When I was pregnant with my first baby, I was tired almost all the time. People told me it would only get worse after the baby came, so I obsessed over trying to figure out ahead of time what the baby’s sleep habits would look like and what I could do to make them as least painful for me as possible. “When will the baby start sleeping through the night?” was the most important question that existed, and its answer — or how to make it happen — was certainly the purpose of life and the answer to everything, as far as I could tell.
I continue to be tired much of the time, nearly seventeen years later, so needless to say, a very large portion of my motherhood has been focused on helping my children go to bed at a reasonable time and stay in bed all night.
My youngest has railed against this harder than the others, or I’ve lost my fire as I’ve gotten older, or both (probably both), and the fact that my husband found him sitting on the floor of his room — rather than in his crib — when he went to get him up in the morning a few weeks ago was just the most recent wrinkle in my years-long goal of having peaceful nights. How could I put him to bed in his crib again when I couldn’t be sure he’d stay safe inside it?
But put him to bed in his crib that night I did anyway, in the off chance his climbing out had just been a fluke, or in the even more off chance he had heard, understood, and agreed with our admonitions that that was a very dangerous thing to do and he must not climb out of his crib again. I remained on high alert that night and, indeed, early the next morning, I heard his bedroom door open and heard him crying as he walked down the stairs. So that really had to be the end of him sleeping in his crib.
But where was I supposed to put him? Until he climbed out of his crib the first night, he’d given zero indications that such a thing might be imminent. I had started to think about how he was going to need a bed soon, but hadn’t yet done anything about it, and the only bed not currently occupied by one of the boys doesn’t have a mattress. I needed an immediate solution, even if it was only temporary, so I decided to move him into my six-year-old’s bed, with my six-year-old (one of their heads at one end, one of their heads at the other).
You’re probably wondering if this was really a good idea. You’re probably thinking that my six-year-old might resist having a new bedmate. You’re probably wondering if it’s safe to have the two youngest, very mischievous boys together in a bed without bars. You’re probably wondering if the fact that the room my six-year-old is in is also shared with three of the other boys would create a problem, with its two sets of bunk beds (which means two top bunks, which are possibly my two-year-old’s very favorite places and a source of terror for me) and so many older boys who think the baby is the cutest thing they’ve ever seen — would they really leave him alone and not wake him up when he’s sleeping? If he ever even falls asleep to begin with, in this wonderland?
You’d be smart to ask all these things, and I considered each one. Lack of other options forced my hand, so I made the best of it, and this is what has happened:
My two-year-old loves sleeping in his brother’s bed. He could not possibly love it any more than he does. He has started asking to go to bed! Just the other morning I took a picture of him, so peacefully was he sleeping in his new sleep situation even as I was waking my six-year-old up for school and yell-whispering at him to be careful and quiet getting out of bed. As for that six-year-old, I’d given him the very weighty responsibility of making sure the baby stayed in the bed and didn’t cause trouble, and he’s taken up this new responsibility with cheerfulness and seriousness. He even surrounded the baby’s pillow with his own beloved stuffed animals, all on his own.
But perhaps the biggest positive has been the fact that the baby, who had woken up in the night without fail almost every single night since last March, has done so only once since moving into the big boy bed a month ago, and that one time was during the first week when he was still getting acclimated.
It took a long time to get to the peaceful-night stage with my youngest—he’s two-and-a-half, and I could generally count on my babies being content in bed by the one-year mark. I never would have guessed that moving him into a bed with his brother would be the answer! I was telling my husband that moving the baby out of the crib and into a big boy bed felt like a real end to babyhood. “Well, that and potty training,” he said. Oh right, potty training … that’s the next task. I’m feeling energized by the bits of spring we’ve seen so far, so maybe I’m ready to handle it? Though a baby who sleeps in a big boy bed and no longer wears diapers isn’t really a baby at all, and I’m quite sure I’m not at all ready for that.