Tonight I made some cookies with my kids, gave them a bath, and played under a fort we made with the table and a blanket. Then I said, "let's lay down, watch a tv show and go to sleep." We all snuggled up under the blankets for a cartoon on Sprout and I said "after this show is over we'll go to sleep."
This is how we often get to bed. We pull E's twin sized mattress into the living room, snuggle up together, put on a tv show or movie and they are out in half an hour. Then D and I can stay up for a few hours if we want to. E used to stay up a lot later, but now that she's dropped her naps, she goes to bed earlier.
When I turned the tv off, it was clear after 5 minutes that neither of them were as tired as I thought. E said that she wanted to stay up, so I let her. Most people would probably think that is permissive, but I counter that it's only permissive if bedtime is a "rule." Or if the household even has a "bedtime." We don't. My job is to help my children fall asleep when they are ready, make the environment conducive to sleep, help them learn to recognize the signs that their body is tired, and trust that they are learning about their *own* bodies and their *own* needs as separate people from me.
So, I told her that yes, she could stay up. She wanted to use the mattress as a slide off the couch and I said that was fine as long as it was fairly quiet. I left the lights off, except one low one and the tv to keep the atmosphere. I reminded her that it was late at night and our upstairs neighbors were sleeping, because that is being respectful of their boundaries. I said that she could do it as long as she wasn't banging on the floor or yelling. The girls played quietly for half an hour or so, and then settled back in to watch tv. L came and snuggled with me to nurse, and is asleep on my lap right now. E fell asleep watching Brother Bear..... quietly, peacefully, when their bodies were ready.