She was just about two-years-old when we realized the party was over. My daughter, who up until that point was the perfect sleeper, had developed a serious aversion to going to bed. And by aversion, I mean bloodcurdling screams in the middle of the night. At first, my husband and I figured some calming words and cuddles would do the trick. We were wrong. Her nighttime routine gradually became a hellish one. At first, we would get at least two hours of her sleeping before it all started. Then one hour. Then, it got to the point that we could no longer put her in the crib. Already the boss of the family, she was very particular on how she wanted to spend her night. She wanted to be on the couch and my husband would lie next to her on the floor. Yes, she would only go to sleep if my husband was next to her. On the floor. She wanted nothing to do with me, either. I couldn’t even get her into our bed at that point.
Sleep deprived and horribly overwhelmed by the situation, I began to look for a solution. My little girl had obviously outgrown her crib so I would get her a big girl bed. It was time. Yes, a big girl bed would be perfect! She loved Dora the Explorer, so a Dora bed it would be. It would be a wonderful surprise. The day the bed arrived, she shrieked with delight. After hours of putting the thing together (poor hubby), we all looked forward to a well earned night’s sleep. After a few days of no success, I decided to put a reward system in place. A full week of sleep would earn her a new bike. I came to her room each night, sticker chart in hand, serious as a heart attack. This was going to work. Miraculously, we did have a few sporadic full nights of sleep in her bed, but nothing consistent. With a new baby coming in a few months, she was regressing even more and I was worried. I had failed at this whole sleep thing. I was miserable and desperate. At this point, she would be sleeping on the couch next to my husband until she was twenty-five.
About nine months into our no-sleeping hell, our beautiful baby boy joined the family. Elated but overwhelmed, I knew we were in serious trouble. A new baby would only complicate matters. Why couldn’t this kid just sleep in her bed? What was so hard about this? One night, as I laid awake thinking about it, I came upon my answer. It had been right in front of me the whole time. My daughter was scared and wanted to be next to us. She didn’t like the dark, the strange noises and the loneliness that came along with the night. She was just like another little girl that I used to know. My sweet little girl was just like me as a child.
I don’t recall the exact age that I started sleeping with my own mother. However, I must have been fairly young as my earliest memories were in my parent’s king sized bed. At my daughter’s age, I couldn’t even fathom sleeping by myself. I was absolutely terrified. Sleeping next to my mom made me feel comforted and safe. At around nine-years-old, I transitioned to my bed on my own. I was a big girl and became embarrassed of the sleeping arrangement. At first, it was hard. I vividly remember lying in my own bed; alone in my own room. The door was fully open and the hallway lights were on. With my heart racing and sweating, it was a struggle. I don’t even remember if I made it through the whole night, but it was a great attempt. I was on my way to sleeping independently and that was all that mattered. Years later, I asked my mom how she felt about co-sleeping for all those years. She said it was no big deal. We were all great kids and if the toughest thing she had to deal with was sharing her bed, then so be it. My mom’s words really struck with me. I immediately thought of my own daughter; another great kid whose biggest issue was not being able to stay in her room through the night. There had to be a better way for us to get through this.
About one year into our nighttime struggle, I had a talk with my daughter. At that point, she was a very perceptive three years old. I asked her how she felt about going into bed with her mom. We could still read a book beforehand. I would give lots of cuddles and hugs. I also let her know that she would be welcome to stay as long as she wished. She liked the idea and since then we have been pretty happy. She will often ask for a cuddle and a blanket in the middle of the night. We tell stories and laugh a lot. For the most part, it has brought us closer together and has been a nice experience (minus me waking up to feet in my face).
Like many other aspects of my parenting, I tend to be private about our co-sleeping. It really is nobody’s business. However, I will occasionally speak about it when the topic presents itself. I definitely do not hide it. I do get “looks” or comments from others when I tell them about our arrangement. I tend to not let it bother me. When it comes to family, it is what works for us. And that is all that really matters. My daughter will let us know when she is ready to go back into her own room. It is not going to be forever.
My daughter will be turning five this year. We recently had the conversation about going into her big girl bed full time. She said she would give it a try as long as I lay next to her until she falls asleep. She has done a good job with it; although she still joins me in my bed at around midnight. I don’t mind. We can be roommates for a bit longer. I will always be here. For as long as she needs me to be.