours sleep she got last night is perfectly reasonable, but Nissa is still recovering from last week’s plague. She’s weak and exhausted, and within five minutes of dad’s departure, she has had three raging, tearful outbursts.

Within six minutes of dad’s departure, she is down for a nap. Here’s hoping she feels better in an hour or so.

February 10, 2010 - Posted by | health and safety, sleep | , , ,


  1. Hi, this is me delurking. For curiosity’s sake what time do 22 month olds normally go to bed in Canada? In my country, they usually sleep about 9.00-10pm and would wake any time between 7am – 9am, depending if they’ve to be shuttled to a childcare centre for the day or if they get to stay home with a caregiver while their parents go to work.
    I love learning about other cultures. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Now you’ve got me curious. What time do people start work in Singapore, that they can wait as late as that to get their chidlren started on their day?

    While there is wide variation, the general consensus amongst experts here is that babies and toddlers are wired for early-to-bed, early-to-rise schedules, and so toddlers should be in bed between 6:30 and 8:00 p.m, up for the day ten to twelve hours later, depending on their age, activity level, etc. However, consensus amongst experts does not translate into parental practice.

    You’re also right in pointing out that this is very much culturally determined. I once had a Kurdish friend, and what she described was a far cry from what I’d been conditioned to believe healthy … but she seemed to have survived just fine!

    Though my bias is in favour of early to bed, I don’t care so much when the child gets to bed, so long as they’re getting adequate sleep. I’d say a solid 80% of the toddlers I see don’t.

    Comment by Grace | February 10, 2010 | Reply

    • Hmm. Most office workers here start work at about 8.30am or so. Seeing as Singapore is really small and it would take an hour tops to travel from one end to another by car, most people who opt for childcare wake their toddlers up around 7am, get them ready, drop them off for the day, and hurry to work. They pick their kids up from the center about 6.30-7.00pm and hurry home to prepare dinner and spend some time with them.

      Working parents here hardly get to spend enough time with their children. There’s always so much to do in the evenings such as cooking and supervising their older children’s homework that by the time everybody is free, the kids are knackered and have to go to bed. It’s quite sad, actually.

      It’s the constant challenge of being a working (outside the home) parent: finding time for it all! I suspect it translates across cultures, though I’m sure there are cultures which demand far more of its workers, and provide far less flexibility than others.

      I am very grateful that I found a job that enabled me to be home with my kids. For some, working from home with your kids around is a recipe for uber-stress. For me, it’s been the best of both worlds — time with my kids AND an income!

      Comment by Grace | February 10, 2010 | Reply

  2. My son has always been a ten-hours-on-the-dot sleeper. If we put him to bed at 7pm (as his grandparents are constantly urging us to do) he’s up and ready to start his day at 5 am on the nose. If we want him to sleep until 7 am, we have to arrange a 9pm bedtime (that is, we go upstairs at 8 pm, do PJs, teeth, bath if its bath night, stories, snuggles, etc). On the weekends, its not unusual for us to let him stay up a little later (especially in the summer, when its still not totally dark at 8 pm) so he’ll sleep a little later in the morning – which he does. Ten hours, on the nose. Then *bang!* he’s ready to start his day.

    Its amazing, though, how many people are shocked to hear he goes to sleep at 9pm. Kids are different, and have different needs. For him, ten hours sleep is exactly what his body seems to need, since his internal clock is set to wake up not one single second past ten hours of sleep….

    And if he’s cheerful, alert, of a healthy weight and height, and not prone to tantrums and meltdowns, he’s getting enough sleep. Though I admitted by bias to early bedtimes to the previous commenter, I also noted that what matters is that the child is well-rested, not when that rest started. The proof is in the experience. If he shows no signs of sleep-deprivation, he’s not sleep-deprived, and his bedtime is not a problem.

    Comment by anastasiav | February 10, 2010 | Reply

  3. I’m with you on the bedtime stuff, but also on the plague. I had it a couple of weeks ago. I was home from work for 48 hours, but I felt sooooo crappy for at least another 2 days after that. I’m glad poor little Nissa is getting to nap!

    I’m assuming you’ll update us on the no-contract folks when it is appropriate to do so? Just curious as to how it all played out.

    She napped for not one hour, but three (!!) and is now happily playing… while everyone else naps. (Sigh… What can you do?) Even though she had such a long nap, given that it ended about noon and she won’t nap again, it shouldn’t mess her bedtime, and she reeeeeeally needed that sleep!

