The Meh of Me Time

I have a hard time with with the idea of “me time.” And I  can’t tell you how many times people tell me that, as a mom of ten, I “need” some time to myself. I know it’s easy to get caught up in nuances: “What you call something isn’t important. It’s the heart behind it.” Absolutely! But I find more often than not what we call something reveals how we really view it in our hearts, whether we know it or not.

Me-time is just that: it’s all about me. Every week Bill sends me out for time by myself, and I do the same for him. I pray, I blog, I take a walk, I breathe in the beauty of creation. And I tell myself it’s selfless. That if I’m overspent, I won’t be able to serve my husband and kids well. Trust me, my me-time is totally righteous…

Truly, I believe I deserve this time, and if I don’t get it, it becomes my justification for every sin under the sun. “I’m not lazy today, I’m just tired because I didn’t get my time out.” “I shouldn’t have yelled at the kids. Obviously, I’m overwhelmed by them since I didn’t get out last week.” “My mind is busy. I’d be able to focus more on Jesus if I got some time away.” I want rest, a Sabbath-rest that will refresh soul and body.

But the Sabbath God gave us, the rest Jesus sought (and found!), was rest in the Lord. Sometimes Jesus got that with “time away.” Sometimes he got it through compassionately caring for the people along the water’s edge that God providentially put there. Sometimes he got it by sleeping through a terrible storm.

When things didn’t work out the way he may have planned, he still never sinned. His rest came not from physical renewal but heart renewal, and that’s the renewal I can’t seem to wrap my head around. I still don’t know how to simply trust my perfect Daddy even though he seems to smash my plans and my personal time.

Of course I know that our souls and bodies are intertwined, and there’s much teaching in scripture about getting rid of physical temptations in order to flee from sin. Physical rest is a gift from God, so if he grants it to you, take it. Make it a priority, even. Physical rest is good and necessary. The only one strong enough to not need this kind of rest is God, and our need for it is to remind us to rejoice in his strength since we have none on our own. If “physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things,” then it seems like we could say that physical rest is of some value, but Spirit-filled rest has value for all things. And that’s because true rest holds “promise for both the present life and the life to come.” Physical rest, me time, getting away–none of those can do that.

When we find our hope in our physical rest or find ourselves miffed that we didn’t get a break, that just means we were seeking me-time, not Jesus-time. And we’ll never truly find rest there.

I think we got some Bible mixed with self-serving–yet-pseudo-spiritual language in our heads. “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, so the Son of Man makes sure he gets his me-time, too.” “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will suggest some renewing time for yourself.”

No! Jesus tells us that if we’re weary and burdened, to find rest in him. More specifically, he says to take his yoke upon you in order to find rest. I find this interesting because the idea of having a yoke upon us is not a picture of sitting cozy on the couch or leisurely walking through the woods. It’s a picture of a strong ox doing insanely difficult labor. So the key to rest according to Jesus is not to rest physically but to rest in him, knowing he’s the one carrying most of the weight. To keep running the race because he did all the work for us already on the cross, and he’s continuing to labor for us as our perfect mediator. To always remember this truth so we can work in him and be rested. To make my work (or my time) about him, not me.

My prayer is for something better, deeper, richer, and more fulfilling than me time. I’m praying for a deeper rest, a rest in Jesus, a heart rest that comes no matter how much physical work is being demanded from my body, how much counsel is being demanded from my lips, or how much I’m “deprived” of my me-time. My prayer is to plumb the depths of the Sabbath-rest that allows us rest for our souls, a rest that has already started and will never ever end.

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Chores with Our Kids

20171126_223716579_iOSA few months ago, a woman in our home for the first time saw our chore chart and started a conversation with one of our girls.

“I bet you guys are great helpers for your mom,” says woman.

Daughter responds, “Yeah, now that Mom and Dad have so many kids, they don’t have to do anything!”

That’s right, my minion. You now know your place in the family. Bon bons and Netflix, here I come!

Seriously, though, my kids are great helpers, and if I’m honest, I hardly clean a thing in my house.

