We had heard rumors about it, whispered behind closed doors and with a tone of skeptical reverence. Some said it was as common as water, others said it was rarer than a sighting of the Loch Ness monster. Like the myth of the courtier, we had held out hope that we would be among the few lucky ones, that it would happen for us.
That mythical, magical shifting of bedtime to earlier in the night, facilitated by the end of nap time, or the beginning of kindergarten, or the blessed alignment of the stars. The shift that allows parents to reclaim the night.
Or, at least, the evening.
Or, at least, some of it.
Our oldest started gan (kindergarten) this year. For the morning to be comfortable, she should really be up by 6:45, though that gives us some time to spare. Our kids have all been reasonably predictable in their morning routines, so we have rarely if ever had to actually wake them up. And we didn’t expect to do so much with the start of school. This was our child who had always needed less sleep and tended to get up with her youngest sibling at whatever hour (sometimes way too early) that he made his presence known.
But still, we hoped. Given the busier and more intensive kindergarten experience (and its lack of nap time), we held out hope.
Not just for her earlier bedtime, but for a kind of cascade effect that would ripple through the whole house. The girls share a room, and bedtime tends to happen for both of them at the same time. Maybe the earlier bedtime of the oldest would somehow, by sheer force of will, extend to all inhabitants of the room, and maybe even to the little guy upstairs. Sure, it would mean earlier mornings for the younger two, but heck—we’re up anyway. This way, instead of staying up late with some kids and getting up earlier with other kids (the worst of all worlds, or maybe the best, depending on your perspective—I don’t know your life), we’d have some time back. Somewhere.
Because of The Shift.
For the first month, we hesitated to wake up our middle girl early in order to get her on the schedule. She still naps at daycare, so she doesn’t need the earlier bedtime. It’s the chagim (holidays), we said. What’s the point of messing with her mornings when she will be spending half the week at home, we said. Why have her (and us) wake up earlier than necessary during the already exhausting marathon that is the Jewish holidays, we said.
Then the chagim ended.
And somewhere along the way, without us really noticing and without the world ceasing to spin on its axis, something miraculous happened. We found ourselves sitting down to a movie at night, or at least thinking about it without falling asleep in the middle of the conversation. We found ourselves putting the kids to bed, making lunches, folding laundry, and still having some time and energy to spare. We found everyone awake in the morning, not just the oldest, and everyone with a bit more energy as we left the house.
So our kids aren’t party animals anymore. We are more attentive to leaving places early, and ending our own meals and events early, than we have been since they were tiny. We understand, now, the pressure to get them to bed, because for the first time they (or at least one of them) must be up by a certain time. So there have been other shifts as well. But it’s totally, totally worth it.
We found ourselves among The Chosen. The few, the lucky.
We have been blessed to be part of The Shift.
Its magical properties have not been overrated.