    I’m interviewing now. Yes, I’ll let you know when I know!

    Comment by Sarah | February 10, 2010 | Reply

  4. Our 18-month-old son has a 7:00 p.m. bedtime. He used to sleep until around 6:00, but we’ve gone through a rough patch this past week with really early wake-ups (I think due to teething and other developmental changes). I wondered whether it would help to move his bedtime later, but my fear (based on past experience) is that we’d move his bedtime later and he’d still wake up very early, thus losing sleep on both ends.

    In the last couple of days, he’s been trending back more towards 5:30-6:00 again, so I’m glad we didn’t do anything hasty about changing his bedtime. I do wonder, though, how we’ll know when it is time to move his bedtime later? He goes to sleep very easily at his bedtime now, so I think we’ve calibrated it just right. Will he start having a difficult time falling asleep at his customary time when it’s time to make a change?

    Comment by Jaimie | February 10, 2010 | Reply

  5. I was fortunate enough to have late sleepers. Once they dropped the early-morning nursing, they’d sleep well past 7:30, after having gone to bed around 8:00 – and that was with a nap or two, depending on age! Even now, Sophie goes to bed around 8:30 and will happily sleep until 9:00 on the weekends! Christopher gets up on his own on the weekends around 8:00, no matter when he goes to bed. During the week, they have to be up at 8:00 and 5:50, respectively.

    Comment by Candace | February 10, 2010 | Reply

  6. When my kids were little (a loooong time ago) and they were sick or just getting over an illness bedtime was moved back by at least an hour if not two.

    Not to discount laughter, but when it comes to young children and the flu, sleep really is the best medicine.

    An example being the three hour nap Nissa had.

    Glad to hear she was feeling better afterward. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Comment by Zayna | February 10, 2010 | Reply

  7. Here in Australia, there is such a wide range of bed times for small children. My, just turned three year old son goes to bed at 7.30pm every night. He wakes around 6am every day and for us…that’s a sleep in, three months ago it was 5am!

    He absolutely needs that sleep, and the 1 to 2 hour nap he has every day too.

    Not only does he need his sleep, but I need my downtime. I look forward to those quiet hours after he’s in bed, time to talk to the husband, make a phone call etc. All those parents putting their children to bed at 9pm or later are missing out on that quiet time.

    Comment by Tammy | February 10, 2010 | Reply

  8. I work evenings (when I’m not on my measly 12 week maternity leave), so my baby doesn’t get to bed until after I get home. Bedtime at our house is midnight or 1 am. But the sweet thing is he sleeps until 10 or 11, allowing his mommy to do the same.

    It’s not how I’d like it to be, but it works for us for now.

    Comment by MJ | February 10, 2010 | Reply

  9. I do think it depends on the child. Our bedtime is 9 PM, though we’ve been known to do it at 8.30 or 9.30 or even 10 pm. I hope you weren’t holding a cup of coffee as you were reading this ๐Ÿ™‚
    9 PM to me is a perfect bedtime. I have friends who have them down at 7 PM and 8 PM, and hey are all shocked and ask me when do I have my personal free time, and how do the kids wake up. Well, we have everythign ready in the evening, and we don’t need 5 hours to get ready. School starts at 9, we need to leave the house at 8.45 the latest, so 7.30 is a perfect waking up time for us. 8 AM will do as well, as we still manage to get ready in 45 minutes. We have our showers/baths in the evening, the breakfast is ready, or I’ve thought of what to do and it;’s easy to make (and no, I don’t have cereal in the morning), the clothes, shoes, etc are ready, there is no tv in the morning or any other activities, so it works for us. Sometimes my 3 year odl needs a nap during day time, and I let her, she naps for a couple of hours and wakes up in a good happy mood. Usualy it’s when she’s had a very busy day in school, or is recovering from something.

    Sure, if I went back to work, and I needed to be in the office at 8 am, they would get a much earlier bedtime. But as it is now, it works perfectly well for us.

    Comment by Nat | February 12, 2010 | Reply

    • I so dislike when people go, oh , but the parents who get their kids to bed at 9 PM don’t have time to spend together. We do. Plenty. We make time, that works for us. Each family organises their lives, days, acitviities to suit their fmailies. there is no right or wrong, there is my way and other people’s ways, and as long as everyone is happy, what’s the problem.I’ve really not met a more judgemental bunch than parents.

      Comment by Nat | February 12, 2010 | Reply

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