Photo courtesy of Ashley Austrew; still from YouTube/Disney

I Tried The Disney Sleep Hotline For Kids Who Won’t Go To Bed & GOSH GOLLY

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School is back in session, and for most of us, that means our schedules are pretty screwed up. For my kids, school started this morning. And even though I had grand plans of easing my family into our new school year routine and taking a week or two at the end of summer to gradually adjust their sleep schedule back to something slightly resembling normal, that’s not what ended up happening. Sleep has been all over the place; a complication of this historic summer that led me to try Disney's sleep hotline.

Since about mid-June, my 4- and 6-year-olds have been going to bed around 8:30 p.m., but actually staying up and sneaking into each other’s bedrooms to play with Tinker Toys, look at books, and giggle until closer to midnight. Every night for the past week and a half, I’ve been planning to lay down the mommy law and try to get them to sleep sooner so they wouldn’t be exhausted when the first day of school rolled around. But you know what? The late night conversations of sibling BFFs are simply too sweet to interrupt. Plus, they end up falling asleep together, and my heart cannot take the cuteness. So... take a chair, sleep hygiene worries!

Needless to say, my willingness to let cute sibling behavior trump our need to get back on a real schedule meant that last night, on First Day of School Eve, I was in a panic about how to get my kids to go to bed at a reasonable hour. Enter: Disney's Mickey Mouse hotline service.

For August only, Disney has rolled out a special hotline parents can call when their kids go to bed. All you have to do is dial 1(877) 7-MICKEY, and you reach an automatic service that instructs you to choose a character — Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck (no promises), Daisy Duck, or Goofy — who then says a special goodnight to your sleep-averse little darlings.

The hotline, which closes on August 31, is part of a partnership between Disney and Laura Olsen, a certified pediatric sleep coach, who is also launching a line of Disney sleep gear, like cuddle toys, reward charts, light up drinkware, and pajamas.

Photo courtesy of Ashley Austrew

Did I think this hotline would reverse an entire summer of lawless bedtime antics? Of course not. But I figured it would be a special way to introduce the concept of an earlier bedtime on the big night before school, so I gave it a shot.

It started with me talking it up: “I have a surprise for you! Go get PJs on and brush your teeth and then come into my room,” I told my kids. Gleefully, they changed clothes and brushed teeth and jumped up on my bed to see what wonders would await. I dialed the number (which I had tested earlier in the day, just to make sure it actually worked) and waited. And waited. And then … got an error message?

Oh, f*ck.

I tried again, my kids staring at me expectantly and probably thinking, “There had better be cookies hidden in that phone, otherwise what are we even doing?”

My Disney-obsessed 6-year-old was slack-jawed. As soon as she heard Mickey’s voice, she looked at me like a tween who just got an Instagram comment from Justin Bieber.

Two more error messages later (apparently I wasn’t the only parent who had this idea), we finally got through. I pressed "1" for Mickey and then put the phone on speaker, and a few seconds later Mickey’s signature voice came blaring out:

“Hiya, Pal! It’s me, Mickey Mouse! Oh, I sure am glad you called. Gosh, it must be getting close to your bedtime. I bet by now you’ve brushed your teeth and gotten into your pajamas. That’s great! Pluto and I just finished brushing our teeth, too. Tonight I think I’ll read Pluto his favorite story. It’s about a brave dog who helps a lost bunny rabbit find his way home. Well, it’s time for Pluto’s night time walk so I better go. Goodnight, pal! I hope you have sweet dreams!”

You can’t personalize the message, but to Disney’s credit, it’s pretty substantial — much better than the “Hi, it’s Mickey! GOODNIGHT, CHILD!” I was expecting. My Disney-obsessed 6-year-old was slack-jawed. As soon as she heard Mickey’s voice, she looked at me like a tween who just got an Instagram comment from Justin Bieber.

“How do you know Mickey’s phone number?” she squealed in delight. “I can’t believe Mickey called me!”

My 4-year-old looked at me and said, “Where’s the surprise? Is it in the closet?” And then they both stayed awake until 10:45 p.m.

So, maybe the Disney sleep line isn’t a cure all for getting kids to go to sleep. But if your kid loves Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Daisy, it’s still fun way to infuse a little bit of magic into your nighttime routine.