Most of this is because I have older kids now. Even the little ones are old enough to take part in household chores. If your little ones are all, well, little, you obviously won’t be joining the sit-back-while-your-kids-rub-your-feet club anytime soon (I’m president), but I’ll reserve a spot for you when the time comes. I do include a few tips below, though, for how to start your little ones off.

Since I have so much time on my hands now, I’ll share how we handle this with our kids. Because I feel like I should do something useful.

We divide our kids’ chores into two categories: Daily required chores and paid extra chores.

Daily Required Chores:

These chores are general tasks that help keep our home running smoothly day to day. Our kids’ payment here is the blessing of living in our home. Praise hands! The child is in charge of a the same chore for an entire month, and then we rotate them to something different. Here’s what our children are responsible for in our home:

  • Clear and wipe the table and chairs after each meal
  • Sweep floors after each meal
  • Dry and put away dishes from dishwasher
  • Hand wash dishes that aren’t dishwasher safe
  • Take out trash and recycling
  • Clear and wipe kitchen counters after each meal
  • Sweep kitchen after each meal
  • Wash and dry laundry
  • Quickly wipe down each bathroom mirror, sink area, and toilet, including swiping out the toilet bowl with a toilet brush
  • Open and close blinds on main floor
  • Turn on and off porch light
  • Bring in the mail
  • Quickly dust mop main living area
  • Cooking helper (this is when that child gets to assist me and learn how to cook, eventually taking over some meals entirely)

We give each child a page with detailed instructions for each job when they get their new rotation. This is especially helpful for things like laundry, which can be very confusing.

In addition to the rotations, each child is also responsible to make their own bed each morning, to sort and stain treat their own dirty clothes at the end of the day, and to fold their own laundry each week.

This seems like a lot, and if you have fewer children, you’ll be doing more of these chores than I do. But our children often do 2-3 of these each month depending on how much time each takes, and we’ve found that kids can handle way more than we usually think. With the rotation, they tend not to grumble about their chores, and they’re happier to have something for which they’re responsible. Not to mention great life skills they’re learning.

It’s important to say here that the point is not to have a perfectly clean home. The younger your children, the sloppier the job will be done. Encouragement is so key!! Point out what they did well (“I like how you pulled your covers all the way to the top.”), and then gently work on one thing they can improve (“Next time, let’s work on tucking the sides of your blanket under the mattress.”), and then practice it with them.

Paid Extra Chores:

Each month, we post a Cleaning Checklist the kids get paid for. This is somewhat optional. Some of the chores are our weekly cleaning tasks. We do these one morning a week. The CC (Cleaning Commander, aka Liam) assigns his siblings with tasks, and they work through the assignments until they’re done.

Then four mornings out of the week, the kids set a timer for 30 minutes and choose a bi-weekly, monthly, or seasonal cleaning task. They put their initials by the chore they completed and get paid at the end of the month. The harder they work, the more they get paid. This motivates some kids more than others, but we intentionally give some freedom here so the kids can see that some things in life are simply expected (daily and weekly chores), but sometimes extra work pays off. Our kids can also choose from this list anytime they’d like some extra dough.

The monthly and seasonal tasks never get all the way done, so I sometimes have to take a break from my me-time to pick up the slack here while I grumble about how hard life is. Someday, mini-me’s, this, too, will all be on you and my day will have arrived. [maniacal laugh]

If you’d like to pay your children but are in a tighter time financially, there are other options here. We used to do what we called “Chuck E. Cheese” rewards. The kids would get stars instead of money and then would trade them in for different things. Sometimes they could choose from a box we’d filled with Target’s dollar section finds, but usually the kids would get privileges like screen time, choosing a family activity, getting a chore-free day, or a date with Mom or Dad.

With little ones, there are often small jobs they CAN do on their own, things like turning on the porch light at night. But they can learn harder ones insanely fast, too, especially when they’re immersed in it. For a long time, our littles’ job was simply to be my or an older sibling’s helper. They basically shadow an older sibling and help them by doing things like holding the broom pan while sibling sweeps, handing them dirty clothes to put in the washer, or carrying something into the kitchen to help clear the table. It doesn’t take long before those little ones are ready to take on their own chore, and they love it at that age!

