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That Time I Made My Kid Stay Up All Night

Sleep. It can be the nemesis of parents and a top issue they seek advice about. Getting kids to bed at night—and keeping them there—is a serious struggle for many.

So what do you do when your child's doctor tells you to keep your child up all night? It goes against every parental instinct you have. And your own need for a good night's sleep (especially if you haven't been in the up all night with baby phase for years!)

However, for the EEG my daughter needed to have, sleep deprivation was key. We've been through it before. And it felt so very wrong. The epitome of cruel and unusual punishment.

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We vividly remember our then 3-year-old crying and begging us to let her go to bed. We felt like the Worst Parents In The World.

We all got through it, but none of us was eager for a repeat. This time would be different. You see, if the results are normal, which is expected, we will begin to slowly wean our daughter off her seizure medication. She has been seizure-free for nearly two years. A day we have been hoping for had arrived.

But first, there was this big hurdle to get over.

Our child is no night owl. She loves her sleep and always has. She goes to bed early and sleeps through the night. For which we are very grateful.

Sleep is so important for our daughter, we learned a long time ago not to make night plans that involve her. We follow a strict bedtime routine. No exceptions. Any time we have made changes, it has not gone well. So we simply don't anymore. We stick to what works.

Thankfully, we were told we could put our daughter to bed at her usual time and allow her to sleep for a bit the night before the test. We would have to wake her in the wee hours of the morning and keep her up until we got to the hospital.

I came up with an idea I thought could help—a middle of the night scavenger hunt through our neighborhood. I reached out to a number of neighbors and received permission to place items and clues in or around their mailboxes.

I promised we would not come into their yards, near their homes and would be as quiet as possible. I bought small toys, crafts and treats. And came up with clues like:

  • I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, ______________. (One of our neighbors has a dog named Sam.)
  • This princess lives in a high tower, and is sleeping in her high bed tonight. (My daughter's friend down the street has a Rapunzel-themed bedroom and bunk bed).

Once my daughter went to sleep, I headed out to set things up. Then I tried—in vain—to get a few hours myself.

Waking her was not as difficult as I had anticipated. She was very eager for our scavenger hunt and wanted to head outside right away. I had the first clue, a bag for all her goodies, a glow stick and lantern ready and sitting on the kitchen counter.

We bundled up (it was chilly for Florida) and headed out.

The scavenger hunt ended on our back deck with glow in the dark bubbles and the reveal of two light sabers. I had recently made some out of paper towel rolls and construction paper, and my daughter and husband loved them. So when I went shopping and saw some "real" ones, I had to buy them.

They make a lot of noise, so we eventually went back inside to play with them.

Then my daughter delighted in playing with her other new toys, including a paper doll pet shop and a "snowball" shooter.

This whole staying up thing wasn't turning out to be so bad after all. My husband and I struggled much more than our daughter did. But for that, we had coffee.

We watched a few movies. And whenever any of us began to fade, it was time for a dance party. My husband cranked loud music though the TV, and we jumped around the living room like we were having our own personal rave. Minus the drugs and sex.

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The drive to the hospital in rush hour traffic? So not fun. The actual test even less so. But we made it through.

I hope I never have to sleep deprive my child on purpose again. But if I do, I'm glad to know it can be fun, for all of us.

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PHOTOGRAPH BY: Elizabeth Flora Ross

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