It’s been quite a while since I’ve slept alone. I’m not bragging; it’s actually been quite a while since I’ve slept without at least two other people in my bed (still not bragging; they’re related to me).
We moved my 5-year-old from his crib to a proper bed about three years ago. We even got him a super cool loft style bed that almost killed me to assemble (thanks, IKEA!) about one year ago. He has spent the bulk of that one year, if not the bulk of those three years, leaving his bed and climbing into mine every night.
As a parent in this situation, it’s easy to become torn between two sides. On the one hand, it’s a lot harder to get a good night’s sleep when a bed built for two suddenly contains three, especially when the third person doesn’t quite understand the concept of sleeping in a bed and spends most of his time kicking, flailing, and inexplicably sleeping sideways and diagonally across the mattress. On the other hand, he’ll not only fit in your bed for just a short while longer, he’ll only want to snuggle up with you for a short while longer.
Kids grow up, and they grow up fast, and suddenly the stuff you found most inconvenient and frustrating becomes what you miss the most.
It probably sounds funny now, but as your kids progress from phase to phase, and their behavior both sheds and sprouts new annoyances, you might end up wishing you had some of the more childish characteristics back — especially since those tend to be replaced with much more challenging attributes. I don’t know about you, but I think I’m going to prefer the headache that comes from my son incessantly asking “why” to the one that comes from trying to figure out how to afford his college tuition.
Co-sleeping is one of those characteristics. It’s a vestige of a childhood that is rapidly disappearing, which is why, despite all the experts and the naysayers and the internet screaming about its negative impact — on both on your sleep and on your kids’ development — it can often be hard to resist. And not just in the “he crawled into your bed at two in the morning and you don’t have the energy to bother escorting him back to his bed” kind of way.
My wife, despite her desire to make sure my son gets used to his bed and that he doesn’t turn into Norman Bates, mostly treasures the nights when she gets to curl up next to him. I get it. It’s sweet that my 5-year-old still wants to cuddle up next to us (let’s be honest, he mostly wants to cuddle up next to Mommy), and most of the time, she relishes it. Especially at the end of the school year, when we compare “first day” and “last day” school photos and her heart screams that he’s growing up too quickly. On days like that, my wife wants to hang on to co-sleeping as long as she can.
So we find ourselves alternating between “we have to break this potentially harmful habit!” and “it won’t last forever; let’s treasure it!” Sometimes we have these emotions over the course of the same night. Sometimes he’s in our bed, sometimes he’s not, sometimes it frustrates us, and sometimes we miss it before it’s even gone.
Our 5-year-old spends a lot of nights in our bed, and on the nights he doesn’t, it’s usually because we’ve bribed or threatened him to stay in his. But as much as we bitch about our son taking up space and disrupting our sleep, and as much as we worry that too much co-sleeping might tip him to the Psycho side of the scales, we’re basically okay with the situation.
It’s not like he’s sharing our bed at 12 years old.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
(There probably is.)