Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Co-Sleeping

Our daughters have their own room. They have bunk beds, a two bookshelves, two dollhouses, a dresser, and various toys and toy parts that we just don't know what to do with. They go to bed in their bunk beds every night, but for the past two months, it hasn't stayed that way.

We got the bunk beds because our 3-year old didn't like sleeping in her old bed. It was infested with what she called, "the uncabees." Parts of her bed turned into them at night and scared her, every night. The thought scared me and we just couldn't see forcing her to sleep with these damn uncabees much longer. We thought the bunk bed would introduce a fun, new quality to sleeping and at the same time save floor space for more various toys and toy parts. That was last spring.

Recently, our 3-year old has moved into our room every night for a different reason. The uncabees vanquished, she has bad dreams, hears a noise, or anything else. There are two kinds of bad dreams that she has--real and pretend ones. The pretend ones follow the same script for a couple weeks at a time, such as "a bear was trying to bite me" which has been her default complaint for the last two weeks. Real ones are at times very vivid and frightening, such as her latest, "Our house was shaking going, 'whoa, whoa,' and a witch was on top making it happen. Our cars were burning and we had to find someone with a car who could help us and we needed to fix our cars after they were on fire." That one kinda had me dumbfounded.

Her little sister is fine. She enjoys going to bed, sleeping in the arms of more than 500 stuffed animals. But the other night, with our "little bed" taken (the one at the foot of our bed which is regularly filled by about 11pm), our younger daughter was scared and wanted to come in. We were perturbed because instead of going to sleep, lying between her parents, she talked, played, touched faces, and laughed. She's a delight, really, but from 3-6am, no one slept because of her lightheartedness. But how can I be irritated with her when we let her older sister come in every single night?

Enter our idea: reintroducing co-sleeping. Well, sort of.

The four of us, soon to be five, can't really fit on our bed all at once. Not without waking to a world of cramps and cricks and aches. So we've been throwing around a couple ideas. First, we thought, put their mattresses down on the ground, get rid of the bunkbed and let them sleep right next to each other. This idea was met positively by the girls and we tried to last night to mix success (the mix being that they stayed in their bed all night, but didn't fall asleep until 11pm because they were reading and playing together in bed).

But our other idea is to give-in. Move both of their mattresses into our room and let them start and finish the night in there. We aren't bothered by that idea except that it is a "step back" considering that we wanted them to sleep in their own rooms a year and a half ago.

My wife remembers being younger and being lonely and scared at night. She would sneak into her parents' room with feelings of guilt. We don't want them to feel that way, like they're doing something "wrong" or being "babies." So this enrorsement is in the spirit of that.

It wasn't so long ago that every family co-slept. Just over 100 years ago, a family bed was the way all people slept. Strangers and travelers passing through town would sleep in the same room as the family who hosted them (we don't even answer the door to strangers, ourselves, much less feed them and let them sleep in our bedrooms). But in the context of that and with the idea that it promotes security and intimacy, it's rather beguiling to think that we kicked them out in the first place.

We have friends who practice the family bed. They have a king bed pushed up to a full bed and the whole bunch of them climb in at night. They love it--or at least I've never heard them complain.

We've always been practicioners of co-sleeping with an infant. With our first, we had big ideas about using an Arm's Reach Co-sleeper to no success. It just stayed there next to the bed, filled with nursing pads and diapers while Solstice usually slept on my chest. But, again, with baby number two, the Co-sleeper came in very handy, as she was happy to be in her own little space. We're planning on pulling the thing out again in February, just in case the next one is so adaptable.

We're weighing our options. We don't want to enforce rules about sleeping that are simply there for their own sake. We want to make a decision that is accomodating, nurturing, and educated. So I'm looking for thoughts from other parents out there.

Is there anyone out there who co-sleeps with "older" kids? Anyone doing the family bed?

1 comment:

Martin Polley said...

We do the cosleeping thing with our youngest child. The other two slept with us until the older one was five. Then both she and her brother (then three) moved to their own room. (She didn't want to be on her own, and he's pretty go-with-the flow.)

The point is: they were ready for it. They wanted it.

I say: if you're cool with it, and see it as a learning thing instead of a failure, letting them sleep with you again is absolutely fine.