The house is dark and quiet, and I’m roused by a sleepy “mummy!” and the pitter patter of stomping elephant feet that I’m sure only toddlers are capable of doing. I sit up groggily, turning on my bedside lamp to give my son enough light to run from our doorway to my side of the bed where he promptly climbs in, crawls to the middle of the bed and is asleep again before his head hits the pillow.
In our house this is a nightly occurrence, and one Steve and I have come to accept. We cuddle and contort around each other until morning, when we’re awoken by a cheery “good morning!” followed enthusiastic crash tackles or stories about his toys.
Looking back on the past 2.5 years it’s pretty obvious our son has always needed us close to sleep well.
In those early, hazy newborn days, Jman would regularly sleep solo in his bassinet for the first part of the night before waking more and more frequently as dawn crept closer. I’d feed and settle and feed and settle but as the weeks wore on and tiredness set in, more often than not one of us would slip into sleep with a bub contentedly snuggled on our chest. I became terrified something would happen, after all that’s not exactly safe bed sharing, and as the four month sleep regression set in with a vengeance we surrendered. The bed was rearranged and we began to safely co-sleep as he needed it. I only wish we’d done it sooner because we all would have been so much more well rested. As he grew and moved first to a cot, then to a mattress on the floor, and finally a toddler bed, cosleeping for the second half of the night remained our normal. Sometimes I embraced it, sometimes I resisted it and would question if I’d ever sleep through the night again. But being woken in the morning with cuddles has no equal.
Funnily enough, as we accepted this need it seemed many others formed an opinion about it, predominantly along the lines of we shouldn’t be letting it happen, and decided to start sharing it loudly with us. In the past two years I’ve been told I need to make it clear our bed is off limits, that I should put a child gate across his doorframe so he can’t leave his room, put in a day/night clock to help him know when he’s allowed to come to us, or that I should simply march him back to his own bed each time and that eventually he’ll give up coming to us.
I’m sorry, what? Since when has it been such a bad thing to let our kids be little? To let them know that if they’re scared or simply need a cuddle it’s OK to come to us? To acknowledge this is simply a moment in time, but also one that sets up an important foundation?
I have distinct memories of waking from a nightmare as a child and grabbing my pillow and blanket, walking down the hallway to my parents’ bedroom and setting myself up on the floor next to my mum’s side of the bed. She also assures me my brothers and I had mastered the fine art of working ourselves into a horizontal position in their bed when we were younger.
Why is it so controversial to respond to our child’s needs, and to let him know that if he needs us we’ll be there? When did our society decide on this, frankly kind of insane, rule? I know one day he’ll not creep into our bed in the dark of night, just as I know I’ll come to miss the nocturnal snuggles. But in the meantime, can’t we just let our children be little?