When my daughter was around six months old, we tried sleep training her using the cry it out method. I honestly have very little recollection of that period, probably because it was so traumatizing. There was so much crying, from her and from me. I'm guessing it worked, but there were times she ended up in our bed, too, usually because she wouldn’t settle down and I didn't have the stamina to either soothe her or let her cry. As I’d stare at her peaceful, slumbering face, I’d imagine all the things things I wished she would tell me when co-sleeping. I needed the reassurance in those moments, when I thought I’d never sleep again, that we’d all be OK.
I didn’t intend to co-sleep with my children, but it happened, and I had the bruises from little wayward kicks to prove it. That inevitable and unexpected shift in sleeping plans made bedtime, well, kind of odd. During these weird nights, when a small child would invade the tranquil haven of our bed, I’d often wonder, “What the hell are they thinking?” That was a rhetorical question, of course, but not the only time I wanted to know what was going on in their little minds. I’m sure if my babies could have spoken to me, they’d have some choice words, especially in response to the ridiculous Halloween costumes I chose for them when they were pre-verbal. (I dressed my infant son as a bedbug one year, complete with fake insects attached to his baby blanket. We got some stares.)
So when I was co-sleeping with my little ones years ago, here are some things I wished they could have said to me. If only they weren't so selfish and incapable of speech at the time, right? Jeez. Kids.
“If You Let Me Sleep Here Now, I’ll Never Argue With You About Screen Time In The Future”
This is wishful thinking, sure, but not totally implausible. It’s reasonable to give a child an inch (or in most my case, about nine square feet of bed space), in exchange for cooperative behavior. I see this less as a bribe than a barter. Of course, my baby couldn’t yet know what screen time was in the days she was clamoring to co-sleep, but I think that will be solved by some technology soon. Maybe.
“Excuse Me, Do You Mind My Foot In Your Ear?”
It would have taken some of the sting of getting kicked in the face if my baby could have politely asked me for permission before she felt the need to practice martial arts in our bed. I swear she never moved around as much in her own crib, sleeping solo, as she did when there were three of us in the bed. Once her little brother came along, and there were nights when both of them ended up under our covers, it was like being stuck in the middle of cage match.
“Don’t Worry, You’ll Get Your Bed Back One Day”
I knew that my kid wouldn’t sleep in our bed forever, but at 2 a.m., when I’m wide awake after the little one on my right is finally asleep and the big one (my partner) is snoring away, it’s hard to picture a time when I’ll finally be able to reclaim my space and sleep all the hours I’d need. If the baby, or anyone, really, could have identified the exact day I’d get my bed back, I’d be able to weather the stretch of co-sleeping a lot better. Yes, I did want to know the exact day. I’m a planner.
“Letting Me Into Your Bed Means You’re The Best Mom Ever"
I know this isn’t true, but it would have been ridiculously nice to hear. I always wondered if letting our kids into our beds would have a negative long-term impact, so if my kid would at least reassure me that I was spectacular, I could forgive myself for any shortcomings in my parenting that may be attributed to allowing my kids to kick me in the face all night.
“You Won’t Regret Me Being Here”
When the cons of co-sleeping got me down, I needed to remember that this time with all of us smushed together in one bed was going to be short-lived, especially in the grand scheme of my life. I needed this change of perspective and to see that being uncomfortable for a few nights, so that my new baby could sleep and grow and let her brain develop, was nothing in comparison to having her close to me.
Maternity leave was a mere 12 weeks, we only took occasional days off during the year, and even three weeks of vacation with the kids felt like nothing. Time with my kids, even sleepless, stifling, elbow-in-the-small-of-my-back time, was never going to be something I regretted.
“Sleeping Between You & Dad Will Actually Bring You Closer Together”
It’s true. My husband and I bonded over being body slammed by our tiny kid. We also squabbled more as a result of sleep-deprivation from those nights we hosted our offspring in our bed. “Remember the time when he was not even a year old, but landed roundhouse kick right to your groin? Good times, honey.”
“Thank You For Accommodating My Moving Body”
A simple “thank you” would have gone a long way when I was putting up with a nightly pummeling from little, chubby limbs. Being pregnant made me gain a new respect for my body; I had never seen its value before I employed it to gestate a little person. Now, months after the tremendous feat it performed and after pushing a new human into the world, it was being used as a punching bag by said human. A little acknowledgment from the offending party would have meant a lot.
“See How Easy I Made This Nighttime Feeding Thing?”
The biggest positive of co-sleeping was not having to get out of bed for those middle of the night nursing sessions. It almost — almost — made the flailing little limbs in my face worth it.
“I Delight In Your Morning Breath”
If my kids took offense to my rank morning breath, they never let on. Being close to me was their only desire, one they wanted fulfilled at any cost. This makes babies the best bed partners because, well, you could knock them over with your unbrushed teeth and they’d come crawling back for more.
“I Am The Happiest Baby On The Block Now”
Just tell me, child, that the sacrifice of my sleep is directly proportionate to your happiness and I’ll never close my eyes again.