From Co-Sleeping to the Big Boy Bed

I never expected to be a co-sleeping family. Really. I remember seeing some article about it in the pre-kids era, and thinking…. “weird.”

I had every expectation of lowering my angel carefully into his comfy–but not too comfy because sleep safety and all–crib, playing some gentle music, hitting the lights, and enjoying my evening of quiet motherhood.

Then I got a real baby.

And mad props to you if your bedtime routine looks anything like my aforementioned dream scenario, but that is not the way it played out it Dutton-town. My little angel was a colicky, sleep-hating, velcro baby who was 100% not interested in anything to do with a crib.

And believe me: I read all the books, I tried all the tricks, I said “sure, let’s cry it out” (spoiler: the crying never stopped), and I begged and begged and begged this tiny human to go to sleep.

But, surprisingly enough, he didn’t seem to care, and I learned that no matter what skills or tricks I may have, ultimately I can’t really *make* another human go to sleep no matter how many lullabies I know.

He did, however, love to be near mama, and would basically only sleep if we were in touching distance. So about the time I went back to work and realized I could not function like a normal human being in public unless I had some tiny amount of regular sleep, baby officially moved into the family bed.

We read all the safe co-sleeping guidelines and did what we could to make it the best situation possible. And you know what?

It was awesome.

“Why, oh why,” I thought, “have I been getting up every 45 minutes to calm an angry baby when we could have just been cuddling and nursing and sleeping??” And just like that, I was converted from a “why would you ever want to co-sleep”er to a “family bed 4 life-er.”

((About this time, I should probably add a disclaimer that I really don’t care how you choose to make sleeping work with your kids. If you’re happy, I’m happy. Do what’s best for you to get some actual sleep (oh my goodness, how I never knew I would appreciate real sleep so much!) because really, that’s what it’s all about, and rock on with your awesome momming. Carry on.))

After that wonderful discovery, we made co-sleeping work for our family, but I still tried repeatedly to transition him to his own bed because I watch movies, and I know that’s how the magical children on tv all sleep. But no matter what I did, it just didn’t fly.

Until this week.

And let me tell you, it is kind of amazing to see a little boy who would wake up repeatedly through the night screaming and was only calmed by being close to his parents go to sleep with a smile and wake up happy in the morning. Like, heart-tuggingly amazing.

But it’s also one of several big milestones that are happening right now that just remind me how quickly he’s gone from being my little baby to being my little kid… and how my big kid and my little man and my full-blown grown-up person making scary adult life decisions and voting and stuff are all really just around the corner too.

And as much as I spent those early months begging him to be a “normal” kid and sleep in his bed for more than 20 minutes (“please oh please oh please”), I find myself torn about letting go of the special closeness we’ve shared since then. The extra cuddles, the middle of the night sleep talking, the specialness of being so uniquely needed and connected.

But this, like the many milestones that are here now or are to come, is one of the treasures and challenges of parenting. Letting them go and cheering for them as they grow, succeed, and find their independent place in the world… while wanting to hold them forever, to keep this precious moment, to freeze time right here.

How can I have both?

We went shopping for all of his special big boy bed decor. New blankets, new toys to cuddle, new decorations to make the space his. He got to pick it out himself (well, mommy might have pointed him towards some things that actually matched). He cheered with joy and told me he loved it about a million times. Now we cuddle into his special bed and read stories and sing songs and say our prayers and love yous. He makes me play silly games with his toys until he finally rolls over to fall asleep as he whispers some sleepy “I lub you”s, and I watch him fall into a peaceful sleep until I can finally tear myself away for that quiet, peaceful night of motherhood I had always expected (*cue the baby waking up*).

I guess dreams come true.

But it’s not the dream of having a perfect bedtime routine or getting my child to sleep successfully so I can have some time to myself.

It’s the dream of watching this incredible human grow and learn and love more and more each day. It’s the dream of sharing my life (and sometimes my bed) with a family that I love more than I could have ever understood before. It’s the dream of enjoying these beautiful now moments amidst the craziness of mom life because I know that the next milestones are coming, and while I’ll rejoice as each one arrives, a part of me will always ache to say goodbye to our current now.

So here’s to the milestones, the big transitions, the new accomplishments. And here’s to the stages we’ve passed, the things we’ve said goodbye to, the memories we’ll always cherish. May we find room in our hearts to both treasure the days behind, embrace the moments we’re living, and celebrate what lies ahead.

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