By: Amy Forstadt
Articles like this one in Slate Magazine, really piss me off. The author discusses co-sleeping and is all “to each his own,” but then goes on to say how co-sleeping is totally natural, and how if you have your kid sleep in his/her own room, you are basically making him a learning-disabled sociopath with abandonment issues. But to each his own, of course.
The reason I’m feeling extra-sensitive about this lately is because Benjie’s been having sleep issues. This situation is happening after some hard-core sleep training early on, followed by almost three years of a son who happily went to bed at the same time every night, and slept peacefully in his room for eleven hours. For these past almost-three -years, I’ve been well-rested, well-informed, and pretty freakin’ proud of myself.
Until last week. Suddenly Benjie decided that no, he wasn’t tired and no, he didn’t want to go to bed, and no no no he REALLY didn’t want me to leave the room at bedtime. I’d untangle myself from his sweaty little grip and try to maintain my stalwart CIO stance, but listening to your kid cry at six months is really different than listening to him cry at thirty-six months. Now he can pound on his crib. Now he can cry out “I pooped!” because I’ll fall for it the first few times. Now he can even lean out of his crib and open the door to his room. The decibel level of “Mommy! Mommy!” has quickly risen to “MOMMMY! MOMMY!” now that Benjie understands the basic mechanics of doorknobs.
I tried to be tough. I tried to explain to him. I tried to hug him and love him and be reassuring. But nothing worked. Only my actual, physical presence would do. Finally, I gave up and brought him into bed with us, something I swore I would never do. But damn, it was two a.m. and I was tired.
You know, I have no doubt that sleeping with your children is a totally natural instinct and even a strong biological drive. When I was nursing, Benjie and I would both get blissed out and sleepy and I don’t think that was a coincidence. I’m sure Mother Nature wants you and your baby to sleep together for bonding’s sake, not to mention protecting your young from roving mastodons. I totally believe it’s a human instinct.
But guess what? There are lots of instincts I fight against every day because I have to exist in a modern world. Like the instinct to nap at my desk every day around 3 p.m. And the instinct to have a second or third cupcake-with-the-pudding-in-the-middle, because my body wants all that fat and calories. And what about my instinct to jump my neighbor’s cute young pool boy? My biology might demand that I procreate with his sweaty, supple, probably sensitive-guitar-playing self, but society just won’t allow it.
And that’s why I put Benjie back in his crib and just toughed it out. It was bad, and it was stressful, and my instincts kept poking me in the shoulder and saying, “Oh, come on, just bring him to bed. It’ll all be okay. Everyone’s doing it.” It was like biological peer pressure. But I didn’t. And after a few nights, it went back to normal. And by “normal,” I mean, what’s normal for us, what works best for our family. Waking up at five a.m. with a tiny foot in my eye just doesn’t work for me. Being tired and cranky and resentful makes it a lot harder to be the kind of mother I aspire to be during daylight hours. I need to follow my instincts for making sure my son gets enough love, food, shelter, and Elmo. But I also need him to sleep in his own bed, so I can sleep in mine.