We don’t co-sleep. Since the day I brought each one of my kids home from the hospital, they went to sleep in their own rooms in their own beds. All late-night and early-morning nursing sessions happened in the rocking chair next to a crib in a bedroom that was not mine. I have never woken up to a mysterious foot in my ribs or rolled over in bed to find there is no more bed. My girls each have their own bed. My husband and I have ours.
I have absolutely nothing against co-sleeping. My many friends who enjoy co-sleeping swear by it as the only way everyone gets the most possible sleep. As one mom friend constantly reminds me, the only real rule when it comes to kids and sleep is to do whatever safely secures the most sleep for the most people. In our house, that means not co-sleeping. My husband sleeps too soundly and I sleep too fitfully for either of us to feel quite comfortable sharing a bed with a kiddo. We don’t even share a bed with our cat.Even trips where we all found ourselves in the same bedroom haven’t ended up with all of us in the same bed. An array of pack and plays, crib mattresses, and little folding toddler cots have kept our girls cozy. In fact, whenever our girls sleep poorly when we’re on the road, we’ve learned the hard way that cuddling them in bed with us only makes things a million times worse. If we can’t sleep well in our own beds, we’re just not gonna sleep well.
Recently, our oldest girl made a noteworthy nighttime transition. She went from her lovely little toddler bed to her beautiful big girl bed. She got to pick out new sheets for the full-length single mattress. The bed’s many drawers and cubbies have delighted her as she hoards and stashes tons of tiny treasures. All her stuffed animals can now fit in the bed with her, surrounding her like a fuzzy plush nest. She never really wanted to be anywhere other than her own room, but now that she’s got a palace of a bed, it’s definitely the only place she wants to sleep.
There’s a catch. Ever since she switched from the crib to her toddler bed a couple of years ago, she added one notable step to the bedtime routine. She wants you to “cuddle for a minute”. Essentially, she wants you to throw an arm over her and be her personal heated, weighted blanket whiles she tries to settle in for the night. When she was in the toddler bed it meant awkwardly half-kneeling on the floor while slinging an arm across her rib cage. The floor got cold and hard while you tried to silently shift your weight and keep your leg from falling asleep faster than she did. It quickly became my most dreaded bedtime stage.
The switch to the big bed changed everything. There’s plenty of room to climb into bed next to her, even with the 82,104,711 stuffed animals she has surrounding her. I can hop into bed with her, cuddle forehead to forehead, and let her fingertips dance across my forearm while we say prayers and sing songs and let our breathing slow down. It quickly has become my favorite bedtime stage.
Just this afternoon something completely foreign happened. I got her tucked into her bed after a long, busy morning of playing. She was so twitchy and bouncy that I didn’t think she would nap, especially since naps are starting to fade for her anyway. I resolved to stay in her bed with her until I knew she was all the way asleep. She wrapped her hands around my arm, curled against my side…
And then I fell asleep in bed with her.
I woke up about 45 minutes later. The sun outside her bedroom window was warm even through the shade. Her hair tangled up in my face and smelled like little kid sweat. She breathed slow and soft, with just a tiny snore thanks to the late-season cold that has plagued us all and won’t die. I felt absolutely peaceful. I felt both protected and like a protector. For this warm, sweet moment, every single thing in the whole entire world was good and fine.
I know it’s not always like this, but if it were, I think I would have to give co-sleeping a second thought.
I still love having my own bed. I remain grateful that my kids sleep most restfully and contentedly in their own rooms. I don’t actually think we’ll switch our sleeping style any time soon. Still, that brief little nap with my sweet girl felt like the best medicine against fear, despair, doubt, and anxiety that I could have ever imagined. For just a bit, I could treasure her littleness and quietness. Considering the typical, age-appropriate number of freakouts and meltdowns we have around here, it gave me a moment to hold onto and remember that she is still and always will be my baby.
At least, until she wakes up.