A few months ago, I announced (bravely, some might say) that my wife and I are co-sleepers. Pea has never been a good sleeper and since Day 1 preferred the comfort of her parents over the loneliness of her crib.
We have always been receptive to this arrangement. We work long days and get little time with her during the week, and we’ve always known the co-sleeping wouldn’t be forever.
Besides, we had a fairly good setup going on, with Pea sleeping in her own crib for a few hours each night before waking near midnight to join us in our room.
Over recent weeks though, it was becoming harder for Pea to settle into the early part of her routine. It would take her nearly an hour to fall asleep and the resulting struggle was weighing on my wife and I.
So, we thought, time for her own ‘big bed.’
We figured the best way to begin this transition was to have Pea help us with every step.
- She came with us to Sears to purchase the bed. We had her sit on the one we wanted and we asked her if she liked it. The result was a little girl who got to ‘choose’ her own bed.
- When it came time to break apart her crib, Pea was right there with me unscrewing the old frame and helping to erect the new one. The pride and excitement she felt as we did this was palpable.
- Pea also helped to put her new sheets on the bed, the safety railings and the new comforter.
She then jumped in the bed, pulled the sheets to her chin, and said good night with a huge grin on her face. In the end, this was her new bed from start to finish, a point we hoped would help us with the transition to come.
The first night was rocky. Pea fell asleep within 20 minutes, on her own without our intervention. Great. My wife and I had agreed that we would stay with her throughout the night and she seemed comforted by this promise. When she awoke an hour later, we were still there, but we refused to help her back to sleep.
This, we thought, was the best way to help our daughter take ownership of her sleep habits.
We made this decision with the help of ‘a book.’ The same type of book that was useless throughout our initial attempts to ‘sleep train’ Pea when she was younger. These books pretend every child will respond the same way to certain parental behaviors and fail to take into account the uniqueness of every child and every situation.
Instead, these books make parents feel that they are failures if they don’t follow the prescribed model, or if the model doesn’t work for them.
So, while we sat beside Pea listening to her wail the wail of the damned, our initial reservations were confirmed and we decided to adopt an approach that is far more suited to our sensibilities, and we believe, our daughter’s personality.
The transition to a big bed now involves a more phased-in approach. We’ll not ignore the fact that she has slept with us for many months now, and we will not try to apply a quick solution to the issue for our benefit over our daughter’s. We will instead help her recognize that her new bed is a place where she can feel comfortable and confident before asking her to spend the night alone in it.
Truth be told, we don’t know exactly what that means yet.
So far though, things are going well. Like all other parents whose kids have returned to school this week, we are in the midst of adjusting to a new reality and routine. So far, we are happy with the result.
In the immortal words of Mr. Vince Vaughn, Pea is “all growns up.” Or at least on her way there.
More to come.