Why Do I Have To Go To Bed Now?

M loves to sleep. I joke about her being born asleep. She needed some persuading to leave my womb, and when she did, she announced her arrival with a few seconds of a piercing cry. Put beside me, she looked straight at me with those huge black eyes, and went to sleep.

I spent most of my pregnancy reading books on newborn babies, and I was a voracious reader. I knew that a newborn baby would wake up several times during the night. They were hungry. They needed their diapers changed. And my biggest fear was they had no reason other than needing to cry endlessly. I was very well prepared. I knew exactly what to do. After all, I had read what the experts had to say, American, British and Japanese experts.

M came home, and she slept through the night! I would breastfeed her while watching the nine o’clock news, Asahi Television’s News Station with Hiroshi Kume. I would put her in her crib at ten, and I would climb into bed myself.

We lived in a two-bedroom apartment in Matsudo, Chiba, and to save on the heating bill, M’s crib was in our bedroom. And it was a small bedroom. Her crib was a couple of steps from my side of the bed. The slightest whimper, and she would be in my arms in a matter of seconds. But M slept from ten at night to four in the morning. Every single day.

At four, I would breastfeed her, change her diaper, and she would go back to sleep. Until ten in the morning. And I would be having my morning tea, and reading the papers while breastfeeding her. The books never said anything about a newborn baby giving you quiet and peaceful days.

M loved to sleep. When we moved to New York City, I was warned about the difficulty of making a child go to sleep during the summers when it was still daylight at eight in the evening. But M slept from seven to seven, winter or summer.

M went to bed when I told her it was time. Until one day in fifth grade. By then, we were back in Tokyo, and she was attending the American School in Japan. M got hooked on Japanese television dramas, the so-called trendy drama. And I encouraged the addiction because it was a connection to the Japanese language. The only problem was that the trendy dramas started at 9 or 10. And she also wanted to read before going to bed. And she wanted to read until she finished the book. And she wanted to go to bed when she felt like she was ready, and not when mommy told her.

M: Do I have to go to bed now?

Mommy: Yes, you do because you have school tomorrow.

M: Why can’t I stay up as late as I want to? Just like the adults.

Mommy: Because you are not an adult, and you need nine or ten hours of sleep. And you will not be able to get out of bed in time for school.

M: Yes, I can. I will jump out of bed as soon as you wake me up. I can do it.

It was late, and I was tired. And I wanted to tell her that she should go to bed when I said so because I am Mother. But I promised myself that I was never going to do that. I was always going to be patient, and reason things out with her. The temptation to blurt out, “Just do as you’re told,” was enormous.

Mommy: All right, do as you please. But if you can’t get up when I come to wake you, and you are late for school, I will not be writing an excuse letter. You will have to deal with Mr. Murphy yourself.

I was amazed at what I said!

M: You promise to wake me up?

Mommy: Yes, I do, but I am not going to do anything different. I am not going to rock you awake.

M: You won’t need to. I will be up.

And so, M was elated. She got to watch two trendy dramas, read as much as she wanted, and enjoyed the freedom to stay up late…into the wee hours of the morning. She went to bed long after I had said good night. But I was only pretending to be asleep. I knew that she finally turned off the lights at two.

Just as I promised, I went to wake M at 6:30.

Mommy: M…

No answer.

Mommy: M, time to get up.

No answer.

Mommy: M, you will be late for school.

No answer.

Three times. I tried to wake her three times. More than fair, I thought.

And so M slept. She loves to sleep. She needs a lot of sleep.

She finally woke up at three in the afternoon, the time that school ends at ASIJ.

M: What time is it?

Mommy: Three in the afternoon. I think school has just ended.


M: Did you wake me up?

Mommy: Three times.


Mommy: Would you like to eat your breakfast?

And M ate her breakfast at three in the afternoon.

That night, she went to bed when I told her it was time. No plea. No discussion. Nothing.

Just the usual.

M: Good night, Mommy. I love you very much.

The following morning, as I drove her to school,

M: Mommy…

Mommy: No, M. I did not write an excuse letter for you.

