Reading a book 200 times is a surefire way to find out whether you love it or want to throw its rhyming llama couplets into the diaper pail. Children's books especially do a tricky dance for an audience of squinty-eyed parents and wide-eyed tots: the best ones, like a syringe of infant-suspension Tylenol, have a little something for the parent at the end. These are the ones we are celebrating in This Book Belongs To — the books that send us back to the days of our own footed pajamas, and make us feel only half-exhausted when our tiny overlords ask to read them one more time.
I knew we were in for a long night. Past weeks had proven that our preschooler still wasn’t ready to sleep in her own room. The process of transitioning our daughter to her own sleeping space has, at times, been no laughing matter. Some nights? Downright brutal. How on earth were we going to get this girl to sleep in her own bed comfortably?
While her dad thought it to be a brilliant idea to purchase a rotating Minnie Mouse night light, she was afraid of the character shadows on the wall. And no amount of "monster spray" (lavender essential oil and tap water) was going to convince her that the night light was there to protect her. After brushing our teeth in annoyance of our failed attempt, my husband and I came out of the bathroom to find a lovely surprise.
There was a disheveled, makeshift cot at the foot of our bed. A twice-folded unicorn comforter with two twin-sized pillows looked comfortable enough for a midday picnic, but not for anyone’s sleeping arrangements. To the right of the floor bed was Ted E. Bear, my daughter’s favorite stuffed animal. To the left, the 5-minute snuggle anthology was flipped open to Three Little Pigs. Initially, I thought, “How cute? Baby girl has made herself a cute, little floor bed in our room.” However, we had no idea what was really happening. “Daddy, look! I made your bed down here. The big bed is just for me and Mommy.” Before either of us could react, we burst into uncontrollable laughter.
Bed-sharing parents around the world know all too well the joys (and battles) of having precious little ones snooze the night away in our “big” beds. The snuggle, I mean struggle, is oh so real, from size-12 piggies in my lower back to bedwetting oopsies, sleep deprivation, and the hopeless desire to restore adult cuddle time. Instead of wishing upon a star that we had sleep-trained our child the minute she entered the world, The Big Bed has helped all of us to get through this trying stage.
Published in 2018 by Bunmi Laditan, I knew The Big Bed was a must-have for our growing bookshelf. Laditan, an award-winning blogger, is creator of the immensely popular website The Honest Toddler. An admirer of her distinct writing voice, I appreciate Laditan writing from the perspective of a toddler. We can all imagine what’s going on in their tiny little brains; and The Big Bed shows us how a typical 4-year-old might negotiate a case for sleeping in her parent’s bed in a ridiculously funny way.
I’m all for wit and humor in picture books. A good laugh is better than sunshine on a cloudy day. The main character in The Big Bed is a clever arbitrator. Seriously, this 4-year-old has the bargaining skills of a top salesperson. Confident. Enthusiastic. Competitive. Resilient. I don’t know how my daughter ended up with the gift of the gab (guess I have to take full credit for this one), but just like the main character, she comes up with the most crafty ways to get out of–or into–anything.
During the day, my daughter is a huge fan of Daddy. She can count on Daddy-O to share an unplanned ice-cream cone for lunch or play a game of “Who can do more burpees?” The main character compliments her dad in a similar way. “I have no problem with you during the day. You’re a wonderful wrestler. You’re also very gifted at the art of the horsie ride.” My daughter, also credits Dad with being a “VIP, or Very important piggyback-ride giver.”
However, when it comes time to sleep, it’s been all about Mommy since day one. In the earlier days, Mama had the milkies and now Mama’s got the best cuddle game — and this is my daughter’s recipe for a peaceful night’s rest. “No one can deny that Mommy is full of cozies and smells like fresh bread. Who wouldn’t want to cuddle with her?” I guess I must smell like a piping-hot loaf of pumpernickel, too.
Just when we thought we out-negotiated our daughter with a night light, we found out how quickly this plan would backfire. The main character described our perplexities perfectly: “I know you’re convinced that my Deep-Sea Ocean Wonder Fishy Light is some kind of night watchman, but you should know that it creates more shadows than it banishes... I can’t sleep alone.”
Great idea, Dad! No wonder our daughter ended up in our bed after the Minnie Mouse night-light fiasco. Poor baby will likely have nightmares of Minnie Mouse and friends climbing the walls for months to come.
The funniest part of this picture book has to be the images of the parents throughout this entire ordeal. Mom is cracking up and Dad’s face is unforgettably bewildered. Reading through the pages helps us to bring out the humor is this classic scenario. Admittedly, a 4-year-old negotiating Daddy out of the bed... I’ll say that’s worth more than a few chuckles.
Before reading The Big Bed, I thought for certain that we were the only parents on the planet with a 4-year-old who still frequents our bed. Not only does she still sleep with us, she often makes arrangements to have me all to herself. Poor Daddy. Thanks to The Big Bed, we’re thrilled to know that we aren’t alone in this journey — and that someday, she’ll finally warm up to sleeping in her own bed.