My daughter is coming on three and a half years now. She has been a wonderful sleeper until about the age of 3 when she seemingly started experiencing some anxiety at bedtime and throughout the night, wanting either my husband or I to stay with her until she fell asleep, to leave the door open, and wanting to come sleep with us in the middle of the night.
As a sleep coach, I told myself "be strong, stay consistent" hoping she'd go back to being a "good sleeper". I filled my husband in on my sleep plan to sit with her at bedtime and gradually move further away until we were back to being able to say goodnight to her and leave her room. It took a couple of months, but things are much better now!
So...why do I feel a shit ton of guilt (pardon my french) pushing her to "be a big girl" and stay in her bed all night long? Hell, I hate falling asleep alone myself, so why is it so important for my THREE year old to do it!?
While reading this article from The Washington Post - My 5-year-old is scared to go to bed by himself. How can we all get some sleep?, this passage really stood out to me.
"Do you really care about him getting into bed with you at 3 a.m., or do you think you should care about it? At some point in American culture, we have decided that “good” children don’t stray from their beds once moved from a crib, but children regularly pop in and out of their beds well into elementary school (and sometimes beyond)."
Secretly, I look forward to the nights when my daughter comes up to our room and snuggles in with us. But then the next day I tell her "stay in your bed all night like a big girl". I feel so conflicted and can only imagine the mixed messages I am giving her.
So where does this leave me? I vow right here and now, that as of bedtime tonight, I am going to take off my sleep coaching hat and put my mommy hat back on, and encourage my daughter to come join us in bed if she feels like it. I am already feeling excited at the thought of telling her this tonight as I'm sure it will be met with an ear to ear grin.
There is the possibility that I may not sleep as well with little feet kicking me, but there is the guarantee that I will sleep better knowing my daughter feels safe at night and feels she can come to us no matter what.