We are not a co-sleeping family. For those first several weeks of life, our babies slept in a bassinet next to our bed. But through the rest of their infancy—the chunky thighs and hungry midnight tummies and the newfound freedom without crib rails—our children have slept in their own beds, with rare exception.
My reason is simple: I do not sleep well (if at all) with a child next to me.
But the rewards of lying awake listening to an angry, sad little child in the next room for several nights outweigh by far, in my opinion, the literal *years* of restless sleep with a kicking toddler and the stress of trying to convince an older child to sleep alone.
That said, grace to the co-sleepers. Whether by choice or exhaustion—you do you.
But, I digress.
Aside from my own desire to actually sleep at night, another motivator exists for our insistence on this issue.
Someday our children will not sleep under our roof.
This sounds like a great reason to let the little kiddos crawl in at 3 am, but I am convinced that though we parent in the present, we parent FOR the future.
One night, my husband and I were watching TV in bed when our son shuffled quietly into our room and said, “I can’t sleep because I’m scared. I see scary things whenever I close my eyes.” His lip started to quiver as he anxiously twisted our throw blanket around his fingers and blinked the tears away.
“I think you’re overly tired,” I replied, not unkindly. “It’s after 11:00. I want you to get back in bed and don’t get back up unless it’s an emergency.”
He turned to leave and I called after him, “You can always read your Bible if you are afraid and can’t sleep.”
He didn’t say anything.
And we didn’t hear from him again until morning when he woke up well-rested and happy.
I understand that reads harshly. Reading it back to myself now, I can almost feel the heat from tender mamas who would never say such things to their children. I get it.
But here’s the context of my reply to him: We had spent the whole day together. I was kind, we connected. I listened to his stories and praised his pitching arm. My son was safe, loved, fed . . . and tired. He had already been into our room more than once and . . . I know this kid.
I know when he is actually scared and when he has worked himself into nervous anxiety because he needs to sleep and his brain is hyped up on too much screen time. My cool demeanor was me not joining the chaos; but rather being the voice of reason.
Also? He is 10. His years under our roof will continue to dwindle. Someday he will lie awake in a bed under a different roof and his dad and I will not be just up the stairs. Kids do not just magically inherit mature coping skills when they leave us. They learn them slowly under our care.
When he has worked himself into exhausted anxiety during finals week at college, or the night before interviewing for his dream job . . .
When being an adult is hard, and providing for a family is overwhelming and stressful . . .
I hope he reaches for his Bible and finds his strength in the Lord.
I hope he sometimes tells himself, “I’m just tired” and looks those scary faces in the eye while he falls asleep.
When my husband and I moved our boys downstairs to make room for their coming baby sister, they were nervous. After being just across the hall, the basement seemed so far away. What was that sound? And would we hear them if they called to us? And what if they felt sick?
After many reassuring talks and a very compassionate dad who slept downstairs with them for the first few nights, it was time for them to trust beyond their angst.
We put our parental foot down and we realized something:
This wasn’t us AGAINST them.
This was us FOR them.
For them becoming confident and trusting.
For them learning to be afraid and stay anyway.
For them developing coping skills that will last a lifetime.
For them leaning into Jesus in the scary places.
I chatted with my 10-year-old one morning about being afraid at night. I asked him what he ended up doing to be able to fall asleep.
“I prayed,” he said, looking up at me. Then, shyly, he looked down and said softly, “Then I told myself that I am a child of God. And I fell asleep.”
I sent my son back to bed when he was afraid. And I don’t regret it for a second.