You know what sucks? (Other than Gwyneth Paltrow’s ridiculous terminology?)
I know, I know. She’s two. In fact, she’s almost three (February) and I KNOW that she should be in her own bed – ideally in her own room. But should she? REALLY? Says who? My parents? Old ladies at the grocery store? Opinionated asshats in the Facebook comment sections?
I hate it.
It was never an issue with my older two kids. They slept on their own from about six months on, and other than being wretched sleepers for the first two years of their lives, it went very smoothly. They had their crib, in their own room, and that was that. They always liked having their own space when it came to sleeping.
But Ella… oh, little Ella.
From the moment she was born, she wanted me. She needed me. She came flying out and when she was laid on my stomach I couldn’t believe my eyes as she literally used her hands to claw and drag her way up my body. She actually managed to move herself about eight inches until she was past the edge of the blanket that was covering me, and reach my skin. She rested her little head on my bare chest and promptly fell asleep for almost five hours…
Her bond with me was so strong, so all-encompassing, right from the start. I suddenly became an “attachment parent” – wearing my baby, nursing constantly and sleeping with her. It’s just what felt right, and I went with it.
She did have a crib, in her own room, and at a few months old I began to put her there for naps. I tried to get her used to her space, and eventually was putting her down for the night there too. But it would never last. By 11, 12, 1 she was up – crying, wanting to nurse, snuggle and just be in my arms. Eventually this led to us regressing back into our old habits, and she was back in bed with me.
Every few months I would give it another try – I set her up in a room with her big brother so that she had someone with her. I made a big deal of her “BIG GIRL BED!” and did everything I could to help her love it. But still – every night after just a few hours she would end up with me, and I just didn’t have the heart to send her away.
Here is where I need to pause and ask a question: Why on earth do I need to send her away?
I don’t really understand it. She’s my child, my baby. If she wants her mommy, why in the world would I tell her no and shuffle her back into a dark, silent room? I’m so conflicted, and I’m being inundated by opinions everywhere I look.
After months of this in-and-out of my bed business, I finally decided to buy her a toddler bed that would be in my room. I thought it was a good compromise, and she was super excited. We called it her princess bed and she was very proud.
But it was only a night or two before she started protesting and saying that she didn’t like her new bed. Some days I stand firm while she cries herself to sleep, others I scoop her up and let her fall asleep in my arms, which is the only place she wants to be.
I know that having her in our bed isn’t great for my marriage. I know that a lot of people will say that it’s unhealthy and that she needs to learn to fall asleep on her own. I’m just not sure she’s ready for that yet – and isn’t that okay? I mean, she’s not going to be nodding off in my bed when she’s in highschool – I’ve never heard of such a thing. But I do believe that every child has different needs at different times, and I think this is one of hers. For whatever reason, this little girl NEEDS to be near me. I can literally feel it, the sense of security and peace the second she lays her head next to me. I am her safe spot. Her nest. Her home.
And I love it.
Last night she cried in her big girl bed for almost an hour. I was lying two feet away in my own bed, reassuring her and telling her I was right there. But eventually I couldn’t take it anymore. When my child needs something so simple, so natural and so easy for me to give her, it doesn’t feel right to turn her away. I picked her up and brought her into bed next to me. She whispered, “I love you mommy, thank you.” and was asleep less than 10 seconds later.
I will keep trying, and I know that eventually she will sleep behind her own door in her own space. I mean hell, before I know it she will be slamming that door, telling me to leave her alone or to get out. She will have a room full of secrets – love notes, phone calls, hopes and dreams that she no longer shares. For this small sliver of time, I will let my little baby curl up against me with her ringlets and gentle breathing. I will hold her and teach her that no matter what happens, Mommy will be here.
I always want my kids to know that I am their soft place to fall. That after a long, hard, trying day – I will be there. I want our home to be their haven, where they are held and loved and nurtured. I think that’s a pretty important lesson to teach my kids. There are many years ahead for Ella to become independent.
For now – just for now – she needs to be with me.