I slept with two men last night. To be fair, it’s not even my first time. I’ve done it before. A lot. I don’t normally talk about it because everyone FREAKS OUT. Apparently, it’s frowned upon in some circles. Whatever.
I should clarify a bit. I’m talking about my husband and my 2-year-old son. So, I guess only one man, technically speaking. The other one doesn’t shave or vote, yet. Either way, it’s been me and them, pretty consistently since my son’s birth.
There is a name for people like me. I’m a co-sleeper. There, I said it. <Insert over-dramatic gasp from anti-co-sleepers.>
I didn’t plan this. Before I became a parent I didn’t have an opinion about where kids sleep. Honestly, I still don’t. I just want the kid to sleep. So I can sleep. So, I guess that’s my stance- I’m pro-sleep.
Every parent falls into one of the following three categories. There are co-sleepers, like myself. Non-co-sleepers, who may not share their bed with their kids, but certainly don’t care if you do. And then, there are the anti-co-sleepers. These folks not only object to sharing a bed with their children, they think it’s wrong if you share a bed with yours. For shame you dirty co-sleepers, for shame.
My first child was a dream baby in the sleep department. She is a feisty go-getter and has practically demanded independence from a very early age. Her transition from the bassinet to her own crib was smooth. Like butt-ah.
My little man, on the other hand, has always been a bit of an insomniac. He is cautious and finds security being around his people- myself, my husband and my daughter. He doesn’t like to be alone, and this goes for bedtime too. When it came time to transfer him from the bassinet in our room, to the crib in his room, I did the same thing I did with my daughter. Only this time it didn’t work.
He would sleep like a rock next to myself or my husband, but wake repeatedly, in a panic, if left alone. Like, multiple times an hour. It’s exhausting just typing it.
At first, I would let him cry for a short time, thinking he would eventually self-soothe and drift back to sleep. But, that time never came- the kid wouldn’t give up. By 2 am we were all awake, wide-eyed and muttering to ourselves as we bummed into walls. The sleep deprivation was taking its toll on everyone in the family. Even the dog was developing bald spots.
I tried everything to provide my son with the comfort he needed to sleep in his crib. I felt if he didn’t sleep in his own bed I would somehow be a parental failure, and my sweet baby would end up living in my basement until he was 40. I could already hear him yelling up the stairs, demanding I make him meatloaf.
I couldn’t let this be our destiny.
I went full-tilt-crazy trying to get the kid to sleep in his bed. We had a solid bedtime routine that we followed every night. We had a firm, inflexible bed time. I read books. I read him books. I wore a lavender headband and hopped backwards for 30 feet under a full moon. Nothing worked.
Every night was the same sleepless battle. After hours of failed comfort measures and endless crying (some from the baby too), I would lay him between my husband and I, and he was out like a light. Finally, we were all able to get some much-needed rest.
One day, in an attempt to explain my exhaustion, I shared my son’s sleep drama with an acquaintance.
“You really shouldn’t let them in your bed.”, she said. Apparently, I had stumbled across one of those parenting experts. How lucky for me.
I stared at her blankly before responding, “Well, they don’t bite.” Why did this woman care where my children slept? How did this affect her life in any way? I guess my annoyed tone and exhausted-mommy-death-stare wasn’t enough to halt her unsolicited advice.
She continued, “It’s just, once you let them in they will never sleep in their own bed.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” I responded flatly.
I thought I had made peace with my basement baby, but her words angered me more than they should have. Which, in turn, caused me to do what I do best- obsess. My thoughts were consumed with co-sleeping and the alternatives for the better part of 12 hours. Disclaimer: Obsession is not a recommended coping strategy. Neither is drinking wine. I do that too.
I thought about my choice to co-sleep and how it would impact my son. Was he really doomed to live in my basement and be an unsuccessful Xbox junkie? I pictured my sweet boy as a grown man, surrounded by meatloaf and Fun-Yuns. It was a ridiculous thought. Not just the idea of him being unsuccessful, all of it. It was ridiculous that I felt guilty about our sleeping arrangement.
I decided that day, if my son preferred to sleep with us I would let him. I stopped trying to conform to “what you are supposed to do”. He needed me, and I was going to be there for him. Odds are he won’t want to sleep next to his momma in Jr. High. (I promise to consult a therapist at that point.)
My hope is, he will grow-up knowing, when he is scared or feels alone- I am here. Always.
Bottom line, do what works for your family. If your kid sleeps best wearing inside out Batman pajamas, in a laundry basket, at the back of the closet- own it. He will be just fine. And if not, he can live in the basement with my kid.