Do what I do and not what I did
The other day, “S’ woke up snuggled between her grandfather and me, yet again. When asked why she came into our bed in the middle of the night, she usually replies that she had a nightmare and then goes into uncanny detail about the shark, wolf, or fire that engulfed her. But this time, she said with simple clarity, “I just wanted to sleep with you and Popee.” This is when I was hit with a rather sharp blow to the cranial nerve by a blunt sense of hypocrisy. A child sleeping in my bed was a “never” on the list of perfect parenting practices. I was allowing a child to infringe upon my right to sleep sprawled across my designated three feet of a king size bed. But much worse, I was allowing her to rattle the rules of parenting that I held so dear for forty years. One of our many acquaintances from our twenty-three years in the military was passionate and actually quite convincing and eloquent about her belief in the family bed. I was not swayed and remember rolling my eyes in utter disbelief that anyone would suggest that I squeeze my two small children between my husband and I in peaceful harmony and slumber. Questions infiltrated the frontal lobe: What about intimacy? Do they sleep with you until they found their own partner? And the all timeless question of people young and old, what would others think? When I taught parenting classes I addressed this issue countless times over. I always outlined a “procedure” that would be guaranteed to transform the little urchin from a bed-snatching-thief-in-the-night into a stay-in his/her-bed-child of the dream fields. In truth, I rarely had to practice my own teaching on this subject with my two children. They insist to this day that there existed some sort of non-verbal threat that stated “No children allowed in our bed.’’ And then there is “S”, thirty-five years later and the cookie crumbles. From the time she could walk and the bars from the crib no longer contained her, she has crept into our bed. Sometimes it is only once a week, sometimes four times a week. Every so often, I become disgusted from my own lack of conviction to some older held parenting beliefs and implement a sticker/reward program, but most of the time I am inconsistent and not motivated to prevail. The reality is twofold. We are too old to actually implement the routine of trekking through the darkness hand in hand and laying with her until she falls asleep in her own bed. Once we are awakened, we no longer fall back asleep easily. We have decided that sleep is more important than the time it would take for the intervention. But more importantly, neither of us think it is a big deal. We know that our energy is best directed at the enforcing of rules that will shape her future. Once “S” realizes she is “grown-up”, is influenced by peers, or just wants the independence, she will remain in her bed quite naturally and eventually be aghast that she ever slept with us in the first place. That realization will come soon enough so in the meantime, we will teach what is necessary and ignore what is not…..
Garden Ridge, Texas