When Your Child Sleeps With You: What Every Parent Needs To Know
My daughter barrels over me, scaling my belly, over my hip, and snuggles up against my back. She throws her arm around my waist in search of my hand to hold. Soon I hear the soft hum of her snore. She is 4 years old.
She does this every single night.
She comes into my bed, wakes me from what had been a good night’s sleep and disturbs me. I can never fall back asleep. She’s had three years of practicing this routine of hers. She has it down.
Before she leaps to jump over me, she stands at the side of my bed, stages her attack, and then lurches over me. I can sense her there, her body, her breath, her intention — I have one eye open. She gives me a stare that says both “let me in” and “I am scared.” I struggle with this caught in between letting her into my bed and teaching her how to stay in her bed.
She loves me so much. She wants to snuggle with me even when she sleeps. I know soon she will grow out of it. I know she will one day be a teenager and she won’t have any time for me. I know there are nights in which she is truly scared of the dark, of outside, of being too far from me. I remind myself of this: she is four.
On the nights when my old memories from childhood whisper in my ear: you’re old enough to sleep alone, nothing is going to get you, you have slept alone before, you’re a big girl now, I quiet them with this: I can change the story in my head.
It’s true. I am a parent. This is my child. And in the wee hours of the night, when something wakes her from her sleep, she needs to be comforted by me.
Even when I am tired, exhausted from playing the role of referee, of making dinner, debating with her twin sister to eat her dinner, negotiating social interactions with her brother, even in my sleep, I need to show up for her (and her siblings).
It is no different than when they are sick. I wake up, even from my slumber, to take care of them.
As parents, it is our job to consistently, without (too much) judgement, show up for our kids every time. They need us, even in our sleep.