He Can Sleep With Us
As Long As He Wants
Most nights start off with our 8 year old son falling asleep with either me or his father. He doesn’t fall asleep by himself. Either we will lie with him in his bed or he’ll crawl into our bed.
When he was a couple of months old I remember it was so important to me that he learn to “self settle”. I put so much time, effort, and pain into trying to “teach” him to fall asleep on his own. Trying to not let him fall asleep on my breast. Or not resort to rocking him to sleep. But in the end I’d do whatever it took to get him to fall asleep.
And I’d feel guilty. I felt like I’d failed him. Because I was being told by my friends, family, the maternal health nurse, the hideous book my mum bought me to help me teach my son to sleep, that it was essential to his wellbeing that he learns to fall asleep on his own.
But secretly I loved that he fell asleep in my arms. And the older he got the more special it was. Because as he got bigger he got busier.
Unlike what I was being told about creating bad habits and making him overly dependent on me, when he was awake he was off running around, playing, climbing, and causing chaos. He didn’t need me to hold him during the day. It was only when he was tired that he’d curl up in my arms and fall asleep with his head on my chest.
It was my favourite part of every day.
What’s The Problem?
When he was 2 years old our doctor warned us if he doesn’t stop sleeping in our bed we’ll never get him out. He’ll stay there until he’s 21. Of course he was exaggerating, but even then – so what? I slept in my mums bed whenever I needed extra comfort until I left home at 19.
If you think about it most people prefer to share a bed with someone they love. Adults generally prefer to sleep together. So many of my friends have said they have trouble sleeping when their partner or husband is away, or if he stays up longer than them. It’s considered perfectly normal for adults to struggle to sleep alone, but it’s a problem when it’s a child.
I get that it can be uncomfortable. I’ve been kicked and whacked more time than I can count. And I’ve wound up curled into a ball at the foot of my own bed while my children star fish freely. And often after they’ve fall asleep in our bed we’ll move them back to their own beds just so my partner and I can have some time to ourselves.
But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a child who wants to share a sleep space with their parent. It’s not a failure to develop. It’s normal. So very normal.
It Doesn’t Last Forever
Since our son started school he stopped letting me give him a hug goodbye. He’s way too cool for that. He just runs off with his friends, because he’s so grown up. So that time at the end of the day snuggling in bed is when we reconnect, read stories, and chat quietly in the dark. Then he curls up in my arms with his head on my chest and falls asleep. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Because I know one day, hopefully many years from now, he won’t need me like he does now. He’ll want to sleep alone and that will be okay too. But I know that I’ll miss this time.
So I’m not going to waste it feeling stressed and guilty that I failed to teach him to self settle.