The child who doesn’t try to get out of going to bed, at least sometimes, is a rare and singular creature. “I need a drink,” “You forgot to give me a hug,” or “But, I’m not tired yet,” are phrases bandied about in households up and down the country every night of the week. It can be incredibly frustrating to have to take your child back to bed, time and time again, especially when they are obviously exhausted. A little levity is a welcome distraction.
A few lucky parents have inventive little monsters under their roofs. These tiny, imaginative sleep dodgers have moved way past, “Can I have a glass of water,” and have elevated the creation of reasons for avoiding bedtime into an art form. From the “so silly it’s cute” and the “devilishly cunning,” to the “off the wall creative,” and the “where the heck did that come from?” these unusual excuses for staying awake deserve to be celebrated for their originality and inventiveness.
Just remember, next time your kiddo tries to get out of going to bed, be thankful if they have never thrown one of these reasons at you.
Clever indeed is the child who comes out with this little gem at bedtime. This statement puts you in an awkward position. You can assume it’s a ploy to avoid bedtime and say “tell me in the morning” but chances are, the tiny tendrils of mommy worry will reach out and wrap themselves around you. You’ll start to wonder, “What if it’s something important and I’ve shut him down before he can share?”
“Have I just shown her a lack of interest and made her feel unvalued?” You’re compelled to ask what it is they have to tell you, and if they are lucky and you are not, you’ll have to listen while they spew waffle off of the top of their head in an attempt to squeeze in every second of awake time they can.
In the same vane, starting off with a pain, an ache, or a sore something is an excellent way of drawing mom in and getting an extra moment of attention. Older kids are more sophisticated with this one. They have been around long enough to know a sore tummy or a sore head is vague enough to get you concerned and not easily dismissed. These symptoms demand at least a little investigation by mom, gaining not only an extra ten minutes but lots of attention and concern at the same time. Bonus.
Excuses to stay awake move with the times and the mini-millennial is not confined to claiming a compelling need to finish their drawing anymore.
One mom told us “This is just one of a set of reasons Emmy uses to try and get back out of bed. She frequently claims she needs to check her email, post something on her Facebook, or share her artwork on Instagram. I’d like to point out though that we aren’t terrible parents, well not for this reason anyway, and she doesn’t have an email account or any social media profiles. She’s just copying her moms.”
Yes, feeling overly tired, or too tired to get to sleep is a thing, but kids don’t understand that. When your little ‘un tells you they’re too tired to sleep, they’re actually saying “I know I’m tired, but the world is such an interesting and exciting place. I want to stay up and experience every last moment I can. Also, you might be eating something tasty, and if I stay up, maybe I can share it.”
Teach your little dynamo how to relax with some simple deep breathing, it’s a self-soothing skill that even the youngest toddler can learn and benefit from and it will benefit them throughout their life.
What could be better than not being able to go to sleep, but it’s not your fault? Rachel’s youngest son was a habitual sleep dodger and would try anything to get just five more minutes. Unfortunately for him, his older sister had already pulled every trick he could think of, and mom had heard it all before.
Having been told not to get out of bed unless it was important, and having learned to deep breath and relax, her son was out of reasons why he couldn’t sleep, but he had no control over what his brain did, so he told her “I would go to sleep mommy, but my brain just won’t let me.”
Before your child learns to conform to the rules of polite society, they will usually say whatever comes into their head. This innocent honesty often leads to you being told things like “I love your fat tummy mommy, it’s cuddly and the way it wobbles when you laugh or run, makes me giggle.” For Erin, this honesty extended to bedtime excuses. After a long day of doing exactly the opposite of what he was supposed to be doing, her son told her, “I can’t go to bed yet, I’m not done being naughty yet.”
“I’m not trying to stay up because I want to,” Jessica’s daughter told her one night, “But I know you don’t have anyone to keep you company. I don’t want you to be lonely. I need to keep loving you until you fall asleep first.”
How could anyone resist this one? I know that consistency, rules, and structure are important for children and that sticking to things like a fixed bedtime gives them a sense of security but all of that would go straight out of the window if one of my little ones said this.
Fear of monsters under the bed, in the closet, or some variation on this theme is as common in children as runny noses and scuffed knees. Many children also become convinced their toys come alive when they are not there, and this can be a source of anxiety. However, once Lily’s son Ryan declared he was “a big boy and not scared of things that babies are scared of,” he cut off a valuable source of bedtime excuses.
His solution was a creative one: “I would go to sleep, but what if my toys wake up while I’m sleeping and get out of the house and get lost? I have to stay awake to keep my toys.”
“My fingers are too loud.” When a child with an eclectic mind is trying to get out of going to bed, the excuses fall firmly into the “WTF?” category. Don’t get drawn in because there is no meaningful reason for this random comment; your child is mentally clutching at straws. Don’t ask questions in an effort to understand; there is nothing to understand. Don’t attempt to explain why that thought is ridiculous, just attempt not to send yourself crazy trying to understand.
Just chalk it up as something to remember and get your own back in years to come by turning it into a story to bore her with when she's fully grown. “I remember that time you wouldn’t go to sleep because…..”
When Lauren responded to a call of “Mommy, I need a bit of help,” she took a deep breath and counted to ten and resolved to stay calm. It felt like the 30th time she had been called into her daughter's room that night.