The last comment I’ll make here is to inspect all you expect. The best way it’s seemed for us to train our children in this area is to simply let our kids try each job. We don’t usually give them tons of instruction beforehand, but we do make sure to inspect the jobs they’ve done. It gives them a chance to figure things out on their own, and then we only have to instruct them where they need it. As they have more experience, we raise our expectations and encourage them to rise to it.

Whew! My fingers are going to be sore from all that typing! Time for me to encourage one of my girls to give me a mani and hand massage.

Kidisms

Theology 101:
Josiah: Did you know Jesus dies on the cross every time he gets sick?

When Ariana and her friends kept talking through a movie:
Me: Don’t make me Avada Kedavra your butts!
Renne (friend): You’re sometimes really hilarious and sometimes really creepy.

Victoria was looking at toys online for Miriam’s birthday. One toy caught her attention:
V: Whoa! That’s creepy!! Kind of makes me want to have it…

Not correlated at all…:
Esther: I’m not actually close to full. It’s just that my belly hurts.

It certainly works in your favor:
Josiah: Mom loves me a lot because I snuggle with her lots of times.

That’s one kind of reputation:
Liam: I have street cruds now.

Instructing Victoria on how to use a British accent well:
Miriam: You just have to say British stuff like “Bonjour.”

Such a humble apology:
Victoria: I’m sorry I’m such a fast runner.

Girls rule:
Esther: Women think snoring is disgusting. That’s why they don’t do it.

Some people just don’t get it:
Miriam: Does anyone know where the 13 Colonies sheet is?
Esther: I don’t know what that is.
Miriam: It’s the 13 Colonies sheet.

Reading stories of Jesus for our Lent tree:
Bill: What does the footstool represent?
Aiden: It’s for standing on to wash our hands!

Letting Josiah try a coffee M&M:
Josiah: Mmmmm!!! Could I try…seven more?

Subtle, Kid. So subtle:
Josiah: Mommy, what’s for lunch? Oh, look! I see a McDonald’s!

Celebrating Epiphany

We’re weird. And we stick with that for how we celebrate Christmas, too.

First, we’re not Catholic. Second, we sometimes celebrate Catholic holidays. It makes sense.

So we celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, and that ends on January 6, Epiphany, the day that celebrates the magi’s visit to Jesus.

Little lesson here. Bill is insanely particular that the wise men are at a distance from the manger instead of in the scene. As in they’re on their way but not there. That’s because most likely Jesus was around two by the time they got there, not in a manger anymore. Hence Harod commanding the death of all boys two and under instead of just infant boys. So Epiphany is 12 days after Christmas to try to depict that.

We don’t open any presents on Christmas morning, only stockings. Then the kids open presents every day leading up to Epiphany, reflecting the gifts the magi brought. Not every kid every day, but at least one present every day.

Then for Epiphany, we save up so that everyone gets one last gift to open, and I bake a king’s cake, complete with a plastic baby hidden inside. The finder of the baby gets an additional small gift. This is to show that the real gift, the best of them all, is Jesus himself.

Our family has enjoyed this holiday for years, a simple way to continue the celebration of God come down with us.

Oh, and it’s very important that all Christmas decorations come down January 7th, cause this mama can only take Christmasy things in the time period of the day after Thanksgiving until Epiphany. It’s a law. And all members of my household who attempt to violate this law give up all rights and provisions of my household, you know, things like food. At this point the kids begin referring to Christmas as the C-word, because it’s pretty much cussing outside these times. We’re a split household with this law. The man believes every day is Christmas. He’s a lawbreaker, so don’t do as he does.

 

A Friend’s Review of The Connected Child

In our recent series on the adoption, I included a pretty lengthy critique of The Connected Child, the book which serves as a bit of an adoption bible in Christian circles. In the midst of posting those, my good pastor friend Brian Liechty let me know he had also been working on a review of the book (separately from anything I’d written) since so many folks in his church were using it as a resource. As a pastor, he was also concerned about many elements in the book. After we talked a bit about it, he told me he was considering submitting it to CCEF for their journal. I even got the privilege of reading an early version of the review.

