By Kris Hey
Sometimes at a baby shower you might have the opportunity to give a mother-to-be some advice you have learned as a parent from raising your own children.
You might be asked to write your words of wisdom in a pretty pink or blue baby gift book. It’s a tradition at many baby showers these days.
If you get one of these books as a new mom, please understand that this is serious business, not a cute party gift. Do yourselves a huge favor and heed what we have written.
Most parents have screwed up in some way or another raising their children, and I, personally, want you to learn from my biggest mistake.
I let our son sleep in our bed after he had a short illness when he was a baby. In my defense at the time, he was really sick and my husband and I wanted to keep an eye on him. When our son was in his crib feeling sick, he was crying all the time, and we were going to him every five minutes, if I remember, and no one was getting any sleep.
So I did something that changed my entire future: I took him out of his pretty Pottery Barn-decorated crib in his sky-blue nursery and brought him into our bed for a “few nights” while he recovered.
Well, those nights turned into years (more than he would ever want me to tell or I want to admit), and before I knew it I was probably fit to be a guest on Dr. Phil. I imagine he would have asked me, “What were you thinking letting your kid sleep in the bed that long?” Indeed. What was I thinking?
After the illness, we tried everything to get him out of the bed. We watched, applied and failed at using Supernanny principles. We let him sleep on a mattress on the floor of our room, but he ended up in bed by morning. We slept with him in his room with him a while until he fell asleep, but nothing worked. He always ended up back in the bed with us.
We rationalized this, as many parents do. We read up on co-sleeping and found that children sleep with their parents for long periods of time in other countries. That made it OK with us for a while. Besides, we all slept better when he slept all night, and it was nice and comforting to have him next to me.
But if I had it to do over, I would never do it again. My husband seconds that. It was hard to rest with my son’s long legs kicking me all night and arms holding onto me, and my side of the bed stopped being my own. Pile on a Siamese and Torti cat and things were beyond crowded. Not to mention it is not best, in my opinion and in the opinion of many pediatricians, for a child to learn to sleep with others. They need to sleep alone to learn independence and how to lull themselves to sleep without the comfort of another. There also are other very good reasons for parents not to have a child in the bed, but I won’t get into that here.
Thankfully, one day on his own a while back, our son just started sleeping in his room. There was nothing magical about it. There was no screaming, yelling, tantrums or ultimatums — from any of us. I think he was just ready and wanted his own space to stretch out and was ready for his independence. His comfort is our Siamese, Mulan, and she sleeps with him.
My hope is that we have not damaged his sleeping pattern for life, but he sleeps all night and shows no signs of insomnia as some co-sleeping children do when they start sleeping alone.
How about you? What piece of advice would you give a new mom?