I know exactly when it started: A year ago, when my then-newly minted 4-year-old starting throwing up in the middle of the night and wouldn’t stop, I kicked my husband out of bed and brought her in with me. At the time, I thought I could at least try and catch the puke in a trash can instead of having it spray around the room like a geyser containing leftovers from every meal she’d ever eaten.
The next night, I brought her into bed with me again, just in case. A few days later, even though I knew she was better (which was evident by the acute lack of vomit), she told me her belly was hurting, so sleeping with me needed to continue. With her still-chubby arms and fleshy thighs poking out of her shortie pajamas, her belly button on full display as she pointed to what she claimed ailed her, I figured cuddling for another night or two with her adorableness couldn’t hurt.
But of course, that’s not how it ended.
There’s no shortage of reading material on co-sleeping. Whether you’re a staunch advocate or dead-set against it doesn’t matter to me — you do your parenting thing, I’ll do mine. Me, I’m all about sleeping, period. I need sleep; I want it, I crave it, I have to have it. My children are well past the age where they need me at night for milk, a diaper change, or just to be soothed, and as far as I’m concerned, I consider that a blessing because it means I can just sleep. I always loved having one of my babies napping on me during the day, but at night, I was even happier to have them in their cribs. I barely like sharing a king-size bed with my husband. What can I say? I just like my sleep and loathe anyone who threatens it with their snoring (like my husband) or hands and feet in my face (like my kids).
So when my little one wanted to keep sleeping with me last year after a whole week of togetherness, I told her sorry, but she needed to go back to her bed again. She looked at me confused, her hazel eyes all shimmery with big fat tears, her long eyelashes all blinky and delicate. I’ll admit, I felt bad seeing the involuntary pout of her lips form because she didn’t understand why we couldn’t share a pillow forever.
But it also hardened me. I’d made it too far into parenting without co-sleeping. Why start now? Plus, my older daughter, who was 7 at the time, kept asking why she couldn’t sleep with me, too. I kept imagining the giant 9-foot-wide bed the Jolie-Pitt family once built to accommodate all the bodies, and had nightmares about it since I doubt our entire room is even 9-feet-wide.
So I stood my ground.
And then I woke up the next morning to a 30-something-pound preschooler all bunched up under my covers anyway. Apparently, she’d sneaked in during the night. I figured it wouldn’t last forever, so I let it go. The next night, too. And all the nights after that. Now, a year later, the only time she doesn’t come into bed with me in the middle of the night is, well, never. On the very few occasions I’ve woken up without her, I practically run to her room to make sure she’s OK.
But it is hasn’t been without its pains.
My body has been aching for months now because I’m a side sleeper and she insists on contorting her body to fit inside the curve of my back, which means I can never, ever move because her brand of super-glued is impenetrable. I’ve even invented new ways of stretching just to prepare for sleeping with her. (I doubt my stretching inventions be the next big thing, like yoga or man buns, but maybe other moms will want to take a class from me anyway.)
I keep thinking I’ll sit her down and have a talk about the benefits of her bed (like how it’s her bed). But then I think that will mean I’m rushing her into being a big kid, and I really wouldn’t mind having her as my baby forever.
Waking up to her makes it (mostly) worthwhile, too, because when she’s only half-asleep and in her happy place, she’s basically like watching all the most adorable YouTube videos, rolled into one. You know, like a tiger nursing a baby skunk, or dogs greeting their masters who’ve been away fighting a war for two years, or hedgehogs wearing bonnets: impossibly cute and overwhelmingly touching.
Of course the other problem this co-sleeping thing presents is having a kid in the bed with you and your partner. My husband thinks it’s cute, too, when she’s all scrunched up and peaceful, but like me, he misses the days when it was just the two of us at night. He also knows that it’s basically going to take her moving to another country to get her out of our bed. We’ve discussed how to break up with her at night, and we’ve both concluded that she’ll ignore us and come in at 3 AM anyway, and if we were to tell her then to go back to her room, then she’ll want to discuss it (and by discuss it, I mean sob uncontrollably as if we’ve just broken the news about Santa and the Tooth Fairy).
But hey, if worse comes to worse, and things stay this way for the next 13 years, I imagine I’ll be following her to her dorm room, telling her to please scooch over in her twin bed, and elbowing her in the back all night long.
Because revenge is sweet like that.More On