M: I know…

M had to explain her absence to Mr. Murphy. And he must have been satisfied because he never called me for an excuse letter.

Why do I have to go to bed now?

She never asked me that question again.


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. haha
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 05:44:18

    What time do your children go to bed?


    • denis
      Mar 15, 2011 @ 04:35:54

      usually by 9pm they are in bed to wake up half of hour before they catch their bus for school (8:15am), but sometime when they still want to read books / finish doodling … they go to bed half of hour or even an hour later


      • haha
        Mar 15, 2011 @ 16:59:54

        Looks like your children like to sleep, too! M needed at least 45 minutes in the morning because we always sat down to breakfast. There were years when breakfast was the only time M saw my husband. Also, I believed that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. So, M went to school well rested from a good night’s sleep, and well nourished from a glass of fresh orange juice, yoghurt, at least two kinds of fruits, a piece of toast, and milk!


  2. Lamama
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 20:27:04

    I LOVE your writing!

    My child seemed never to sleep, from the time I first felt him kicking inside me and all through his baby days. I think he suspected we would have a party without him. He insisted on being carried endlessly, held and cuddled, or he’d scream, agonizingly and heart-breakingly. And endlessly. It was really something. Sometimes he’d “rest” with his eyes open. I had to return to work and he went to daycare, where they told me he’d take a nap with the other kids in the afternoon or just stay up “building things.” No matter the day’s activities, he’d come home and zip around until two in the morning. Those were hard days, but I figured I was just lazy (heh!). Now he’s a teenager and stays up all night. He jokes that he is on Tokoyo Time. He is a really good kid, polite, in the top 10 of his class, etc., so this lack of sleep doesn’t seem to faze him, but my husband and I have wondered how we gave birth to the Energizer Bunny.


    • haha
      Jan 15, 2011 @ 19:55:43


      Thank you for reading my blog.
      And hats off to you for balancing work and motherhood. I could never do it.
      To this day, M sleeps a lot. When she is home from college, all she does is sleep…and eat…and watch television…
      Should I be doing something about it? : )

      Good Chinese Mother


  3. J
    Jan 22, 2011 @ 21:16:52

    Very nice! There should always be a good reason behind everything.


    • haha
      Jan 22, 2011 @ 22:18:05

      Yes, and I had to be extremely creative to keep coming up with the reasons. Parenting is hard work…physically, mentally and emotionally…
      Still, they were the best years of my life. Not a boring moment.



  4. Omar
    Feb 14, 2011 @ 05:10:12

    I love it!!!


  5. Regina
    Apr 27, 2011 @ 01:44:34

    I absolutely love reading how you have raised your daughter. We adopted our daughter from China. We have had sleep issues.

    We made a huge mistake and when we made it we didn’t know any better. On the day she was given to us she was asleep. When she woke up the nannies had left and she was in a strange place with strangers. We also believe there is another reason our DD has sleep issues. She was left with no note in a shopping center when she was 4 months old. She must have been asleep when her mother left her there. She then spent that night in the orphanage and the next night with her Foster Family for the next 6 months. All this had to be very stressful for her. We co-slept with her for the first year. I now have to lay down with her, talk to her and let her fall asleep.


    • haha
      May 24, 2011 @ 16:55:03

      Dear Regina,

      My apologies for not getting back to you earlier.

      I can imagine why your daughter has difficulty sleeping. After all, her experience has been to lose everything she was familiar with while she was asleep! I think you have been very wise in your decision to sleep with her for the first year of er life with you. Some may argue that it does not foster independence, but I do think a child can only learn to be independent when she/he is secure.

      M and I are both creatures of habit. When she was a toddler, our routine before sleeping was to bush her teeth while watching a short Japanese video on – what else – brushing teeth! I then read her a few pages of her favourite picture, kissed her good night, and let her touch my ears until she fell asleep. Yes, my ears were her pacifiers.

      When she was older, I would often climb into bed with her, and we would chat until it was really time to sleep!

      And now that she is a young woman, we would still often lie in bed together, and just chat.

      Do enjoy sleeping with your daughter for as long as you can because when she goes off to college, you will miss her.

      Thank you for reading my blog.



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