By now you may have seen the book or at least the ubiquitous online version. The foul-mouthed titled story about a bedtime quagmire: the frustrated father and his kvetching kids. There's even a video of Samuel L. Jackson reading “Go the F*** to Sleep” in its entirety.
Whether you agree with the questionable concept surrounding the clearly (hopefully) facetious book and its glaring vulgarity, it's hard not to laugh. Admit it. I did.
First let me say that as I write, both my daughters are currently asleep. After reading a few chapters of their favorite “Magic Treehouse” series, they snuggled in with little argument. Clutching their blankies, their cherubic faces tell tales of rainbow and butterfly dreams.
But it doesn't always go that smoothly. There are times when they argue and plead for a few more minutes. They feign injuries or fear. They clutch their throats and claim caustic thirst has rendered them near death.
“GAK … mommmyyyeeee, I'm SO thirsty,” said my daughter.
My husband and I roll our eyes and shake our heads in denial. “No, girls,” we say. “Go to sleep.”
And according to Laurie Black, a personal nutrition professor at Arizona Western College, parents are far too easily swayed when it comes to kids and their resistance to sleep. “It's easy to give in and say 20 more minutes. But it adds up and pretty soon, an hour has gone by.”
While an hour might not sound like much, Black disagrees. “School-age children should get 10 hours of sleep,” so that the body can rebuild itself and grow. In fact, Black says kids' growth hormones peak during sleep and so each hour awake takes away from the body's natural restoration period.
Black encourages parents to explain why sleep is important. “Kids generally want to get bigger and older, and sleep helps that process along.”
And frankly, when our girls have gone to sleep, it's a wonderful time for my husband and I to catch up, reboot our calendars and spend a few minutes together. After 10 years of marriage, we are friends first and truly enjoy one another's company.
We also realize that our girls are growing up. We want them to cultivate their independence, embrace their own goals, their respective careers and eventually their own families. Therefore our relationship is one that we must nurture and polish.
We should also remember that during the school year, it's mostly teachers who will bear the unfortunate brunt that comes with a less-than-productive night of sleep. And that's not right. We need to remember that educators are there to teach and not to discipline our cranky kids.
Parents are quick to complain about the state of our schools and yet how easily we forget that education begins with a healthy, well-fed, sufficiently rested student.
The thing is, with all the theories about slumber, the schools of thought, the advice, the books and the methodology, there are times when we are at the end of our parenting ropes. On this subject, we can all agree. It's how we handle those moments that count. And while the book may not proffer the most useful bedtime advice, it does remind us that while sleep is important, laughter is, too.
How to make sure your children get plenty of sleep:
• Pick out school clothes the night before.
• Count down to bedtime. Give a 15-minute warning, then 10 and so on.
• On weekends, don't let kids sleep in more than an hour.
• Eliminate late-night sugary treats.