What your child’s bedtime says about your horrible parenting

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 4-year-old daughter Viva, who’ll go to bed when she’s good and ready.

It’s summertime, so the sun is masking our depression about living in the upper Midwest, and we’re inclined to let our kids stay up later and enjoy the brief, joyous, encased-meat strewn celebration that is summer in Chicago. But should we be? The National Sleep Foundation and even the Center for Disease Control are telling us we’re a nation of anxious, sleep-deprived zombies who should never be operating heavy equipment.

In the popular “Healthy Sleep, Happy Child,” Dr. Marc Weissbluth says that bedtimes are as important to children’s health as length of sleep, and Slate parenting advisor and science writer Melinda Wenner Moyer is dragging her kid home from a beach party to put them to bed right now while you eat lunch.

Don’t forget, your child’s bedtime is one of the prime litmus tests your friends and neighbors use to determine whether or not they hate you (It’s a trifecta of indicators of how much of a monster you are, along with vaccine schedules and screen time.)

What time does your kiddo hit the hay and what does it mean for how everyone feels about you? Print the information below and hang it up in the guilt chamber where you self-flagellate while kneeling on preschool application forms when the kids’ eyes aren’t open.

Early to bed and early to rise, makes a kid healthy, nerdy and bitter.

What I’m hearing is that, while your child is definitely going to get the rest they need for physical and cognitive development, you also care more about your ability to have several hours to binge “The Americans” on FX than you do about the fact that your child is in bed right now staring at the ceiling listening to the Good Humor man still circling the block pursued by their peers on bicycles and contemplating getting a Slayer tattoo on their neck.

Congratulations, goody two-shoes, you get to a night with the Missus, your child’s brain gets a recharge, and when they wake up tomorrow morning at 5:30 a.m. you can go do some sunrise Tai Chi with them and explain why you are turning them into the kid who had to pile in the van to head home for night-night after the little league game instead of going to set marshmallows on fire in the neighbor’s barbecue pit like everybody else.

Oh, and I hope you’re DVR’ing all the shows they like, because otherwise you’ll have to explain to them why they’ll never know what the other kids mean when they talk about what happened on “Agents of SHIELD” and how they’re always, ALWAYS going to have “The Voice” spoiled for them when they look online in the morning.

It’s 10 p.m., do you know where your judgment went?

Oh, you like the late bed times, do you? Sure, why not? You worked all day, maybe you should actually spend time with your kid before packing them off to dreamland. Yes, it’s late, but at least on your deathbed you won’t be alone singing Harry Chapin songs and wondering where it all went wrong. Of course, that’s assuming your children don’t disown you for how much your love of night baseball on the driveway cost them by leaving them clumsy, confused and with poor spatial abilities and low brain plasticity or for their lifetime of anxiousness and irritability. I know, I know, it’s how we did it in the ‘80s–summertime meant staying up late sneaking viewings of “Tales from the Darkside” and pouring Lick-M-Aid down our throats–but now look at us, we’re all violence-obsessed diabetics who can tell you every match-up in Wrestlemania III but who let the economy get hijacked by oligarchs.

You should get ready for an early morning, too, because the brains of children who don’t get enough sleep release chemicals that cause wakefulness, just as kids who do get enough sleep also get up with the roosters to start demanding their Apple and Cinnamon Quaker Instant and help putting on their rollerblades. You put your kid to bed early, they wake up early. You put your kid to bed late, they wake up early. You should have reminded yourself that you like to sleep in on weekends before you spent all that money on IVF, sucker!

Don’t be a pawn of big bedtime, man. Our kids choose their own lights out!

Laurie Clark at the “Anti-Helicopter Parenting” blog Bumpkin.com suggests that children will find their own bedtimes based on their circadian rhythm. It’s possible, I suppose. It’s also possible that children raised by wolves will develop a more just form of morality based on natural law. It’s also possible that kids should smoke pot in the home where their parents can monitor them. It’s more likely, of course, that your kid’s body clock will be so out of whack they’ll be three feet tall forever and too depressed and sleep deprived to even bother paying enough attention in their homeschool classes to learn Esperanto. Your child’s complete lack of a bedtime implies that you look forward to your child being unemployed forever, unless volunteering with the Sea Shepherds counts as work. It also tells people that you like jam bands and use crystals for deodorant. (Which doesn’t work.)

Quality time versus personal time, healthy living versus joyful living, rejection of dogma versus folksy heuristics. Parenting is hard! But whatever bedtime you choose for your child, don’t forget to take care of yourself–by staying up as late as possible to put off having to go back to your terrible job.

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