Parenting

Why I have a problem with a child sleeping in my bed

Help Ian get some good sleep. He's got a kid who often ends up in his bed and he's tired

When you’ve been married for almost 12 years, it takes a lot of effort to keep the romantic spark going.
For instance, last year I received an ear and nose hair trimmer for my birthday from my wife – a gift that is pretty self-explanatory.

While practical birthday gifts can be unsexy, I can tell you that nothing kills the romantic mood quite like having a fussy toddler come and sleep in your bed at night.

Before we had kids, I would always laugh at parents who allowed their children to sleep with them at night. In my narrow mind, co-sleeping was reserved for people who lived on Vancouver Island and ate hemp pancakes for breakfast.

Then all of a sudden, we unwittingly started allowing Lily to come sleep in our bed almost every night. And now it’s a habit we just can’t break.

Lily usually wakes us up when we’re in our deepest sleep – between 2:00 a.m. – 2:45 a.m. She’s been like clockwork lately, waking up at basically the same time every night.

In fact, Lily’s penchant jolting me out of the deepest slumbers has led me to change the wording in my legal will. In the previous version it stated, “If I am in a coma for more than 48 hours, please pull the plug if I appear to be unresponsive.”

In the updated version it reads, “If I am in a coma for more than 48 hours, please have a nurse page Lily and have her sleep in a cot in the adjoining room. I am certain to be woken at some point.”

She usually wakes up crying and then Sonia and I play a high-stakes game of “fake-sleep”. Something every parent has played with their spouse. We each try to pretend we don’t hear Lily’s bloodcurdling screams from the next room. If the other person thinks you’re sleeping, you have a very good chance of avoiding any nighttime duty. I might toss in a fake snore to and a rollover to really sell my fake-sleep.

Sonia knows when I’m faking and responds with a desperate plea, “Look – I can see your eyes open. Can you please deal with her? I’ve been home alone for six straight days and I haven’t slept very well tonight.”

I will counter with, “But it’s a game day tomorrow. I need to look fresh for that Senators-Devils game on TV.”

And usually when we’re in the middle of the argument of who should go in and deal with Lily, the door to our bedroom bursts open. She comes into the room and jumps right into the bed in between us. We used to ask for an explanation of what’s wrong – Did you have a bad dream? Did you wet your bed? Did you hear a noise? But now we don’t even ask questions any more, which is pretty lame for a pair of journalism grads.

We just figure that it’s not worth the fight and battle at 2:27a.m. to find out what’s wrong. We just let her come in our bed and sleep because that’s the easiest solution at the time. Of course, Lily falls asleep right away, but Sonia and I are usually wide awake for a good hour. And then we end up having strange conversations.

These chats never have any real tangent or flow, but are usually the nonsensical ramblings of two sleep-deprived adults.

“I’m really hungry. Is that slice of pizza in the fridge?”
“No. I ate it while watching 30 Rock.”
“You know after you watched 30 Rock, you accidentally played a PVR episode of Arthur and I can’t get the theme song out of my head.”
“Damn – now I’ve got the Arthur theme song in my head.”
“So what’s the final verdict on that piece of pizza?”

And when we try to get back to sleep, we find that our space has been taken over by a 30-lb child who has positioned herself in a way that makes it seem like a middle linebacker has wedged into our bed. She takes up a disproportionate amount of space, usually lying at a 45-degree angle for maximum inconvenience.

From 2:30 a.m. onwards, we get a choppy rest at best, while Lily is out cold in our bed. We’ve tried moving her back to her bed after she’s fallen asleep, but everybody knows that’s like handling a live hand grenade. The slightest wrong move and the whole thing blows up in your face – with the child screaming once again.

I will sometimes get frustrated with the lack of space and go sleep in Lily’s bedroom, but I inevitably end up with a plastic pony wedged into my back at some point. There never seems to be a good solution.

We’ve tried having discussions with her during the daytime, to try and break her from this cycle. Sometimes we threaten her with consequences for her nighttime shenanigans.

“Lily, are you a baby? Did you know that babies are the only ones who wake up in the night? Maybe we should bring your crib back into your room and you can sleep there, since you’re a baby.”

However, this turns out to be an idle threat, because Lily knows damn well that we have no interest in the painstaking process of re-assembling a crib for the sole purpose of teaching her a lesson.

Other times we try and encourage her to sleep through the night. And by “encourage,” of course I mean bribe. “Hey Lily – if you sleep in our own bed tonight, you’ll get a sticker on the reward chart.”

But again, Lily has seen through the flaws of our reward chart system. When the biggest prize you can attain is a Kinder Surprise, it basically takes the teeth out of the whole reward-chart system.

So we can’t reason with her in the middle of the night and we also have no luck during the day.  

There will be a few stretches where Lily will sleep through the night for two or three days in a row. But it’s almost taboo to say anything it if it happens.

“Hey did you notice that Lily has slept in her own bed for ….”
“Shut up, shut up, shut up! Don’t mention it. We’re on a great streak and you are going to jinx it.”

So I want to know: What should we do?