It was only a few short months ago that our youngest boy was falling asleep each night securely behind the bars of his cot. I say securely because he had not quite figured out a method of egress and was as such, a captive.
Today, things are different. The little guy now sleeps in a double bed in his room that has been shoved into a corner with a barrier on the open side to prevent the roll, plop, cry trilogy of children in big beds from playing itself out. It is a temporary arrangement because he caught us a little by surprise one night refusing to go to sleep in his cot and we had not yet found a new ‘big bed’ for him. But there was the guest bed…a comfortable place to pass the time while we, as very tired parents, waited for him, the not so tired toddler, to go to sleep.
The little guy has claimed this bed in much the same way a prospector in the old west would have claimed a vein of gold, by simply occupying it.
Now our reality has shifted. He can easily get out of the bed and come find us if he happens to wake up alone or decides he’s had a good forty winks and doesn’t need any more sleep. To be quite honest, that’s not really a plus for the mommy and daddy. In point of fact, it has several obvious downsides, chief among which is that we can’t make the child stay in one place at bedtime and the cot was literally the last place we were able to contain the little guy in. He has long since figured out internal doors and the car seat is really an honesty-based restraint system now, given that he can free his arms anytime he wants to. So that’s the end of the proverbial lollipop.
Now begins a period of negotiation in which we’ve been with his older brother for the past two years where, in order to get the child to go to bed and stay there long enough to fall asleep, you need to have excellent negotiation skills and an above average level of patience. For the next two years (at least) we’ll be chasing the little guy around the house to make him go to bed and then stay there.
That said, when he’s in the bed, the little guy looks like Tom Thumb and is quite simply the cutest little imp imaginable (one of a pair actually). We still lie with him most nights while he winds down, but now we share the bed. Sometimes I let my weariness get the better of me and try to rush the onset of sleep by barking orders at him. Close your eyes. Go to sleep. Quiet. But he usually ignores me completely. In these moments, on the nights when all I want to do is go to bed and start my own dreams, I have to remind myself that in no time at all he’ll simply outgrow the need for either of his parents to lie with him while he drifts off to dreamland.
And at that point, we’ll look fondly back on those long nights we spent waiting for him to drift off to sleep and we will gladly trade a year of sleep to have even a single one of them back.