I’m glad to say that Brian did submit the review to CCEF and they did decide to publish it. And it’s a really great review. Brian does an excellent job of laying out both the many strengths and weaknesses of the book, in a far more winsome and transparent and encouraging way than I did in my reviews (and I feel no shame in admitting that!). Brian wrote it with a pastor’s heart, wanting the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made him an overseer to be well cared for and informed in the ways they used this resource for the glory of God. And he was kind enough to share that heart with the rest of us via CCEF’s journal.

So, if you’re not getting this, I think if you have any experience with or interest in The Connected Child, you really ought to read Brian’s review. Unfortunately, you do have to buy either the entire journal or the single article to read it. But if you buy the article, it’s only $1.99 and totally worth it. To whet your appetite, here’s a free sample of the review.

New Year’s Time Capsule

Several years ago, we started having everyone fill out a time capsule at the end of the year. I cannot tell you how glad I am we did! Those memories, seeing how the kids (and us!) have changed through the years, going back to the little years to read together, all brings much laughter and tears when it comes time for it again. This is one of the kids’ favorite activities.

Here’s a copy of the form Bill made if you want to print it or use it as an idea to make your own:

Happy 2017, Everyone! We’re so thankful for each of you who take the time to read our mumblings on here. We pray your year is blessed.

HT: kcparent

Skipping the Conversations

“Bill, I don’t know what to do. Every time my son needs correction, I try to sit him down, talk to him about his heart, read to him from the Scriptures and instruct him, ask him heart questions, then discipline him, pray with him, and assure him of my love. But every time I do, he just won’t listen and he fights against me and sometimes just leaves in the middle of it. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong!”

“Remind me again how old you little guy is.”

“He’s two.”

“Ah, yes, I know what the problem is: he’s two. All that talking and instructing and asking questions–he’s just too young. A time will come for that, but you’re just not there yet!”

I remember having this conversation with my friend several years ago. I was a few years ahead in parenting and freely felt I could tell him that while those steps are great, his son was simply not old enough and developed enough. I felt then (and still do) that there’s really not much conversation that needs to happen in those younger ages. You just don’t reason with a toddler. I mean, seriously. It’s painful to try. They certainly need instruction, correction, and assurance of love, but there’s not usually much more to it until they grow older.

The problem is that I had this conversation six years ago. And I said it knowing that “there would come a time” when conversations would increase and discipline would involve more dialogue than it ever had in the past. But now I have an eleven-year-old and somewhere along the way I missed my exit, still cruising on “How to Raise a Toddler” highway.

Which means that a whole lot of my parenting is a whole lot of my talking and my kids doing a whole lot of not talking.

Honestly, I’ve not transitioned well. And I really like that my kids are hitting that tween phase. But the reality is that I’ve transitioned poorly to having intellectually and emotionally capable kids who want to talk and process, and I don’t afford them the opportunity.

So, what does that mean? It’s funny, because it’s still in many ways new territory for me. Like Hermione Granger, when at loss I turn to books! I’m slated to read Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp soon and hope to follow that up with Everyday Talk by Jay Younts. And in these opportunities for talking and discussing, I know there are a few goals I want to accomplish:

