A Cramped Bed
As a child, did you frequently disturb your parents during the night?
A Night Visitor
Growing up, from what my mother has told me, I never had a problem staying in my room at night. However, I do remember a period when I had some really horrible nightmares. Each night, I would run into my parents’ room and beg to sleep with them. My Dad would complain because he knew from past times that I wouldn't go to sleep. Having my mom’s total attention for the first time all day, I would want to talk to her. No matter how many times she’d whisper that I needed to go to sleep or I heard my dad complain that he had work in the morning, I wouldn’t go to sleep until I passed out.
After my parents had a huge fight about my nighttime routine (Kids do pick up on things.), my mother told me that from now on when I had bad dreams I was to come to the bedroom door, call into her and we’d go into my room. This worked for some time until I had a nasty dream about my dad and only wanted my dad to take care of me. I believe that was the first night that my parents gave me warm milk. Each night after that when I’d have another bad dream, my mom would make me some more warm milk. It tasted gross, but it always did the trick.
And then one night, I slept through the night. I didn’t run into my parents’ room. I didn’t need warm milk. I just slept through the night. I remember waking up that morning, upset and feeling very cheated. My dad was at work. My mom was busy doing stuff for my brothers. Our chance to bond had passed hours ago. That night, I tried to make myself have a nightmare, but it was no use. Nightmares don’t come when you want them to.
Though I’m probably reading into this too much, I would like to think that my dad’s complaints were his way of trying to make me self-reliant. Yes, I was still very little, but, knowing how attached to my parents I was then, I’m pretty sure I could’ve become their permanent roommate.
My friend, who shall remain nameless, slept with her parents till she was either ten or eleven. Though it was not an every night thing, it was frequent enough for them to still be joking about it now. I imagine that her first sleepover was because of a nightmare. I think the ones that followed were due to routine. What finally stopped this from happening was a visit from her cousin. They were both enrolled in the same summer camp program and he needed a place to sleep. Her parents decided he could stay at their house. He couldn’t sleep in my friend’s bedroom alone so she was forced to vacate her parents’ room and return to her own. However, during the summer months up until age fifteen, she would return to her parents’ air conditioned room to sleep on the floor. Only when she could buy herself some fans did she no longer need to stay in her parents’ room.
Knowing her parents, this sleeping arrangement doesn’t surprise me. My friend is an only child and they are abundantly overprotective of her. If she wanted to still sleep with them now, I’m sure her mom wouldn’t complain. I’m positive that if she did, her mother would no longer feel the need to call every ten minutes (I’m exaggerating…sort of.) while she’s out to ask where she is.
Obviously, there are similarities and differences between our two situations. We both had parents who loved us and wanted us to feel safe. However, one set knew when to put their foot down and the other is still standing with one foot in the air. We both had nightmares that allowed us to bond with our parents, though our time spans are indeed different. We both began to grow up when our parents pushed us out of their beds. It was a necessary push, but it still hurt a lot.
For parents who now struggle with their children frequently getting out of bed at night to bond with them, I have some suggestions. Though I’m not a parent yet, I have a pretty good idea of what I would do.
- 1. You need to figure out why your child keeps getting out of bed.
- Are they having bad dreams? If so, you need to figure out why. Are they eating before bed? Are they reading or watching things they shouldn’t? Did they overhear an argument between you and your co-parent? You need to let them know that they are safe and that whatever is bothering them will most likely go away if they talk to you about it. My mom always used to tell me that my bad dreams couldn’t come true if I told them to her. You might want to try that.
- Or is this simply a need to spend more time with you and your partner? If you have multiple children like my parents did, these night visits could be their way of getting more attention. Even if they are an only child, it could still be a cry for attention. You need to figure why they feel ignored and deal with that. Can you or your spouse think of an activity you could do together daily so that your child gets to feel more of a bond? I would recommend that this activity be physical so that they are too tired to not sleep through the night.
- 2. You need to figure out if you’re making things too comfortable.
- Do you watch videos together and make popcorn when your child can’t sleep? If so, this needs to stop. Your child needs to understand that bedtime is for sleeping and not for playtime. True, some children, like the children in my family, need to have some background noise in order to fall asleep. You should set up a dvd player or a cd player in your child’s bedroom so that they can listen to their favorite movie or cd while they sleep. Chances are that after the first time of going into your room to be with you and getting to watch their favorite movie, their routine is more about getting to see the movie than being with you guys. If your concern is that they won’t stay in their room and not that they are watching or listening to things at night, like I said, you should set up a player in their room. Also, it would be wise if the dvd or cd player doesn’t become a permanent piece in their room, but only visits at night. You don’t want them to see the player as a reward for waking you up. This would only inspire them to aim higher next time.
- 3. You need to figure out what matters more to you: sleep or bonding.
- I know some parents who believed that because they brought their child into the world they needed to be at their beckon call. They believed their child’s need to wake them up every night was a privilege and an honor. Though sleep deprived they were, if their son wanted to stay up with them all night, it was fine by them. They didn’t want to make him feel unimportant or miss one smile.
- While you don’t want to make your child feel that their needs are second to yours, you also need to make sure that you don’t spoil them/condone bad behavior. For my friends, it took their child’s kindergarten teacher almost kicking him out (He would become violent when asked to share toys, food and etc. with other children.) for them to smarten up. If they had only done something when Austin was younger perhaps this issue wouldn't have arisen.
- No parent wants to be the bad the guy. No parent wants to say “no” and see their child melt into tears. However, if parents don’t be strong with their children, how will they learn?
- You need to decide if you can handle missing out of on some late night bonding or if sleep is unimportant. No, you don’t want to lock your door and shut your child out when they are screaming that there is a monster under their bed. Yet, you don’t want to get them into a routine where nightmares turn into pillow fights. Nightmares are scary things, but spoiled children are even scarier. My mother always used to say that she knew when I was faking and when I really needed her. When your child is too afraid to sleep alone, you know it’s not about hanging out. I know it’s difficult to do this when you’re half asleep, but use your common sense.
I imagine that one day, I will become a parent to a child who sleeps as well as I did. They will look at me with a tear stained face hoping that I’ll be able to slay the monster under their bed. Like my mother, I’ll have to take them by the hand into their bedroom and show them that there is nothing under their bed. I just hope that I don’t have an older, pain in butt child with my middle brother’s sense of humor who is waiting under the bed to frighten both his sister and me as we look under.