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As the title says my younger two boys were late to school today. I had to sign them in the Red Book – a tally of all those who are in school after the registers have been completed. Their school has a ten minute window from 8:50 to 9:00 to get children in through the gate and settled into classes. Generally, there’s a bit of wiggle room between 9 and 9:05 when you can sneak them in before the registers are signed off and returned to the office. After that you must sign the Red Book.

Bad Parent

I have to confess, this ties into all my insecurities about parenting and being judged as a Bad Parent. I wonder who reads the Red Book and what they make of the reasons (excuses?) that parents write in. Obviously some are good things, like dentist or doctors. But today, at 9:12 I was reduced to just writing “overslept”. A confession that as a parent I had failed in my primary duty – to deliver the children to school on time.

Or not. I will admit that I was down the pub last night (not drinking as I drove and had Lempsip), but this wasn’t a chaotic morning that ended up with late children. I was up on time to see Eldest onto his 7:50 bus, with a breakfast inside him and in a uniform.

About Sleep

But, with the younger two, it’s a bit more complex. For a start, when we put them to bed, they don’t settle. That is, when they go to bed, they don’t lie their heads on the pillow and drift off to sleep. We have read books, articles, web-sites and chatted to professionals, so we know everything the establishment has to say about childhood sleep. The problem they have is that they don’t settle. By and large, once they have settled, they stay asleep until morning.

Now, when Youngest started school (he’s in year 2 now) he did have some, err, challenging behaviour. He scrammed (scratched) other children and seemed to have a very short fuse. He would go straight from calm and happy, to angry and violent with no warning and nothing in between. So, we took advice, had chats with teachers, read and researched. Finally we came to the simple conclusion that the world, and the people in it, can be inherently annoying. And if Youngest doesn’t have enough sleep, he doesn’t have the mental strength to put up with it, so he lashes out.

Candle at both ends

Now, you can start to see the major problem. He has trouble settling off to sleep – there are nights when The Wife and I retire to bed at around half ten, elevenish and Youngest is still awake. Yet, school says that he has to be there at 9 at the latest. There simply isn’t any way to get enough hours of sleep when that happens, yet we still have to manage his behaviour.

Interestingly this leads to something rare in parents of school age children. We have to go round late at night and stop them reading books! All three of them now are capable of staying up late reading books. Left to their own devices with a good book, the elder two will go to past midnight. As I said on an earlier post, a lot of this is dependent on our mood as parents. If we’re tired or ill, we really don’t want to be going up and down stairs several times in the evening once the boys should be in bed.

This morning

So, we get to a morning like this morning. Neither Youngest nor Middlest were particularly late to bed, but the long term lack of sleep caught up with them. Neither woke up naturally and at just past eight when I tried to wake them they were slow and sluggish. So I was faced with a choice – push, hassle, shout, and do whatever it takes to get them to school on time or just kick back and accept that it’s a Red Book day.

So, at 8:20 both boys were downstairs although Youngest wasn’t yet out of pyjamas. I did what needed to be done, discussed today’s menu, made one packed lunch, found clothes and socks, packed bags, and generally cajoled them into being ready for school. I do know that I’m not very organised and I’m generally not a morning person. I could organise more, and do things the evening before. But that still wouldn’t get the children out of bed on time.

But the one thing I didn’t do this morning was raise my voice or point out the time. They weren’t going to be ready for the bus at 8:40, that was obvious as soon as they got up.

Normally, when we have a morning like today, Middlest, (age 10, year 5), leaves on his own, walks about three minutes to the bus stop and catches the bus on his own. But he was doing his homework this morning and he overslept, so he had a rare entry in the Red Book.

Conclusion

So that’s where we are. I still feel insecure about my parenting skills and guilty for signing in the Red Book. But I firmly believe that the children will benefit more from a good breakfast, a calm morning, more sleep and a natural awakening than they would from being in school on time. They missed twelve minutes of their education today, most of which would have been register and getting ready for assembly. I do know that I can’t do it every day, but I’d rather do this when I need to than deliver stressed, tired children to school.

What do you think? How are your children and sleep? Are they late to school?

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