  1. Hear from my kids and help them learn to talk through their sins, temptations, and troubles. This is something I’m particularly poor at even as an adult, so I want to train my kids how to speak openly and plainly about the deep matters of their hearts.
  2. Help them go to the Scriptures and understand how they apply to them. I’m certainly capable of doing this for them, but they’re at the age where I need to start handing them the reins. I want them to start making the link between their attitudes and behaviors to God’s Word, because I can’t meditate on the Word for them.
  3. Teach them how to process their sin against God and against others, and the appropriate responses for those sins. While this would certainly include seeking forgiveness from the one sinned against, what I’m particularly thinking about here is determining if any restitution needs to be made. I always find this tricky, because I don’t want the kids thinking they can atone for their sins (they can’t). Rather I want them to see that all sin has temporal consequences in addition to eternal ones–and they have a responsibility for those temporal consequences, whether that’s replacing something or offering a service or whatever. But I want to lead the kids into figuring this out instead of simply telling them.
  4. Begin the process (slowly!) of treating my kids like the adults they will be. Even though they’re not adults yet and still have years to go, there will come a day when they are neither under my watch nor under my authority. I want my children to see that my authority has always been derivative. Self-discipline and self-assessment will be the tools to remind them to follow the authorities that will come after me, and much more the authority of the triune God himself. This is really just a fancy way of saying I want them to learn obedience apart from my presence–because God is ever-present.

What about you readers out there? Those of you with tweens and older, how have you found ways to connect with your kids? What have you done to train them for the day they won’t be under your roof anymore? Do you have any resources you’d recommend?

Tis’ the Season

I used to hate winter. I hated the cold temperatures that made me feel like a prisoner in my own home and the gray and brown colors that seem to dominate everything. In the past couple of years, I’ve realized my feelings about the season have changed:

The low temperatures remind me of how cold and dead my heart is without Jesus, and somehow it brings me comfort when I feel the bite of a winter wind. I know that only love can thaw a frozen heart. Not the love of a sister, but of a Savior.

The neutral colors make me remember that I can’t keep God in a box. He created all colors, not just the vibrant ones, and he’s far more complex and beautiful than every one of them. The contrast of gray sky pops out the dark landscape, helping me see minute details I don’t notice otherwise. And I see that beauty often comes from darkness.

The bare trees show me inner beauty and how apart from it, outer beauty is pointless. I could look at branches and knots on wood for days. Few things are more intricate. But I want the leaves. They cover the flaws. I want people to praise the leaves I put on myself in the form of hair, makeup, and clothes, praying they don’t see all the yucky parts. I forget that the yucky parts, the ones that have withheld through the elements, the chips and strikes, the twists and bumps, the weaknesses, are the parts God uses to blossom me into looking more like him, becoming more seasoned and gorgeous from the inside out.

The quiet. The blessed, craved quiet of winter. When animals are sleeping, when neighbors are inside, when crickets stop chirping, and when the air itself seems to be sleeping. These moments are the times I most see the beauty in simply resting in Christ because he did all the work for me.

Winter helps me see that I’m incredible flawed. I’m the worst wife, mother, friend, and servant of all of mankind, completely dreary and dead on my own. Yet when God looks at me, he sees his Son, the most beautiful spring. I’m dormant, waiting for the life that’s mine, a life I did nothing to earn.

And I’ll sit here and marinate in the beauty of winter while I wait.

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”

‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭1:15-16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Harry Potter Birthday Party

Our kids get a friend themed birthday party when they turn 5 and 10. This was Ariana’s year as she turned the big 1-0. She has recently finished the Harry Potter books, so this was the theme she went with. Which made this mom and dad swell up with pride. *sniff*

14 awesome girls were part of this special day, and I’m never sure if I have more fun or if they do. Here are the party details, and as usual, many things aren’t pictured because we’re terrible at taking pictures during events like this!

Decorations:20161105_130242000_ios20161105_130310000_ios20161105_130424000_ios20161105_130518000_ios20161105_130604000_ios20161105_130630000_ios20161105_130656000_ios20161105_130739000_ios20161105_130908000_ios

Pictures of our guests. Four came late, and I completely forgot to get this shot of them, but oh, these faces were epic!20161105_190015033_ios20161105_190037483_ios20161105_190127019_ios20161105_190154754_ios20161105_190226877_ios20161105_190305172_ios20161105_190341631_ios20161105_190409452_ios20161105_190440741_ios20161105_190519369_ios

Food in the Great Hall. We almost forgot to get photos of this, but there was still some left by the time we remembered.20161105_192302974_ios20161105_192313507_ios20161105_192321624_ios20161105_192330274_ios20161105_192334623_ios20161105_192339340_ios20161105_192354791_ios

