It may not be the most requested item on every parent’s wish list, but it cracks the top five on most – sleep. We want sleep. We want our kids to sleep. We crave sleep and naps the way a runner cries out for water at the end of a marathon or the way our children wail desperately for a snack five minutes after dinner has been put away, hardly touched.
I don’t have answers for every family, but I wanted to share what we do in our house.
Co-sleeping when the kids were nursing infants just naturally made sense for us, and as they grew, bed-sharing with siblings naturally evolved. I can’t blame them for wanting the comfort and company of a loved one while they sleep. I know I don’t rest nearly as well when their dad is out of town on business.
Maybe you are co-sleeping now and not sure how to get your bed back; or maybe you are expecting a little brother or sister for your current co-sleeping kiddo and aren’t sure exactly how to make the progression down the line.
Here’s how our journey has looked…
I have three kids, currently aged 9, 7, and 5. Ever since we stopped co-sleeping (by this I mean, ever since we stopped deliberately bed-sharing. There are still mornings I wake up to a smaller bed companion and have no idea when that little sweet snoring little one climbed in), they have chosen by and large to bed share with each other.
At first, this made a lot of space sense. We lived in my parents’ basement, and it was convenient to have a sleep room and a playroom. Our routine was that I laid down with the youngest and nursed him to sleep while the other two fell asleep on their beds.
As they got older and the youngest weaned a bit after his second birthday, this morphed into one parent laying down amongst the children while they fell asleep. I’ll admit, sometimes it took an hour or more. Back in those days, all the kids still napped, and bedtime was around 10 p.m. To say this routine worked for us is really a stretch of the word “worked.” It worked in that everyone fell asleep eventually.
Two years ago, we moved into our forever home. The kids were 7, 5, and 3. They each had their own bed in their own spacious bedroom. In the intervening months since, I can tell you that they have each slept in their own individual rooms independently of each other only a handful of times, and only a few of those times was everyone happy about it. Usually sleeping by themselves is perceived as a punishment, and not a privilege.
So, they all still sleep together, quite often all three of their ever-growing bodies tangled up on one twin mattress, even though two of them have full sized beds, and the one with the twin bed has a bunk bed. They *could* spread out. But choose not to, night after night.
I still sit with them as they fall asleep. My presence helps keep the ruckus down and eliminates too many trips out for water or bathroom breaks. I like hearing my daughter whisper to her brothers “you’re the best brother ever” and nothing is sweeter than seeing them snuggled up together.
Now that they are all in school and naps are a thing of the distant past, they fall asleep easily and quickly. I usually don’t need to stay more than ten or fifteen minutes. Bedtime is between 7:30 and 8 on school nights. I admit, I often linger longer, listening to their co-mingled breathing and playing just one more game of Candy Crush on my phone.
This works for our family. Maybe your family has a similar routine. Long ago, when they were much, much younger, I mostly just didn’t have the energy to make bedtime a struggle or a battle of wills. With the preteen and teenage years looming in the not-too-distant future, I’m fully enjoying these last few years of little-ness. The big battles are coming, and we all will need our sleep.