“My first response when I went in was panic, she said. “Her eyes were wide open, staring, and she looked terrified. I felt terrible because something was actually very wrong this time. Then she spoke.”
“Mommy,” she said, “I can’t go to sleep because my eyes won’t close. They are stuck open. See.”
Sleep is a two-part process, one half of which is conscious and the other is not. We can have a room at the right temperature, a comfortable bed, low or zero lighting, and all of the other environmental elements that experts suggest are conducive to good sleep. On top of that, we can wind down mentally, relax and give our minds and bodies the best chance to drift off.
The actual biological mechanism for sleep though, we can help it, but we have no control. This is something Nina’s son worked out.
“Mana,” he said to her one night “I know everything is just right for me to sleep, and I am relaxed, but my brain has forgotten how to sleep.”
Spend enough time chatting with a young child and once you get past the onslaught of exciting questions that all start with “What’s your favorite..?” you might hear them say something accidentally profound and encounter some profoundly touching thoughts and feelings.
On the other hand, you might become entangled in a mesh of random, disjointed, freakish rambling that has you questioning your own sanity.
Excuses that fall into this realm include: “My toenails are singing.”
“My eyebrows hurt.”
“If I fall asleep I might start to float and fly out of the window and get lost.”
And finally, “The wrinkles in my PJ’s smell funny.”
“I couldn’t be annoyed about it if I tried.” Nicole said when discussing her child's “variation on a theme” bedtime excuse.
“We’re used to the requests for a drink or a snack, and being wise to those, Jacob always has a snack and a drink before bed, brushed his teeth, then has a water bottle in easy reach throughout the night. He must have spent some time thinking about how to get around this because he called me in, and with a very earnest, serious look on his face, shrugged, put his hands out in a 'Sorry, What can I do?' gesture said ‘I’m sorry. I know I’ve already had a snack and a drink, but my tummy is telling me to tell you it needs some crackers. It won’t let me sleep ‘til I tell you’”
The reason why it’s best not to try and apply logic to your little one's excuses is that they will take that logic onboard and come up with an entirely illogical way around it. For example, Lauren, who we have already heard from, tried to explain to her daughter that yes, she could, in fact, close her eyelids, that we blink during the day to keep our eyes moist, that if her eyes stayed open too long they would get dry and painful, so eventually the would close. Faced with a logic, she couldn’t work around directly; she closed her eyes. A few minutes later….
“Mommy, I can’t sleep, there are funny patterns inside my eyelids keeping me awake.”
Steph’s daughters are identical twins and are very much the stereotypical “exactly the same in every way, even their parents have trouble telling them apart” duo. This sometimes makes bedtime twice the trouble or twice the fun, depending on how you look at it.
“My brain is tired, and I want to go to sleep, but my body won’t let it,” Jo, the eldest twin by 17 minutes, told her mom. Not to be outdone younger daughter Simone chipped in “And my body is tired, but my brain won’t go to sleep.”
Mom of four, Danni, had thought she’d heard it all when it comes to “reasons why I can’t sleep,” but she had obviously underestimated her youngest son’s abilities in the” creative pretexts for staying awake well past bedtime” department.
“I’ve been told the bed was too hot, too cold, too hard, or too soft. The cover smells too much like flowers, and the wrinkles are itchy, so I thought I’d heard it all. Logan thought up a new one though, ‘my bed is talking to me and won’t let me sleep.’ This one puzzled me for a bit until I worked out that when he was rolling back and forth, he was making the bed frame creak. That was the bed ‘talking’ to him.”
The first reaction of most parents when they discover their child has an imaginary friend is to consult with Doctor Google to find out what is and isn’t “normal.” As it turns out, approximately 70% of children have an imaginary friend at some point, and it’s a normal milestone in child development that allows your child to work through their experiences with the world around them.
It is also a handy card to have up your sleeve when you don’t want to go to sleep.
“I’d really like to go to sleep,” said little Logan to his mom, “but Lucas won’t stop talking. I know just how you feel now mommy when I won’t be quiet.”
Another timeworn excuse that we touched on earlier, is the “I forgot to,” or its close relative the “I just need to.” Designed to give you a compelling reason why you absolutely must let your little one out of bed, what looks compelling to your child, isn’t necessarily compelling to you. Fine examples of this are:
“I forgot to check if the glue is dry on my owl craft.”
“I just need to see if the fish is happy.”
“I just need to brush my teeth again, I think some bugs got in when I drank my water.”
Of course, there may be an occasion when you have overlooked the glaringly obvious reason your child is unable to oblige you by going to sleep. On these nights it is up to your mini-me to clear things up for you.
“Ava looked at me with a very somber expression,” her mom Sara told us, “Then she said to be in a voice that said ’you are very stupid so I have to tell you this slowly and clearly’ Mommy, I can not go to sleep because I am part cat, and cats are active at night-time, so I am active now too.”
Some excuses are creative, not because of the excuse itself, but the timing of its use. After being woken up by a bad dream, Hailey discovered that mom came running and was very kind and attentive in the middle of the night. Mommy cuddled, stroked her hair, and sand to her softly until she fell asleep again.
Thinking she was onto something, a couple of weeks later, Hailey let loose with hysterical screams and buckets full of tears to bring her, mom, running. The only trouble was that Hailey had been tucked up in bed, snug as a bug in a rug for less than three minutes and hadn’t even fallen asleep yet.