My partner and I never planned on co-sleeping. Our first son didn't co-sleep, so we figured our second would be the same. This, of course, was one of our first lessons in the undeniable fact that"every kid is different." Soon, a couple hours of sleeping with our son turned into many days of sleeping with our son and, before we knew it, we were co-sleeping parents. Then one day, when we were so exhausted we couldn't function, we decided to be done. I went through many emotional stages of weaning my kid from co-sleeping that first night.
One of the greatest lessons I've learned about doing the "hard parenting stuff" is that you can't really follow through on the necessary but very difficult things until you truly are ready to experience them. You're ability to make any parenting change, really means that there is not one ounce of you that is willing to tolerate the status quo. For example, I was only ready to do cry-it-out with my first born because I literally could not survive another night of breastfeeding on demand every half hour. My body and mind had made a decision together, and that made it easier for me to stick with crying it out. What I couldn't have possibly fathomed experiencing became the norm because, well, it just had to be.
But with the co-sleeping? Well, that was a lot harder. Like, so hard that it's kind of sort of is still happening as we speak, even though the night we decided to stop co-sleeping was over a year ago today. Baby steps? There's always next year? Yeah, I'm going to go with that and, in the meantime, keep reliving these emotional stages.
Stage 1: Resolve
On "the big night," when my husband and I decided we are done having our little one in our bed for good, we are feeling pretty smug about it. We even start fantasizing about what it would feel like to have our bed all to ourselves again, like in the "good old days." I imagined how nice it would be to not have a toddler-sized head sleeping on my cheek for just one night, and it was glorious.
Stage 2: Optimism
I had read that the key to starting something new (i.e. weaning a child from co-sleeping) would be to have a perfectly executed bedtime routine with no deviations whatsoever. On the first night in which you attempt to facilitate your child sleeping in their own bed, it all starts out fine. For example, we had our dinner and we enjoyed a little relaxing tub.
Unfortunately, it gets a too relaxing. Know what I mean? Let me make it abundantly clear. Poop in the tub! Things are not going as planned, and that floating turd was a sign of things to come.
Stage 3: Frustration
I've finally managed to get the toddler in his own bed, which is usually not the worst part of our sleeping problems (those come later in the night, after my partner and I have gone to sleep, when the toddler sneaks in and demands to join us in our bed.) But about an hour after I have put him down, my neighbors decide it is the perfect night to start changing around their wall hangings. Why? Why?
Cue cranky toddler screaming and awake for the next 45 freakin' minutes. The night is looking grim, my friends.
Stage 4: Conviction
I manage to get the kid back to bed, and now I am settling in for the night. As I drift off to sleep, I steel myself for the night ahead. When my little one undoubtably makes his appearance at my bedside, I will follow through with my plan to wordlessly lead him back to his room just like all the books say I should do. My husband is in on the plan as well. We are resolute. We are steadfast. We will not waver.
And we will take turns.
Stage 5: Even More Resolve
So here it is. The moment of truth. The little one is now at my bedside, asking for me to pick him up. Instead of picking him up, as I usually do, I get out of bed. My body protests wildly. "We don't like this plan," my tired backbones say. My kid starts screaming as we return to his room.
Stage 6: Confusion
The books and articles had all said this was supposed to be a wordless and quiet exchange. However, no one mentioned the wailing and screams of protest that would come on the part of my toddler. What am I supposed to do? Pretend I'm a deaf mute? This doesn't make any sense at all. Am I suddenly supposed to be a Mommy Robot who doesn't respond to my child and is devoid of any human emotion? For some reason I am feeling ill-prepared.
Stage 7: Utter Bewilderment
Again, the articles said that I was supposed to bring him back to his room over and over, but they seemed to imply that there would be a grace period during which my child would actually stay in his room. My child, however, has grasped onto my leg and I am now dragging him along the floor as I attempt to return to my bedroom.
Stage 8: Skepticism
We have just spent the better part of two hours walking back and forth from my bed to my toddler's bed, without stopping, and I am out of breath. Starting to have some doubts about this weaning thing.
Stage 9: Bafflement
Finally decided that if you can't bring a fish to water, bring water to the fish, or whatever. I lay down in bed with my son and pat his back like I used to when he was a baby, but at some point I must have dozed off because the clock says another hour has gone by. We are still co-sleeping, only this time, we are in his toddler bed. Great.
Stage 10: Despair
I attempt to quietly sneak out of his room without waking him up, but he must have sensed a shift in the atmosphere because he bolts awake as soon as my toe touches the floor. Busted.
Now we'll be awake for another hour, I'm sure. Kill me.
Stage 11: Hope
I don't want to jinx it, because at this point I know better. However, my son is actually in his own bed! And I'm in my own bed! I think we did it! I think we have successfully weaned! Yes! This is the dream, you guys!
Stage 12: Dread
Oh no oh no oh no oh no. Please make it stop. Is this a nightmare? Is this real life?
Stage 13: Denial
I'm just so tired, I think I could sleep through the next apocalypse. Or, you know, at least however long it takes for this point in our collective lives to be over, so my son can eventually sleep in his own bed (which, at this rate, will be when the kid is in college).
Stage 14: Resentment
I am pretty sure I was the one to walk my son back to his room the last two times, but my husband swears he did it last. As we are arguing, somehow, the child acquires a new skill and figures out how to muscle his way onto our bed unassisted. This is a terrible turn of events. My husband and I look at each other and realize that we are royally screwed because we have lost the very last shred of control; the very last step of access to Mommy and Daddy's bed. We are both so tired and cranky, and neither of us is really up for doing the take-the-child-back-to-bed dance. There is only about an hour and a half left before we will have to wake up and start the day with our older son and get everyone to school.
Stage 15: Procrastination
Luckily, there is always tomorrow, right? Tomorrow night, we decide, will be the night. Hopefully, the neighbors won't be doing any decorating, because surely, that is where the evening took a wrong turn. Surely that is it. Tomorrow night, we'll just be that much more ready, now that we know what we know. Tomorrow night we will be strong. Nothing will stop us. We will be ready. Tomorrow night's the night.