Fifteen years ago when I became a parent for the first time, I wasn’t familiar with the term Attachment Parenting or co-sleeping. I did know that my son was my world, and never having him far from me made sense.
Also, let’s be honest — as a single mama who was wiped out most of the time, letting my baby come into my bed where we both slept peacefully seemed like a no-brainer. My son grew, and his need for his own space became clear, so the transition to his own bed was pretty non-eventful.
Now, two kids later and armed with a whole lot more knowledge than I had back then, my husband and I are still sharing a bed with our six-year-old daughter.
Like many parents, we didn’t set out with a hard and fast plan — we sort-of developed into a co-sleeping family. My daughter had a crib, and for some of the time was happy enough to sleep there for part or all of the night. Around the time she was two, we noticed her needing a lot of time with us and having some struggles with separation anxiety.
We realized how hard it was for her to be away from us for much of the day. It was hard for all of us, but unless we won the lottery there really wasn’t an immediate solution. During this period of time she transitioned fully into our bed. Yes, it is somewhat backwards from what most families do, but it was what she needed at the time. Having the nighttime to bond and snuggle with her has been invaluable. She needed to be close to her parents.
The three of us have learned to share the space, and everyone gets plenty of sleep. I can’t count the times that she has reached for me in the night, and mumbled “I love you mama” in her sleep, and that is the most special thing in the world.
Hearing her sleepy voice telling me of her beautiful dreams is something I know is fleeting. My hope is that her ability to enjoy and embrace the quiet night hours will stay with her throughout her life, rather than feeling like the dark night is a scary and lonesome time.
Over the last couple of years we have broached the subject of when to move her into her own bed, and I know without a doubt that the day will come when she is ready to make that move. I also know that many people have strong opinions about children sleeping with their parents — I have heard many negative comments about this, and I no longer feel the need to convert anyone to my way of thinking.
I have felt judged by family members at times, but have found that the more I feel confident in what I’m doing, the less it matters when others criticize. I would never expect that anyone else should parent exactly how I do, and I’m pretty sure we are all trying to do the very best we can.
I am continuously surprised that when this subject comes up that so many parents admit to feeling badly when they do allow their child to sleep with them. Co-sleeping isn’t right for every family, but it makes me sad to see parents that have been taught to punish their children for craving closeness, and have learned to ignore their own feelings of sadness at enforcing this.
Nurturing our children is the best way to help them eventually become strong and independent people. My daughter and I are very close, but she is absolutely her own person, and is changing and growing every day.
I hope that she will always feel respected and supported by us as she spreads her own wings, and know that no matter what happens in her life, she will always have a soft place to land.