Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Monday, March 2, 2009

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream (without nighttime visitors)

We have  -- finally – reclaimed our bed. Nearly four and a half years into our parenting journey, we can finally be assured that – at least on most nights – it will only be the two of us (well, and two dogs) in bed.

It is, at least for me, a bittersweet victory. There is something incredibly cozy about having a child snuggled against you, their deep breaths lulling you to sleep (at least until you get the foot in the stomach when they turn over).  

And, I suppose, for me there has also always been a kind of peace of mind that comes with having my children within arms reach – the knowledge that none of those things that go bump in the night will claim them. Perhaps a silly thought, but I have to admit that if I wake in the middle of the night and the baby monitor sounds too quiet, I lay there waiting for a sound to assure me that they’re safe and well before I turn back over to sleep.

But with Ashley approaching five (yikes!!), it seemed time to end her nightly forays into our bed. And with Luke occasionally joining her, the bed was becoming increasingly crowded.

When we first told Ashley that we felt she needed to begin sleeping all night long in her own bed, my skilled negotiator replied, “I have a better idea.” She proposed that she sleep on the floor of our room.

I initially thought this seemed a good compromise. That is, until I realized that my daughter’s “better idea” was really an effort to maintain a claim to her spot in our bed. Some nights, she would crawl into bed saying that she wanted to rub my back. (She has mastered people skills and negotiation basics – along with a very literal interpretation of “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine”!). Other nights, she would carefully crawl into bed without waking me.

So after a couple of weeks trying out Ashley’s “better idea,” we explained to her that her pallet on the floor was going away and she would be sleeping in her room all night. And we prepared for several nights of argument.

It went better than we thought.  We endured one night with Ashley standing in the hallway screaming over and over, “Mommy, I need you. I can’t take care of myself.” Even in midst of my irritation with this 2 a.m. performance (did I mention that she’s a drama queen?), I found myself moved by what I suspect was an expression of the abandonment she felt at being banished from our bedroom.

Amazingly, after that night, she has accepted the new sleeping arrangements. She has negotiated the right to come into our bed in the morning for a quick snuggle before we get up, and we have carefully defined that “morning” means it is light outside. (“I know, Mommy,” she said to me in what I suspect is a tone she is practicing for adolescence.) 

So, on most mornings, a few minutes before the alarm goes off, she comes and snuggles next to me. Occasionally I wonder how long it will be before she decides she’s too grown up to do this, but mostly, I just enjoy those few moments before the day begins. Little does she know that I like those snuggles as much as she does.


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