Bedtimes and Blackhawks
My husband and I have always insisted on early bedtimes for our children. These days, for example, my three year old — who has recently sworn off his afternoon nap -- is in bed by 7 pm, and my six year old turns her light off at 8:15 pm. We stick to this schedule pretty religiously regardless of weekends or holidays. I'm not sure how we become such bedtime fanatics; I suspect it has to do with reading Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, the famous sleep training book by Chicago pediatrician Marc Weissbluth, while we were still new parents and therefore impressionable. By now, of course, we recognize that early bedtimes are not only good for our children; they are also equally good for us as parents — specifically parents who like to have time to themselves in the evenings.
But as my daughter has gotten older, we have started to make some exceptions to our early bedtime rule for special occasions. She is not a baby any more and we know that she won't turn into a Gremlin if she is allowed to stay up past 9 pm. When my brother-in-law got married last fall, for example, and Zuzu fulfilled her lifelong dream of being a flower girl, we told her that she could stay up as late as she wanted at the wedding. She was an absolutely perfect wedding guest — if you include dancing on stage with the band as acceptable wedding guest behavior — until 11 pm when she declared herself done and asked to go to bed.
Even Dr. Weissbluth would probably concede that a family wedding is a good reason to allow a first grader to stay up until 11 pm. I don't know if he would consider the NHL play-offs as compelling a reason, even when the Chicago Blackhawks are playing in them. Nevertheless, on the morning of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals, my husband informed me, in no uncertain terms, that Zuzu could stay up to watch the end of the game if she wanted to, and that he had told her as much. I didn't really object — summer vacation had started and the child didn't have anything to wake up for — but it was so unlike him, that I couldn't resist teasing him a little. "Are you insane?" I asked. "How late is that game going to go?"
My husband would not be swayed, however, and that was when I realized that I was not simply dealing with a father who was excited that his daughter was showing an interest in hockey; I was dealing with a lifelong sports fan for whom watching an important game was a special occasion worthy of staying up late. Apparently, when my husband was a boy, his family had not realized just how special it was to watch the big game until the end, and were not always so flexible about bedtime. In fact, what it boiled down to was this: my husband was still bitter about being forced to go to bed before the end of the 1984 Orange Bowl — considered by some to be the greatest college football game of all time. Later that day, my husband explained in an email: