Oh, Mr. Sandman

At the first meeting with my son's new preschool teachers, I mentioned rather sheepishly that his bedtime was 9 or 9:30, which I consider late.

"Oh, that's nothing," one teacher said matter-of-factly, "some of these kids don't go to bed until 11 or later."

A friend mentioned her son's fifth-grade teacher was so concerned about how little sleep the children were getting, that she told them, "No homework tonight. Your 'homework' is to go to bed."

Look around these days and you'll see toddlers on the street with Dad at half-past 10, school-age children hanging around the mall at 11 p.m. It seems that a scheduled bedtime is an anachronism in many households.

It would be hard to prove statistically whether more kids are out because stores stay open later, or if there's really an erosion of parental authority at work here.

In my case, it's the latter. My little night owl has learned how to stall the bedtime routine and thoroughly exhaust his tired parents. It's immaterial how early we start the process, how full his tummy, how many glasses of water he has drunk, how many assurances he hears that children everywhere are going to sleep. After we've reached the two-book nightly limit, his head pops back up like a jack-in-the-box. By the time his squirmy body is back under the sheets, I'm the one falling asleep.

While families desperately try to carve out a dinner hour together, make sure homework gets done, check e-mail, and try to unwind after a long day, bedtime gets pushed later and later.

Here's my wishful solution: All you parents have permission to go to bed. Kids, don't forget to turn out the lights.

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