Historically I have undervalued sleep. As an elementary-aged child I would hide in my closet with the light on and read for hours after bedtime. During summer vacation in high school I would sometimes be going to bed as my step-father was showering for work at 5:30 a.m. During my year as a teacher with a 35 minute commute and thus a wake-up time of 5:20 a.m., I discovered the beauty of going to bed early and waking up somewhat rested and wondered how I had ever lived on so little sleep. But that lesson didn't last all that long, and I returned to my night owl ways.
Now as a first time mom I am a huge proponent of sleep...for my son at least. In fact, one of my little pet peeves as a mom has been how much attention our society seems to give to the breast milk versus formula debate while ignoring how incredibly important sleep is to basic human development. I guess that's because my son quit napping (except in the Ergo) for a week around 2 months of age or so until I began offering a bottle after nursing, and on the occasion I had to use formula to supplement I had to read a label that reminded me that breast milk was the superior choice for my son. Could you imagine any other product bearing such a label? Couldn't everything on the junk food, juice, or cereal aisle be labeled "Fruits or vegetables are better choices for your children?" Anyway, I digress.
I wonder how much of the misbehavior and fussiness we see in young children is because they are overtired, and their parents lack the knowledge of how important a decent sleep schedule and short wake times are--particularly at young ages. I imagine some parents have an inkling but don't want to be inconvenienced by a schedule, and then other people like me may be at the other extreme and a little over-zealous or analytical with the schedule. I figure a second child will break me of some of this, but almost every time I veer too far from our schedule, my son's temperament takes a nose-dive in the form of crying and fussiness which generally are not part of his routine behavior. Seriously--when it gets close to bedtime Jackson hits a wall. We describe it as "melting," and it's marked by falling down and sometimes even hitting his head on the ground. It's so pitiful, and sometimes it begins just 3 hours after he's woken from his last nap. We try to keep him awake until 7 but often poor guy just can't make it. Now if I could just get myself in bed 8 hours before my alarm (a.k.a. Jackson) sounds around 6 a.m. :)
p.s. I'm thankful that most nights my son sleeps without making a sound for 11 hours.