Putting Boys to Bed

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If you have boys, you already know that bedtime is not always a peaceful process. If you’re American, you probably also know that “Is he a good baby?” is code for “Is he sleeping through the night yet?” (I, for one, always hated the connection between good baby and sleeping through the night. Is a baby who’s not yet sleeping through the night a bad baby?)

So maybe that’s why this video, of a Norwegian mama putting her twin boys to bed, aroused so much passionate debate:

The comments on the video have, perhaps predictably, been downright vicious, mean and, in some cases, misogynistic. This young mama has been called everything from “plain stupid” to a “dumb bitch” to “hot.” Internet commenters have been telling her to lock the door, spank her kids, put them in the same room, keep them up later, etc., etc., etc.

I think it’s time for us all to shut up. 

Anyone who took the time to read the mom’s description of her video knows that she was trying something new. Normally, she says, her boys sleep in the same room, but on the advice of a friend, she decided to try them in separate rooms. She didn’t have high hopes for the experiment, so she filmed her efforts. She thought the resulting video was kind of funny, shared it on her Facebook wall..and suddenly had the entire world commenting on her parenting — as represented by a video that’s not even representative of her parenting.

Here’s the thing: None of us are bedtime experts. The reason there is so much interest in bedtime routines and so many how-to-get-your-baby-to-sleep books is because every single parent in the world struggles with this issue from time to time.

Not me, you say? Wait, I say. If your baby — or all of your children — are going to bed with no complaints and sleeping through the night soundly, wait. It will change. At some point in the next 18 years or so, you will have a sleep/bedtime issue with at least one of your children. I guarantee it.

The great big secret of parenting is that none of us knows what we’re doing. Sure, we can learn — from books, from blogs, from articles, from one another and from our experiences. And while it’s helpful to know the signs of sleepiness in a child, or how to establish a bedtime routine, the truth is that there is no one-size-fits-all technique to a peaceful bedtime and restful sleep. What works for one child may not work with another child. Heck, what works for one child may not work for the same child three nights from now!

The best parents in the world are the ones who take a flexible approach to parenting, the ones who learn what they can about child development and then take the time to learn about their children. To successfully parent children (or put them to bed), you have to adapt your knowledge of child development and parenting to the very specific needs of your child and family. And to do that most effectively, you have to be willing to try different approaches.

This mama had a bedtime routine that worked, mostly. Yet she was willing to try something else. If you ask me, that’s the mark of a mature parent, not an irresponsible one.

If you’re a parent struggling to get your boys to sleep, I offer this advice, above all: Relax. Your kids will sleep, eventually. Whatever you are going through now is just a stage; this stage will end, and another will replace it. (My toddler who wouldn’t stay in bed at bedtime is now a teen who stays up too late at night.) Obsessing over your kids’ sleep and bedtime is rarely useful. Trying new things, and keeping a sense of humor about it, IS useful.

There’s no one right way to parent. Do what works for you, and feel free to experiment to see what works best. And if you want to post a video of your efforts, be sure to tag me. I’d love to see what works (or doesn’t work) at your house.

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