I once returned home at 9:00 p.m. to find my three-year-old dancing with my mother-in-law to Katy Perry’s guest appearance on American Idol and my seven-month-old in grandpa’s arms, looking on in disbelief in a brightly lit kitchen.
I had half expected my three-year-old to be up. The excitement of a travel day, a long nap in the car and being away from home creates the perfect sleep storm. But the baby was sound asleep when I left earlier in the evening. He doesn’t “do” dancing in the kitchen at 9:00 p.m. When I asked what happened, my in-laws said they thought he had gas.
Instead of confronting the situation head on, I walked away in silence. My instructions at the beginning of the night had been vague so I was partly to blame for what had happened. While this wasn’t the end of the world, the problem was that my children’s grandparents weren’t as concerned about the fallout from dealing with overtired children the next day as I was.
You can avoid similar frustrations and help prevent grandparent sabotage in your home by following these simple tips:
Set aside ample time to provide explicit instructions to grandparents. Write it down if you need to. Be sure to include detailed information on bedtimes, bedtime routines, creating a safe sleep environment and how to handle night wakings.
Invite grandparents to your home earlier than your intended departure time. This will provide them with some extra time to spend with their grandchildren and will hopefully keep your child’s schedule reasonably on track.
A night or two of disruption by well-intentioned and loving grandparents isn’t likely going to create any lasting bad sleep habits. Despite your best intentions to maintain your child’s schedule, grandparents will look for loopholes to spend more time with their grandchildren. Accept that reality and move on.
Rebecca Earl is a Toronto-based infant and child sleep consultant and founder of The Sugar Plum Sleep Co.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, October 2012.