Sometimes the Best Parenting Decisions Make Themselves
by Martinique Davis
Jul 22, 2009 | 1150 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RAISING ELLE

“Eebee, deebee, da. Deebee, eeb.”

“Elle, it’s time for night-night.”

Silence.

“Tippy, tappy-two, beedy,”

“Elle, you need to lay down.”

Silence.

“Mama? Mama-ama, doobie-da… Dada?”

And so it goes, most nights. Elle, at nearly a year-and-a-half, still sleeps in our bedroom. So, most nights (at least those that we’re good and go to bed as early as Elle) we are “serenaded” to sleep by a heavy-eyed whirlwind of a little girl who can’t settle down and so must singsong us a concert from her stage (crib) at the end of our bed.

The crib-in-the-bedroom scenario wasn’t exactly one we decided upon, as one of those decisions you make as parents. When she was a newborn, the co-sleeping came out of necessity: We were in France, living in a studio apartment the size of my current bedroom, where the only logical place to put a sleeping baby was in a miniature bassinet in the two-foot crack between our mattress and the wall.

When we returned to our seemingly gargantuan three-bedroom townhouse, the co-sleeping evolved as a measure of survival. Our house is three stories tall, with our bedroom on the second floor and hers on the bottom floor. To attend to the needs of a hungry wailing infant, had she been put to sleep in her own bedroom, would have required kicking the warm covers off and struggling out of bed, stumbling down a hallway, turning on a light, walking down a flight of stairs and into a baby nursery to feed and rock a now wide-awake baby. Then, the whole scenario would play back in reverse, with me creeping back up the stairs and down the hall and back into bed in the middle of the night. Then, three to four hours later, I would repeat the process.

Alas, I am lazy. As it was, I needed only roll over and pluck her out of her co-sleeper crib (attached to the side of our bed) and stick a boob in her mouth.

Necessity brought our child into our bedroom (although she no longer nurses and usually can sleep through the night). Nevertheless the crib at the end of our bed has remained, covered in farm animals and black-and-white polka dots and loaded with blankies and stuffed animals; just another semi-permanent element of our highly sophisticated bedroom décor.

This setup has, clearly, put us into the realm of the eccentric, at least in our non-co-sleeping friends’ estimations.

Along with the raised eyebrows come the politely asked questions, like “How old is she now?” while their disbelieving faces reveal other, usually unarticulated questions: Questions about independence, for the kid, and privacy and intimacy, for us.

When confronted with those unspoken questions, I usually go ahead and defend our co-sleeping with deferential propaganda.

“Her bedroom downstairs is still so far away, I really wouldn’t feel comfortable… there’s a door down there, you know… and it’s nice to have two guest bedrooms instead of one.”

All of those excuses aren’t completely bogus, either. I wouldn’t feel comfortable, if I couldn’t hear her breathing when the house is quiet and full of shadows. I wouldn’t feel comfortable, knowing that if she had a bad dream or a tummy-ache, she would have to wake up alone.

The two guest bedrooms thing is totally phony though, seeing as in a year-and-a-half we’ve used both bedrooms for guests exactly once.

Mostly, the reason we have for sharing our bedroom with our daughter is based more on a gut feeling than logic. Simply put, it just feels right for our family to be together while we sleep. Just because we have three bedrooms to use hasn’t in five years of living together in our home meant that Craig and I have ever wanted to sleep by ourselves. Why, then, would we make our daughter sleep by herself?

I don’t worry about Elle stumbling along her path to personal independence, simply because she doesn’t know at 18 months what it’s like to sleep alone. She won’t, I can’t imagine, be sleeping at the foot of our bed at age 16.

As for the assumed deficiency in intimacy we as long-suffering co-sleeping parents are subject to, I can only point to the many other under-utilized areas in the house. (Just make sure to knock before entering.)

So even when Elle’s singsong serenades keep us awake, and despite how difficult it can be to sleep next to a miniature tornado (because she does, after all, crawl into bed with us many early mornings for an extra hour or two before the day begins) I’m happy to let Elle share my bedroom as long as she wants. Judging from how fast the last 18 months have gone, I don’t doubt that these nights of listening to sleepy toddler chatter and waking up to a foot in the face will be over before I know it. So, for now, I’ll choose to revel in the “Dabba-dubie, app-al eews” Elle sings every night while we all drift off to sleep, together.
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