Childrearing

Why I’m Determined To Kick My Pre-Schooler Out Of My Bed

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bedtimeWhen I was a kid, sleeping my parents’ bed was absolutely not an option. There was absolutely no way that my brother, sister, or I were going to snuggle in between them. Not if we were sick. Not if something traumatic happened. It was just not something that I ever even considered as a child. So I have to admit that the idea of letting my child come crawl under my covers in the middle of the night was not a parenting situation I was prepared for. Laugh at me all you’d like, I just had no frame of reference for this suddenly hot parenting topic.

When my daughter was an infant, co-sleeping wasn’t an option for me. My pediatrician said it was dangerous. Government regulations said it was dangerous. I took them at their word and kept my daughter in a bassinet by my bed, then a crib in her room next to mine. When Brenna was little she had a few sleep issues, but none I considered to be abnormal or extreme. Just a regular baby who preferred being rocked in your arms to lying in bed. Really, who can blame the kids for that? Being rocked sounds more fun to me too.

No, it wasn’t until Brenna was old enough to suggest the idea herself that she started crawling in my bed every chance she got. In the beginning, it was the odd nightmare that sent her scurrying into my husband and my room. In the middle of the night, instead of fussing or taking precious sleeping minutes to calm her down in her own bed, I would just pull her close to me and we’d both drift back off to sleep. In the beginning, it wasn’t happening often. Just every other week or so, a bad dream or the dogs barking at something would outside would mean a night of cuddling for me.

Then, my husband started working a couple evening a night. He left right around my daughter’s bedtime and didn’t come home until we were already awake in the morning. Brenna would beg and beg to come into my room on those nights. And who was I to say no? I had a big king-size bed all to myself. It didn’t hurt anything to let her fall asleep with me, I thought. And man was I wrong.

Now, I have a daughter whose favorite sleeping position is with her feet snuggled nicely under my ribs and her head laying firmly on the dog’s back at the foot of the bed. There is no bigger proponent of the “family bed” than my daughter. And it might make me cold-hearted, but I’m determined to go back to the way things were. I’m determined to send her back to her own room.

I love my little girl. We’re an affectionate family and she has lots of time to snuggle up in my arms. But those hours that she’s sleeping are mine. They are the time for me to unwind, to watch a little television maybe, and to spend adult time with my husband. My bed is where I read. It’s where I relax. And as much as I love her, it’s my private space to be away from my daughter. I don’t think that needing or wanting that makes me a bad mom.

So even though it’s hard, and even though she’s not thrilled about the process, I am slowly but surely easing my daughter back to her own bed. I didn’t want to shove her out completely, and make the entire thing into a battle. But I am standing my ground. Now, if she wakes up with a bad dream, I take the time to come to her bed and ease her back to sleep. Before she closes her eyes at night, I lay down with her, rub her back and make sure we’ve read plenty of stories. I put in the effort to make her comfortable and happy in her own space.

She isn’t in love with the set-up. There are still nights she gets mad. And I can admit that there are still nights I give in. But we’re on our way. We’re on our way to completely separate sleeping quarters, and I’m pretty thankful. My daughter puts a sparkle in my eye and a smile on my face, but she also puts a crick in my back and a stress on my rest when she sleeps in my bed. Then I’m a grump when I wake up, and that’s not good for either of us.

Yup, the family bed isn’t working in my house. So we’re calling it quits. And now, I get to admit when no child likes to, that my parents were completely right!

(Photo: Franck Boston/Shutterstock)