We don’t have a bedtime at our house. For us, bedtime is literally just the time someone goes to bed. There is no arbitrary time for us. We’ve encouraged our children to listen to their bodies and point out cues that we notice in order to help them recognize those signs that their bodies are tired.
Our second child was born not too long after we moved here. A coworker of my husband’s asked him what time our kids went to bed. At the time, they were generally going to bed around midnight. She exclaimed how horrible we were to keep our newborn and two year old up so late. She couldn’t understand that bedtimes are relative. Our children didn’t have to be up early to go to daycare. They were expressing their own rhythms, which just so happened to allow them more time with their father after work.
Over the years, we’ve noticed that our children seem to have patterns. We will fall into a pattern for a while, going to bed around the same time for a few weeks. Then something will change and the pattern will shift. We’ve gone to bed as early as 9 PM for a few weeks and as late as 1 AM regularly. Neither extreme generally lasts for long, and they find themselves reverting back to going to bed sometime between 10 PM and 11 PM.
I’m certain there will be wider shifts as they get older. I’m glad that we have the flexibility to accomodate their needs and to encourage them to listen to their bodies.