Before the “students” began school, they took a trip to Diagon Alley to get supplies, beginning with Gringotts to withdraw some Galleons.20161105_192404159_ios20161105_192412198_iosThe wand chooses the witch! We made these with dowel rods, hot glue, beads, and spray paint. We were super pleased with the results!20161105_192427443_ios

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Our sweet little witch running Honeydukes!20161105_194237332_ios20161105_194649122_ios

Of course you can’t start classes until you’re sorted into houses20161105_193732317_ios

The activities were in the form of classes. Mainly real Hogwarts classes mixed with a few grammar level ones for the sake of having enough.
Care of Magical Creatures where they designed dragons20161105_210536423_ios20161105_210527144_iosHistory of Magic where they studied Harry’s scar by trying to pin it in the right place20161105_130539000_iosHerbology where they painted planter pots20161105_200032254_iosQuidditch! Bill made these hoops and they were fantastic!!! We had the girls bounce a ping pong ball on the table, trying to get them through the hoop.20161105_203256570_iosFlying Lessons where we did several broom relays. Many of our awesome neighbors let us borrow their brooms for this!20161105_215602382_ios20161105_215723008_iosGrammar, complete with Mad Lib20161106_141220649_iosGeography as a Horcrux scavenger hunt. I printed the clues on the back. Bill made these maps, too! This man is creative, ya’ll!!!20161111_211358098_ios20161111_211408844_iosPotions where we mixed baking soda, dish soap, food coloring, and vinegar. The girls had more fun with this than anything else! They could have stayed with this activity for an hour, I’m sure. I got these adorable little cauldrons on Amazon, and they made cute party favors.20161111_211825993_iosOther activities we forgot to photograph:

  • Dueling in the form of freeze tag
  • Charms using Wingardium Leviosa to keep balloons in the air with their wands
  • Defense Against the Dark Arts where the girls fought a dementor (black tablecloth pinned to the wall) with wands (shooting q-tips from straws)
  • Vocabulary as Harry Potter Bingo

The birthday girl’s ice cream cake20161105_212642215_ios

Sillie selfies!!20161105_192255399_ios

Kids and Sleep

20160724_160613000_iosOur sweet friend, Leia, who we made a makeshift bed for during our gathering one Sunday.

When I first had Liam, my mentor gave me the best advice on practical parenting I’d had before or since–make sleep the biggest priority for your kids.

Thank you, thank you, oh Yoda. Your words have served our family well.
(Her name isn’t actually Yoda…)

Her philosophy was that most behavior problems in children come from a lack of sleep. I’m far too lazy to look up any research to back her up, but trust me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, she was right. OK, OK, theologically their behavior problems come from sinful heart issues. But we’re body and soul together, where our flesh affects our hearts and our hearts affect our flesh. It goes both ways.

For instance, there are many times my physical body is broken down, maybe from hunger or fatigue, and sometimes the gift God gives you to fight temptations that invariably increase during those times is to simply eat something or take a nap. Same for our little ones, even though they can’t quite evaluate this for themselves. Sleep is an important tool to help our kids, even the littles, fight the temptations that come from living in our sinful flesh.

Now, before I tell you how the Bells have handled sleep so far, remember that kids aren’t robots. None of our children fit into a perfect box here. I know you’ll hate this, but you just have to use the instincts God gave you according to each child’s needs.

Also, as I’m preparing to write this, I’m thinking, “Oh crap! I don’t actually remember what we did with babies!” I’ve done the baby and sleep thing six times, and my youngest is only four, but yeah–you really do forget. This should let you know how helpful this article will be. Please excuse me while I refresh my memory a bit…

And I’m back! I’m sure you noticed my absence.

