We have always been very strict with bed time. I can count on my hands the amount of times my toddler went to sleep past his bed time. There were many nights we were asked to keep him awake for different reasons and our answer was always the same – No, sorry. Our thought process was twofold; on the one hand, selfishly, it is more enjoyable for us to sit at a dinner as adults without needing to take care of him. On the other hand, we felt that we wouldn’t let him stay up until HE would really enjoy himself.

Last night we were invited to a 5:45pm Shabbat dinner at my brother and sister in law. Our son loves his cousins, and we knew they would be staying up for dinner so we decided to bring him.

He hasn’t napped in his room since June. That doesn’t mean he’s not exhausted, he is. He falls asleep on the way to his after-school programs and I just wake him up when we get there. Since he is so tired at the end of each day, I decided to have him take a real nap after school in preparation for staying up last night. I explained to him that he was going to come with us but he needed to rest first so that he could stay up. I told him he didn’t need to fall asleep but he did need some quiet/rest time. Next thing I know, he is fast asleep and slept for 2 hours!

Needless to say, dinner was so great and he had the best time! He loved playing with all the children and he was very excited about being outside “at night.” On our walk home he was pointing at the stars in the sky and there was such an innocence about his excitement, it was so sweet.

He didn’t go to sleep until 11 pm and he woke up normal time, 7 am. He was functioning normally until 1 pm and then the crankiness set in. We were hosting a Shabbat lunch and let’s just say he wasn’t the greatest host. There was lots of crying at anything on and off for the rest of the day. 4 pm was a breaking point, and he ended up taking a long bath before dinner from 4:30-5:15. He actually fell asleep at the table eating dinner and was passed out at 6:15pm (bedtime is usually 7)

After the 4 pm meltdown, my husband turned to me and said, “We are never taking him out again!!” I understood what he was talking about because in that moment you wonder, was it worth it? I thought about it, and I think it was. He is now at an age where he appreciates that it is Shabbat and understands it means family time. These meals contribute to the aspect of Shabbat that you can’t teach – it has to be experienced. He knew it was special that he was there and he knew it was because it was for Shabbat dinner.

So what’s the solution? A great night as a trade-off for a not-so-enjoyable day? Here are some ideas we plan to implement:

1) We will always ask ourselves – is this something he will really enjoy? For example, if the people at dinner will be the same people at lunch then it’s not worth it. He can be well rested and have a great time with them at lunch. However, if dinner will not be repeated at lunch and he would really be missing out, then we will bring him.

2) The nap was key. It was only because of the nap that he was such a pleasure last night and enjoyed himself. Without the nap he would have just been tired and cranky.

3) 11 pm is too late. He can come but has to be taken home. Maybe 9 pm latest?

4) If nothing is going on the next day, maybe have some rest/nap time.

Nothing ground breaking here, just what we had to figure out to make it work. Logistics aside, it’s exciting to be at a stage where small moments in time – like Shabbat dinners, are part of instilling in our son the values we feel strongly about.

I love that we are strict on bed time. I always know that we can make plans for 7:30pm and know that we’ll have no problem having the kids sleeping before we have to leave the house. It was important for us to remember that at a certain age they can benefit from straying from routine and taking part in family affairs.