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OK to Wake Clock – A Love Story

2021 September 9

I originally wrote this blog post a few years ago when I first discovered the glorious wonders of a properly executed green light system to manage morning wakeups. I have now successfully onboarded three children onto the system. After much soul searching, I realize that this might be the only thing I am qualified to give parenting advice about. Therefore, the editorial team deemed it worthy of a repost. Away we gooo…

I was hesitant to transition our two-year-old daughter from the confines of her cage–oh, sorry.   I think the politically correct term for that is crib. Crib. Let me start over.

baby cage

I was hesitant to transition our two-year-old daughter from the confines of her crib to her big girl bedroom.  I feared that my years of controlling bedtimes and wake-times would be over. Would she be roaming the halls drawing on the walls, playing with knives, and lighting matches in the middle of the night while the adults slept upstairs? Or way WAY worse: would she wake us up before 8am?

In efforts to quell those fears, I bought this AMAZING clock and put it to use when she was evicted from the crib and relocated to her new bedroom.  It has worked like a charm.  The light on the clock turns green when it is time for her to wake up—a time I decide and set.  Then, and only then, she calls us enthusiastically, “Mommy, Daddy, my light turned green!”  And the day begins.   (My) studies have shown that, like dogs, young children have no real concept of time.  You have to be the one to guide them if you don’t want the bedtime/waketime situation to become a GD free-for-all.

Ok to wake image

A few tips for making the green light work:

  • The key to making this clock system work for you and your child is to set the rules and enforce them. Your house, your rules.  At our house, our daughter is not allowed to come out of her room on her own accord after we tuck her in for bedtime.  She knows she has to stay in her room until morning when her light turns green.  If she wakes up in the morning before the green light, then she is free to quietly read, play, and explore the recesses of her imagination in her room.  We euphemistically refer to whatever the heck goes on in there before her light turns green as “Independent Playtime.”
  • Consistency is key. Clearly set and enforced boundaries benefit the whole family.  A few times in the beginning Harper would call us in the morning before her light turned green. Knowing that she was safe and not being attacked by a tiger, we waited until the green light to go get her. Then we lovingly reminded her of the rules and we did our best to follow them too.  Do not cave!  Kids Can Be Tricky Little Tyrants. (←working title of my forthcoming parenting book).
  • Both parents must be on the same page about the Ultimate Authority of The Green Light.  Even the softer, sweeter parent needs to be totally bought into the system. There is one in every parenting duo. I’m not going to name names, but if I were to name the name of the somewhat softer member of our parenting partnership, I would name the name of our children’s father.
  • Pro tip: I set the clock for one time on the weekdays and usually a different, slightly later time on the weekends. If it’s been a late and wild Saturday night for the adults, we tick that clock back so that we can get some extra sleep in the morning.  Say it with me now, independent playtime. What a gift to have unstructured time to explore the recess of one’s own imagination! Big sis is nonethewiser and usually sleeps in a bit on the weekends anyway.
  • We keep the clock on the highest shelf in the room so that our daughter can’t tinker with it and mess with the buttons.  No touching the clock allowed.
  • When our children spend the night with their grandparents or when we go on vacation, the clock comes along. It is just part of the routine around here.  
  • Of course, give yourself the gift of a green light. The OK to Wake Clock also makes an excellent gift for sleep-deprived mother’s of infants to let them know that there is a literal green light at the end of the tunnel.

In conclusion, if our house was on fire and I could save one thing from my daughter’s room, it wouldn’t be the heirloom dresses hand-smocked by her great grandmother or her woefully neglected baby book, it would be the OK to Wake Clock.  It is a tad more expensive than your typical alarm clock, but after seeing how well it has worked for our family, I would happily pay ten times what we paid for it—the peace of mind and sleep it provides are priceless.

FLASH FORWARD five years and I am revisiting this blog post on the occasion of moving my third child out of her crib, into a big girl bed, and onto the Green Light System. Each child has a Green Light in her room.  Last Saturday morning, I didn’t hear a peep until 8:45am when the lights simultaneously turned green and the day officially began.  I woke up feeling like a well-rested Disney Princezz. Granted, it’s been chaos since then, but I can handle the chaos a whole lot more joyfully when it starts in the late 8s. 

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