Special occasions: Why we roll with it

sleepy baby

The little oyster’s first 4th of July was last week. Not only was it her first external celebration of her nation’s birthday, but we had friends in town! And then we had even more friends over for dinner! It was an independencepalooza!

Sorry.

But it was a special occasion and the husband and I have talked, even before the oyster was born, about how we want to handle special occasions in our family, as far as sleeping, eating, traveling, and discipline go. Conveniently, what we decided in theory is remarkably French in practice so we already had our game plan in place when our guests arrived, the fireworks went off around the neighborhood, and the festive all-American fare appeared on paper plates.

To wit: It’s a special occasion, chill out.

The little oyster is a good sleeper. A lot of baby sleep books talk about sleep training (not The Sleep Training where you let them cry it out, but more generally, training a new human being in the art of falling and staying asleep) and one book I appreciate is Dr. Marc Weissbluth’s Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. The oldest sister lent her copy to me and I keep a bookmark in whatever stage the little oyster is in. Some of Dr. Weissbluth’s wisdom we hold to unequivocally. First, never wake a sleeping baby. A baby will never starve herself by sleeping through meals and a baby who is sleeping needs to be. Second, sleep begets sleep.  Long naps during the day mean good sleep at night. We have found that to be absolutely true.

We part ways with Dr. W’s philosophy right around the part where he advocates carving a sleep schedule in stone and sticking to it come hell or high water, or risk the wrath of an imbalanced child who can’t succeed in school and will probably have crooked teeth and a criminal record. Ok I added the last two but he’s about allowing the child’s sleep schedule to determine the rest of the family’s day. To that I say, meh.

The little oyster needs her sleep and she gets it. But the 4th of July is a special occasion and we had special guests who don’t see her often. Putting the oyster in her bed at the typical 7:30 bedtime was impractical and, we determined, since she is such a reliable sleeper, unnecessary. She got to stay up late and play with our company. At 9:30 we carried her around the room to say her goodnights and I laid her in her bed. She fell asleep right away I assume (we don’t hold her until she’s asleep unless she is extremely distressed about something) and she woke up at her normal wake up time of 7-ish the next morning. She took longer naps to make up for her late night.

Chronically keeping kids up late and cutting into their sleep on a regular basis is definitely bad for kids and their development and for parents and their sanity. But we have found that being rigid is also bad for our sanity, so we’re not. Special occasions are a good way to test out our theory that a balanced child growing up in a balanced household can handle a little trip off the routine path. On the 4th, we were right.

On Wednesday night I hosted my book club. I know better than to put the oyster in bed when these ladies are coming over so she stayed up until 9. You know what she did? She got passed around the room until we started eating and then she sat on the floor in her Bumbo seat and played quietly with a board book. At 9 she said her goodnights and went to bed. She slept until 7 then went down early for her afternoon nap, getting an extra hour of sleep at that point.

Special occasions are exactly that–special, and occasions. They aren’t routine and they aren’t regular and I think we’d all miss out if we pretended they were. We have nothing planned this week or next or the next, so the oyster’s sleep schedule will be back to normal. Her two special nights in the last two weeks aren’t the new norm and I don’t believe they have or will affect her adversely. How do I know? Like I said, she’s a balanced baby growing up in a balanced home and that means more than a later bedtime on a holiday. Also, she continues to wake up like this, regular night or special occasion notwithstanding:

happy sleeper

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