Every night around 1am, I wake to an urgent running sound coming from my four year old’s bedroom. It’s not so much the pitter patter of little feet, but the thump, thump, thump, of a little someone who is scared of the dark and needs his mummy. He doesn’t say a word, but leaps into bed with us, wiggles his way between the sheets and presses his warm small body against mine. Soon, sleep washes over him and his sweet faint snoring fills the room. As much as I crave some sleep too, I smile to myself and cuddle him a little closer.
Put him back to bed!
For a while there, I would scoop up his limp sleepy body and transfer him back to his own bed. After all, aren’t we supposed to deter this kind of behaviour and help our little ones learn good independent sleep habits? Isn’t that what the books and studies say? After making the transfer, I’d tuck him in, kiss his forehead and curl back into bed myself. Then, just as I’d gotten maybe half an hour of shut-eye, I would wake to the thump, thump, thump again and he’d be back in our bed.
We’ve tried everything
He has a night light on in his room and his little brother sleeps in a cot across from his bed. But even still, he gets spooked at night and as such, wants the comfort of his mum and dad. We’ve tried putting him back to bed when he’s still awake (usually after a trip to the loo) and he CAN sleep on his own, but he really doesn’t like it. He protests, says he’s scared and pleads with me to get into bed with him. Sticker, reward charts and other forms of bribery for sleeping on his own have also proved fruitless. And yes, we’ve talked to him about his fears too. About how he needn’t be scared, how he’s safe and that the poor tired sun also needs sleep, and that’s why it’s dark. But at this stage of his childhood, he’s simply afraid of nighttime.
Does it really matter?
But here’s the thing, does it really matter if our little ones need us at night? Yes, we are chronically sleep-deprived, but isn’t this just the parenting stage we are in? Young kids = not much sleep, right? The day will come when our children no longer climb into bed with us and I don’t know about you, but that kinda upsets me to think about. I know I will miss the nightly visits and also, feeling so motherly – being able to calm and reassure my child with simple physical touch and maybe also some soft singing.
What about my marriage?
Well, it’s true that my husband will often bed hop himself to the sofa when my son claims the space between us both at night, but I wouldn’t say he’s kicked out of the the marital bed as such. It’s more a voluntary thing on my hubby’s behalf. He just sleeps better when they aren’t three in the bed – funny that! But as for how this affects the health of our relationship? Well, I honestly don’t think it does. We cuddle and connect in front of TV after the kids have gone to bed and sex happens when it does (probably not as much as we’d like, but that just brings me back to the parenting stage we’re in). We also don’t have the kind of marriage where things like sleeping in the same bed all night gives us a sense of ‘things are right between us’.
I don’t think I’ll make him stop
There might come a time when we decide that the bed hopping and subsequent co-sleeping has to stop. Maybe our boy’s sleep will start to suffer, or perhaps when our other son moves from his cot to a big boy bed we might have a case of multiple musical beds on our hands – and that may be too much. But for now, I think we’ll leave things as they are. I want to cherish this time in my son’s childhood, because just like the time he needed me to breastfeed him off to sleep (I know, I’ve made all the sleep mistakes!), this too shall pass.