On the whole, children don’t have much autonomy. They rely on us, their parents, to make most of their decisions for them. If we left dinner plans to our kids, for example, they'd probably live off ice cream and french fries. If they were in charge they'd skip naps, avoid necessary immunization shots, and certainly wouldn't dress for the weather. As parents we have to set guidelines and hold our children to them, but there are some areas in their lives where they can be in the driver's seat. That’s why I refuse to force my kid to sleep in his own bed. You have to pick and choose your battles, my friends.
My partner and I used to co-sleep with our son, and even tried our hand at bed-sharing for a couple of years. Over time we weaned him off this habit, but we never pushed for him to sleep in his own bed if it was going to make him uncomfortable. As parents, my partner and I believe in simply encouraging our child to make good choices, rather than forcing him to do something he’s not comfortable with. (And again, sometimes we have to be forceful when, say, it's time for a vaccination.) When we allow our son the space to make his own choices we're building his self-esteem, his independence, and establishing his autonomy. For my partner and I, those lessons are more important than the ability for us to sleep in our bed without a tiny toddler foot kicking us in the face.
I know that every family is different, so one family's sleeping situation won't necessarily work for another's. But for my family co-sleeping and bed-sharing worked great, and we weren't in that big of a hurry to kick our kid out of bed as a result. Even as our son grows older, we still allow for a bit of “regression” now and again. So yes, there are a handful of nights a month when my kid crawls into our bed (either immediately or half-way through the night), and I don’t force him out of it. Here's why:
Because He Sleeps In His Bed Voluntarily
It took a few years before my son finally wanted to sleep in his own bed, but since then that's usually where he prefers to sleep. There are nights he wakes up after a bad dream and he wants to snuggle, though, and on those nights I absolutely let him in. And, of course, there are nights when he’s sick and I rather keep him close to keep him monitored.
But for the most part he'll sleep in his bed on his own, and I think it's because we didn't force him to early on.
Because He Won’t Ask To Share My Bed Forever
Sometimes my son just feels like being closer to his mom and dad. Most nights, if I remind him he’s a big boy and can sleep on his own, he will, but occasionally he’ll insist on sleeping with mom and dad and then I remember that this is only going to happen for a relatively short amount of time. Why not enjoy these nights while I can?
Because I Want Him To Know I'll Always Have His Back
Raising a strong, confident, independent child means teaching him that he still has his parents to rely on. I feel like sending him back to his bed if he’s seriously upset will only make him believe that maybe mom and dad won't always be there for him. He’s encouraged to be independent, and he's praised when he goes off on his own, but it’s OK if he needs to rely on mom and dad every now and then, too. After all, he's still a child.
Because Sometimes It’s Just Easier
Yes, I could technically get up every single time my son wakes in the night, walk him back to his room, and make him stay in his bed. Sure, I could read him more stories, sing him lullabies, feed him a midnight snack, and do my very best to force him to stay in his room. But why the hell would I want to make my job harder? Take a page from my Lazy Moms parenting handbook, my friends. It’s easier to let the kid stay in my bed so I can go back to sleep immediately.
Because He Might Need More Than Just My Company
If my son is adamant about wanting to stay close by, there might be a larger reason behind this type of sleep regression. It’s important for parents to listen to their children, and to monitor behavior that might seem out of the ordinary. If your child normally sleeps on their own, then suddenly wants to sleep with you and your partner, it could be a sign that they're having trouble at school, daycare, or just adjusting to some big life change. Why wouldn’t I want to monitor that more closely by allowing my baby to rest with us?
Because I Enjoy That Time Together
Honestly, I like sharing a bed with my son. He’s 4 and independent as hell, so I don't always get hugs and kisses. I respect that, and don't force him to show me physical affection either, but if he wants to snuggle with me for a few more weeks, months, or years, I’m all for it. Before I know it he will be grown and gone, so I’m going to take advantage of this time for as long as I can.