Wednesday, May 8, 2013

It's 2AM: Do You Know Where Your Kids Are Sleeping?

Probably the biggest "dead horse" parenting issue in the blogiverse is what to do with kids who don't sleep in their own beds or who need some parental assistance or attendance to get down in their own bed. I haven't exhaustively researched the topic, but if you took most parents' statements, put them in a blender, and hit "puree," the answer is:

OMG, my spouse and I have a hard enough time sharing our (high-ranking chess piece)-size bed as it is, I can't imagine having to share it with one or more of our kids. Any time my kid cries or has a nightmare or doesn't feel well, I make him stay in his bed until his tear ducts crack apart or he throws up repeatedly in his shoes. Because if I let him sleep in our bed this time, he will sleep in our bed every night until the day he's asked to set it on fire for a fraternity initiation. We can't have that because, most days, bedtime is the only "me time" I get in a day. Plus we haven't had meaningful sex since the last time the Steelers won the Super Bowl anyway...


In our house, our kids are required to co-sleep with us until they are 12. After that, they are free to sleep in the makeshift bed we have crafted out of bamboo shoots at the side of our bed. You have to keep your precious kids with you at all times, especially those times in the wee hours when everyone is unconscious. That way baby will form a bond with you that will last throughout the years, so that she will be totally fine with it when you tell her she can't see boys until she has her doctorate degree. Also, she won't suck her thumb and will be nicer to all the kids in school than her selfish, independently sleeping peers.

I dunno. Of our three kids, only our three-year-old sleeps in our bed as a general rule, a rule he made up himself. Around Thanksgiving 2010 he had bronchialitis that required breathing treatments every 2 hours, and we didn't have this lady (or even this chick) handy to administer them. Though I'm not sure I'd trust her with a nebulizer. As a result, we kept the boy close, and he kept us closer, to the point where my wife is now considering going Sinead O'Connor or Susan Powter or GI Jane -- or any of a host of other bald '90s women-- to keep the kid from needing two fistfuls of hair to fall asleep each night.

But aside from that inconvenience, having a kid sleep with me ranks #3,193 on the "List of Things I Worry About," behind why kids can't ever clean up that glob of toothpaste out of the sink and how we'll remember which week is recycling week once the 1-year-old throws the magnetic calendar in the trash. (Hint: During the NFL season...odd numbered weeks are recycling, even numbered weeks are not.)

It's not like we sleep in luxury now as it is. Our bed is a full-size with a beat-up mattress with a surface of a tilde. My wife and I probably each have spines that look like question marks, but we don't move that much in bed, so the annoyance of an extra body is signifcantly outweighed by the annoyance of running an all-night shuttle service back to his bedroom, where he will invariably wake the 1-year-old. (We tried that a while ago, and sometimes he snuck back in with us anyway and never woke us up. I think the medical community advises tying a bell around his feetie pajamas in those cases.)

Remember, we're parents with full-time jobs. So we get our sleep. Sleep finds us. If things ever get too bad, one of us goes to the sectional and sleep there, or down to the basement. We could sleep tied to railroad tracks. This is such a non-issue.

And there are advantages. After he head-butts me once in the nose, I turn the other direction and use him for lumbar support. He doesn't snore. He doesn't talk in his sleep. He rarely pees our bed. We set up an agreement early on where he waived his right to the good pillows, so we get those. It's easy to wake him up in the morning, since he's right there and is a relatively light sleeper. (Compare to his sister, who requires an interrogation lamp and the several hours of WWII footage.)

Would we prefer that he sleeps in his own bed? Of course. But he has said repeatedly he won't sleep in his own room until he gets a "big-boy" bed, which he already has but wants a bigger one. We as parents don't negotiate like that. We don't give the kid exactly what he wants every time he wants it. We give him the second thing on his list just to keep him (and all of us) happy.

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