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Jul 25

Vindicated Co-Sleeping Mama

I stumbled into the Attachment Parenting philosophy.  I don’t follow it slavishly, and I don’t follow a lot of the other lifestyle choices that seem to go along with it.  My kids eat cheetos and watch television.  I make them get their shots and brush their hair.  But I did pick them up all the time (to the point where my girls were both a year and a half before they started walking), I nursed on demand, and well into toddlerhood (Sam was three, Julie was closer to four before she stopped – Jessie bailed on me before she was a year old), and I co-slept with all of them.

Of my three kids – Jessie reliably sleeps every night in her own bed, and Sam has always been a haphazard sleeper.  He conks out wherever and whenever, sometimes in his room on the floor, sometimes on the dining room floor, sometimes in my bed, and very rarely – in his bed.  But he sleeps independently.  My bedtime routine has always been dependent on whoever’s needs were the most pressing – when I just had Jessie, I had this elaborate bedtime routine that involved reading and lullabies and quiet whispers until she finally drifted off.  When I had Sam, the bedtime routine shifted to getting ready to bed, trying to read to her while Sam nursed, and finally having both of them fall asleep on top of me in this huge love seat while we watched recorded episodes of George Stephanopolis.  By the time Julie came along, we had shifted over into Jessie reading to herself at night, Sam hanging with Daddy until he was really sleepy and I’d nurse Julie.  That stage lasted for years.  After having Julie, I gave up any illusions that I’d be able to stay up later than my kids.  We got a television for the bedroom when she was about a year old, and established the routine of nursing her to sleep and then just chilling out and watching television.

I had hesitated about putting her in Jessie’s bedroom.  Ever since moving into this apartment, I’ve been thinking that I’d probably be moving within the next six months or so – which made it easy to tell myself that I’d just keep her in my room until we moved.  Start fresh in a new place, have everyone get used to a new bedroom and sharing at the same time.  I got her a toddler bed, and put it in my room, because it was just easier.  I’d snuggle her to sleep and then throw her into her own bed.

The first night with the bunk beds didn’t go well at all, and the second was better, but still it took me almost two hours to get her to sleep and she was miserable.  Desperately wanted to sleep in her bed, but couldn’t get herself to settle down in her own space.  The third day, I got some construction paper and markers, and she and I made a Bedtime Book.  I wrote down every step in the get ready for bed process on a separate page and she illustrated it (and her depiction of a toilet is masterfully executed…).  And that night, we read the book, and then went thru, step by step, and she fell asleep, by herself, in her own bed and slept all night.  We’ve repeated it for the past four nights.

The best part is that now, I just put both Sam and Julie to bed at the same time.  I will reluctantly admit that Sam is sleeping on a hard plastic six foot table top (because I needed the twin mattress from the top of his loft bed, and suggested that instead of getting another mattress – because he’s got a big bed on the bottom – we just set up an art corner, where he can work on his legos, and color and get away from everyone.  A six foot folding table fit perfectly (with the legs folded up, of course), and it’s his favorite spot in the world).  I should have predicted that he’d sleep up there – but I naively thought he’d sleep on the bed as opposed to a hard plastic table… But  my point is that every night now, I tuck all three of my kids into bed (or onto a table).  Jessie goes up on the top bunk, with netflix and a book light, Julie sleeps every night in her own bed with no issues, and Sam conks out reliably up on his loft.

It took me three kids, twelve and a half years, and I’m still not sure how it worked out so well.  But all of them sleep in their own beds (or tables) and it’s blissfully easy.

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