When school got shut down, my two daughters started sleeping in the same room again. They are ten and five, and when we first moved into our house two years ago, we gave them the bonus room above the garage. It’s this large room the same size as our double garage, with a vaulted ceiling and a massive closet. The hope was they’d share a room so we could have a spare room, but it didn’t last. They argued far too much, and eventually my son ended up with the bonus room, and our daughters ended up in the two small rooms, and our spare room evaporated.
But the moment things changed because of COVID-19, the two of them started sharing one twin-sized bed. They covered it in stuffed animals, and slept practically on top of each other — but for some reason, this is what they preferred. And that change wasn’t the only one: Getting them to bed has taken longer, too. I’ve been reading more stories each night, and there have been a lot more requests for hugs, and glasses of water. And as frustrating as all that is, it’s kind of difficult to deny it to them considering everything that’s going on.
I’ve seen a lot of people posting online about how their children seem to need a little more love at bedtime right now, and frankly it makes sense. I think we have all spent a lot of time trying to figure out our new normal: working from home, struggling with unemployment, homeschooling, not leaving the house, wearing masks. But our kids, well… they are figuring all that out too. And it sounds like the transition between day and night is where a lot of children are feeling it the most.
Unlike us, our children don’t have social media and partners and friends and family to discuss and process this sort of thing. In fact, they might not even have the words, so it seems to all be coming out a little sideways — in the form of extra long hugs at night, sleepless nights, and in some cases, nightmares.
I’ve gotten pretty lucky in that department. Getting our kids to bed has been our only struggle so far, but a good friend of mine’s seven-year-old son has been having horrible nightmares since all this began. She has been up in the night most nights giving him comfort. And as difficult as it can be to give your child comfort in the night during the uncertainty of a pandemic, you can’t deny them that.
I would like to think that for the most part, we have all started to adapt to our new situation. Naturally, it’s a good idea to talk to our children about what is going on. It’s good to give them time to process what they are struggling to figure out, but ultimately, what our kids really need is for us to just be there. They need the love of their parents. They might need an extra story or two, or far too many glasses of water. It might be the right time to break that rule of not letting them sleep next to you. As parents, we need to accept that this is how our little ones may process stressful and uncertain times.
In the past three days, my girls have stopped sharing a bed. They weren’t arguing again; to be honest, I’m not sure what triggered it. But my youngest, the five-year-old, is now sleeping in her closet. I’m not going to say that I understand it, although I will admit, she’s set up quite the little luxury suite in there. She put a pillow top bed liner along the floor. She has a small Ikea LED lamp, and a dozen stuffed animals lined up at her feet. Her Peppa Pig pillows and Moana bedspread fit nicely. It’s not a large closet, but when you are five I suppose you don’t need all that much space.
Anyway, each night, I climb in the closet, my legs spilling out into her bedroom, my upper body fitting nicely inside, and read her four stories. That’s two more than I did each night before the pandemic. She snuggles up next to me, her arms wrapped around my bicep, her head leaning against my shoulder.
Last night, I asked her why the closet, and she shrugged and said, “I just like it here” and it felt like what she really wanted to say was, “I feel safer here.” I’d like to assume that she should feel safe anywhere in our house, but these are strange times, so I just gave her a kiss and said, “Okay.”
Then she slid the closet door shut, and turned on her lamp. I was about to walk away, when she opened the door just a bit, stuck her head out, and asked if I would sit in her bedroom until she fell asleep. I had a million things to do before bed, but then I thought about what she was struggling with, and said, “Sure, kiddo. I got you.” And I sat there outside the closet, a small price to pay for the peace it gave my daughter when she needed it most.