Dealing with Bedtime Fears

The school buses have just started to go by and it's still dark outside, with a single bright star framed in my window. I know my teacher friends are already at school, getting together for a cup of coffee before the bell rings, as they do every Friday. M and Laurel are still in bed, but I woke up early (tough habit to break). At the moment, we have only one bed, so we all pile in together. It's worked out well at this particular phase. As summer started, Laurel started to wake up at night. Nightmares or just not wanting to be alone in her room. I would end up sleeping in her room with her almost every night after she came and got me. When we sleep together, it's peaceful pretty much all night. (Thank goodness for a king size bed!)

I know a lot of parents would do some "sleep training" at this point, but as someone who has been afraid of the dark my entire life, I don't have the heart. Recently, she's had trouble falling asleep at night unless someone is with her.

I've noticed that kids come up with the most cockamainy stories to get their needs met. Teenagers construct elaborate dramas. Eight year olds flat out lie. And almost-three year olds convincingly spit out explanations that make you feel like you are in an existentialist essay.

I don't know if it's a human tendency to manipulate and lie to get our needs met, or something that has just evolved in our culture, but I'm trying to break the cycle here. It's simply more efficient and less confusing if everybody says exactly what they need and then you go from there to see whether or not it can be provided in the moment. (Hint: Usually it can.)

Don't tell me that you can't stay in your room with the gate up because, as Laurel put it last night, "I won't be where I am at."

M went up to address that particular concern and asked her what she really needed, which was a grown up to snuggle with. He laid down with her and she was asleep in 10 minutes.

The question is are we dealing with bedtime fears or just ignoring them? Are we validating our child's feelings as legitimate, or helping to reinforce her fear of the many scary things in life?

Is she going to want to sleep with us until she's 18?


eatthecookie said...

did laurel ever have a crib, or has she co-slept since she was a baby? we are still sleeping juniper (4.5 mos) in our bed, and i am not really interested in getting her into a crib any time soon, except for daytime naps.
she has ALWAYS slept through the night, even as a newborn, and i think it is because she feels so safe with us.
i have struggled with my fear of the dark through adulthood, and can't believe the cruel ways people "deal" with their kids' fears. you're such a kind mommy!

k said...

Laurel was not so much into the co-sleeping thing as an infant. Or the sleeping thing in general. We tried it, as we tried pretty much everything. She just wanted to eat every 3-4 hours until she was 15 months old. And she liked to yell a lot. Burned off energy or something. In order to achieve the 3-4 hour stretches, we swaddled her tightly in the Miracle Blanket and blasted very loud white noise while she slept in her crib. If we did not do this, she would just never sleep. Ever.

Ahh, those were the days. I do not miss the brain fog.

But I don't want new parents to think that if you communicate with your child and listen to them that this is necessarily the easiest track and you'll get a kid who will be well behaved and a good sleeper and a good eater and won't hit anyone ever.

Anonymous said...

2We do that with Alice, taking turns, but considering how she is moved back & forth from parents, we almost have to. She rarely sleeps by herself, but if she does wake up alone . .. the whole neighborhood knows!!! I think your doing a great job . . . as always.
aunt laine

k said...

And Ask Moxie wrote about this. It is nice to read her column because it's a way to get an idea of how other families are doing things, without feeling judged or wrong or inadequate or like a parenting failure like you get after reading most "expert written" sleep books.

Here's the link.