I’m not at all judgmental when it comes to how other parents raise their children. Because I don’t judge – and because I always give fellow mothers the benefit of the doubt – I was shocked to be judged so harshly myself recently. It all started when I wrote an article for a magazine in which I casually mentioned that I sleep in bed with my almost-eight-year-old daughter on the nights that my boyfriend doesn’t stay over. I explained that until he and I became serious, my daughter and I had been sleeping together nightly from the time she was three.
Judgment – or more like a slap in the face – was thrown all over the place in the “comments” section. Here are some of my favorite comments about the fact I still sleep with my almost eight-year-old child:
“No wonder therapists make so much money! Firstly for no reason, except for the occasional absolute exhaustion, should a child sleep with a parent. Everyone should have his/her own bed and that’s where one should sleep. This situation boggles the minds on too many fronts but these people are in a lot of psychological trouble.”
“There has to be a delineation between adult and child.”
And my personal favorite:
“I believe you are setting a possibly troublesome precedent for the child’s future development. With the exception of the occasional restless night or bad dream, it is important for her own psychological self-development…”
While I do think that everyone is entitled to her own opinion, I also believe the opinions expressed in this instance are simply wrong. And stupid. Sorry! Even if you have a damn degree in child psychology and left one of those comments, I just want to say, “Seriously? Does that rule apply to all?”
Despite worries that kids who share beds with their parents will not hit certain independence milestones, new research reveals that as long as the kids are old enough to evade SIDS, they will develop just fine. “Parents can do what works best for their family and not feel guilty if they choose to bed-share, because there probably aren’t lasting impacts,” said Lauren Hale, who led the study.
I’d like to thank Lauren Hale for this, but, truthfully, I don’t take much stock in studies. For every study showing that sleeping with your eight-year-old is harmless, you could just as easily find another saying otherwise. Also, I never felt guilty sleeping with my daughter for all those years to begin with – and still don’t.
Now, unfortunately for you readers, it’s time for me to brag a little. And this is mostly directed at the person who write, “I believe you are setting a possibly troublesome precedent for the child’s future development.” I’m pretty damn certain I’m not setting troublesome precedents for my child’s future. Here’s why. First, my daughter loves sleepovers. If she were invited to a sleepover every weekend, she’d go. She even went to overnight camp for a week this summer and had the time of her life. Next year, she wants to go for at least two weeks. Also, she has no problem visiting her father, who lives in another province, for sometimes up to three weeks at a time. At least once a month she sleeps at my parent’s house. So, is she too attached to me? Can she not sleep without me? I think not. Obviously she can sleep in other beds, in other homes, no problem.
My daughter was never one of those children who cried when I dropped her off at pre-school (or grade school). In fact, she’s one of the bravest people – yes, people – I know. No roller coaster, water slide, snorkeling, surfing or climbing wall scares her at all. So, yes, she can and is away from mommy and is very independent. With no pressure from me, she got into one of the best private schools in Canada and auditioned and got into the National Ballet School. The girl has no fear. Put her up on a stage and she’ll sing a Taylor Swift song from memory in front of 100 people.
More important (and, yes, I’ll stop bragging now), sharing the same bed with my daughter is “our” time. When I say that, I mean that it’s our time to really talk about our feelings and our days. She’s more open to me about her feelings, or things that bug her, or things she worries about, or telling me funny stories about her friends, or bad stories about her friends, while cuddling with me, and talking in the dark, while in my bed. Do I think this is a problem? Absolutely not! If my child is opening up to me, in any way, in any circumstance (even including in the same bed in the dark) then I think that’s an amazing thing.
When she wants to tell me something “private” when we’re around other people, she’ll say, “I’ll tell you in bed tonight.” Our mother-daughter bond is tight. Too tight? What’s too tight? Also, I’d like to ask the question, “Who the hell came up with this seemingly set-in-stone rule that you can’t sleep with your children?” I think the people who came up with this rule, or follow this rule, are either married and want some alone time to have sex; those who really need a break from their children who maybe annoyed them that day; those whose children move around a lot in their sleep and don’t like a leg wrapped around their throats (which I get); or those who are addicted to The Real Housewives Of Orange County and want to watch it without their children asking questions about “boob jobs” and “inflated lips.”
But, for me, a single mother whose child is in full-day school, and who also has a part-time nanny, nights are when my daughter and I really have our time together. Sometimes we sleep the entire night holding hands. Words cannot possibly explain the love I feel for her when we sleep holding hands, or having my arm wrapped around her, or her throwing her arm around me, throughout the night. Another bonus is that I get more sleep when I go to sleep with my daughter. I usually pass out with her, which is good for me, because, like you know, there are a thousand reports that say sleep is so important for health and stress levels.
I’d also like to add that I bet these judgmental parents who think I’m doing psychological damage to my child are also the same people who would have criticized me for allowing my daughter to use a bottle until she was three. Guess what? She no longer uses a bottle! Are you shocked? You shouldn’t be. Have you ever seen a 16-year-old walking around with a baby bottle?
My theory is that I know my daughter is not always going to want to sleep with me. One day, just like how she suddenly didn’t want a bottle, she’s going to say, “I think I’ll sleep in my own bed tonight, Mommy.” And I will be sad about this. But I will never regret the years when she wanted to sleep with me. Whereas I think parents who have never tried to sleep with their children – because of their oh-so-strict-rules that children should always sleep in their own bed – don’t know what they’re missing.
Or maybe I’m just a judgmental bitch, too.