I Had All The Rules Laid Out, And I Quit Sleep-Training Before I Even Started

by Melanie Forstall
Two toddler boys who fell asleep in a large bed without sleep-training
PeopleImages / iStock

Not unlike many new mothers, I’m sure, I was totally unprepared for motherhood. I guess no one can really prepare you for what’s about to happen, but I was particularly not ready for the physical and mental exhaustion.

There were many days that I was so sleep-deprived I could have fallen asleep standing up. Sleep was so very important to me; I’d give up food before sleep. I was also very honest about my position on bed sharing. My position was simply that there would be no bed sharing. I adore my children but I adore them even more when we all can retreat to our own spaces, specifically our own beds, at the end of the day.

I was especially comfortable one night about two years ago, stretched out in my Tempur-Pedic dream bed with the down comforter covering just about everything except the very top of my head. I was mid-dream when I felt a poke. Startled, I looked up to find my son at my bedside. He leaned in and whispered, “Mommy, can I sleep with you?”

My kids have been historically great sleepers. Truthfully though, early on I had to intervene a bit to get them to become such great sleepers. I read a lot of books, took the parts that worked for us, and helped them learn to sleep well. So I know what the experts have to say about kids getting up in the middle of the night. They are all fairly consistent and give similar guidelines. If your child ever wakes in the middle of the night you should proceed with the following steps:

1. Under no circumstances do you ever let a child in your bed during the night. If you allow it even once, you might as well hand over the keys to your child and get used to the fact you will now be held under the rule of a toddler. Cheerios and finger paint will dominate your life (as if it doesn’t already).

2. Make no acknowledgement of your child. Do not communicate in any way and especially don’t let them know that you care. Showing concern will only show weakness, and they will try to capitalize on that.

3. Take the child by the hand and walk him or her back to their respective bed. Cover the child and walk quickly back to your own bed.

4. When the crying child comes running back to you, again, do not communicate in any way with said child, simply carry, or drag him or her back to their bed. You might have to throw them in. Now run back to your own bed and cover up as quickly as possible in hopes that they will leave you alone and the nightmare has ended.

5. Repeat steps 2 to 4 until dawn. Be aware that you will not be able to drive or operate heavy machinery for at least four to six weeks.

As soon as I heard his question, all of this ran through my mind. Is this when I need to walk him back to his bed? Am I opening myself up for trouble if I let him in? We’ve all been sleeping so well! Ordinarily, unless my bed is on fire, I see absolutely no reason to get out of it, especially in the middle of the night. I looked at the clock and it was 1:18 a.m. “Yes,” and then I pulled him into my bed where he settled in between my husband and me. After that, we all slept through the night.

It’s been about 700-plus nights now, and each and every night he comes to my bedside and asks, “Mommy, can I sleep with you?” I think it’s so incredibly sweet that he continues to ask. I wonder sometimes if his Southern roots make him really polite or if he already understands that you should take nothing for granted and things can change at any moment. For now, my answer will always be “yes.”

It’s actually sweeter than I could have ever imagined. He snuggles, and I snuggle back. I often feel his small hand grab mine during the early morning hours when no one is really awake. Weekend mornings are a dream. Don’t even get me started on holidays. There is something very special about the time we can share like this. I am all too aware that it will end soon. There will eventually be one night where no one will be at my bedside asking if they can sleep with me.

So I say to my sweet prince, ask me, ask me every night if you need to. Come to my bedside when you are lonely, scared, or simply just miss your mommy. Come to me and ask your question, knowing that no matter what, my answer will always, undoubtedly, be yes.