(The recommended hours of sleep are in parentheses beside each age, according to WebMD)

Newborns-4 Weeks (15-16 hours): During these first weeks, we do a mix of feeling out baby’s rhythms and helping them adjust to ours. We typically do a feed-keep awake for a short time to play-sleep routine. If baby wakes up before three hours, I feed them and start the cycle over again. If they try to sleep longer at this age, I wake them up at the three-hour mark from start of the previous feeding. We do the same through the night, too. Our experience has been that baby stretches closer to the three-hour mark if we really try for the play time right after the feeding. I have no idea why (WebMD should totally hire me to write for them with all my research), but baby just seems to sleep better when they’ve played a bit before naptime.

1-4 Months (14-15 hours): There’s a slow transition that begins here to let baby begin sleeping through the night. We gradually allow baby to have longer stretches during the night until their body adjusts to full nighttime sleeping. For our six kids whom we raised from birth, 10-12 hour stretches happened between weeks 9 and 11. That’s not right or better or anything–it’s just what our kids did. If your kids don’t, they’re still awesome and so are you. We still wake them up in the daytime if need be, we just switch to more of a four-hour instead of three-hour cycle.

4-9 Months (14-15 hours): At this point, our kids were on a schedule of three naps during the day, usually sleeping between 1-2 hours at a time and 10-12 hours at night. We still kept the same eat-play-sleep cycle with them. Dropping the third nap is different for each child. Two of my kids have always LOVED their sleep. Honestly, my ten-year-old could still nap every day if I wanted her to. They tended to hold on to that third nap longer than the others. If over time they simply don’t sleep, stop acting tired before the evening nap, or stop sleeping well through the night, it’s often an indication they need fewer naps. Dropping the evening nap can also means a bit of an earlier bed time for a transition period.

6-12 Months (14-15 hours): Our children still take two naps during this phase, and often we let this phase go longer than the 12 month recommendation, sometimes as late as 18 months. Again, it depends on the child’s needs. Twelve-hour nights of sleep are usually the sweet spot for Bell kids at this point.

1-3 Years (12-14 hours): Like I said, we often keep two naps past the one year mark, but most kids can switch to one nap a day not long after their first birthday.Our kids still sleep around twelve continuous hours during the night.

3-6 Years (10-12 hours): This is the point we usually start to look a bit different from other families. It seems like most families are anxious for their children to drop their afternoon nap so they can have more freedom to run errands, explore, whatever in the day. We typically don’t drop it until they’ve made it through this phase. Threenagers’ little bodies are changing so much, and it’s rough to make it 12 hours with no rest. Now, a couple of my kids did stop napping consistently when they were three, but I haven’t had one who was ready to drop completely at this age. This is where “rest time” becomes more the norm. They would read books in bed for an hour or two. A few days a week, they fall asleep, and a few days a week they don’t. Currently, one of my four-year-olds could take a four-hour nap each day if we’d let him (we don’t!), our other four-year-old sleeps 5-6 days a week, and our five-year-old sleeps 2-4 days a week.

7-12 Years (10-11 hours): We gradually let our children stay up a bit longer during this phase, pushing bedtime back by 30 minutes as the child grows. Our 11-year-old goes to bed around 9 and wakes up on his own between 7 and 7:30. He did recently get a late Friday night bedtime of 10:00, and he’ll usually sleep a bit later on Saturdays. This basically means he stays up later than me most Fridays. Dang, I’m a party animal…

12-18 Years (8-9 hours): No words here. I haven’t raised a cub in this age range yet. I just thought it was fun to include it like I have a clue what I’m doing.

One last thought here. I don’t believe in a child-centered home. Nor do I believe in a parent-centered home. I believe in a Jesus-centered home, which entails giving up your own desires as your Big Brother did. I mentioned this briefly above, but the biggest reason it seems parents push their kids out of the sleep they need (I do it, too!) is because we’re just weary of revolving our schedules around our kids. We’re ready for an easier season where we can add in activities we’ve missed or look forward to. Or we want more freedom to do things on our time for our convenience. Sometimes, the right thing is to blow off a nap or drop naps for necessity. But I think more often we need to remember that rest is a precious gift from God. It’s good for our kids, and it’s good for us. Sit and be still, knowing this season is from him and for him. Use their rest time to be content in this season. And if you do this well, let me know in the comments. I would love to learn from you.