The Midnight Creeper
Tap, tap, tap.
What is that noise? Is that an earthquake? Is the dog scratching at something? Then I realize… he’s back. Slowly my eyes open. Big, brown eyes stare back at me in the dim light of the alarm clock. Little fingers tap repeatedly at the mattress.
“Mama, Mama… I want to be on you.”
The clock reads 2:43 am and my brain is slow to process what my eyes and ears are taking in. What did he say? I just stare.
“Mama, I want to be on you, pleeeeease. Can I snuggle with you?”
And so it begins: another night of the Snuggle Struggle. Another round of, “Will he stay in his bed?” followed by, “Do we let him climb in bed with us?” Only one thing is for sure: I’m going to need 3 cups of coffee as soon as that alarm clock goes off in a few hours.
Ask other parents about what to do about midnight bed hopping and you’ll get advice that runs the gamut: Walk them back to their bed. No, no, it’s best to snuggle with them in their bed. Leave the bedroom door open. Shut the door once they are asleep! Flip the doorknob around. Lock the door. Never lock the door! Leave the hall light on. Use a nightlight! Let them sleep with you. Never let them sleep with you!
The. List. Goes. On. What’s a tired parent to do?
In Vino (or Gin), Veritas
For 15 months, this was our life. Night in, night out. Will he? Won’t he? What time will he come in? How many times will he wake up? It was a sleep-deprived version of Groundhog Day, minus Bill Murray, the comedy, and a foreseeable end. I soon came to view bedtime as my own personal hell. (My husband would say that characterization is a tad dramatic. Perhaps. I was very, very tired.) Bedtime used to be a sweet end to the day–filled with stories, sweet whispers and butterfly kisses. Now it was the hour of doom. I knew that instead of resting, as soon as I climbed into that bed I would just be napping in intervals.
After trying all of the recommendations listed above (and then some), what ultimately worked was this: do what works for you.
In our case, after rounds and rounds trying, we perfected our Snuggle Struggle cocktail: a blend of 1-part “You can come in whenever you want,” mixed with 2-parts of “But bring a pillow and blanket because you are sleeping on the floor,” with a slice of “Just please do not wake us up… or your sister” on the side. I like to call it the Snuggle Struggle Sloe Gin Fizz. And truth be told, it was over a few gin and tonics one evening that a friend recommended we let him sleep on the floor. Eureka!
And finally (I can still hear the angels singing…), we all slept. Did it bother me that “bring a blanket and a pillow” translated in his little brain into “bring a pillow, two blankets, three stuffed animals, some books, and a guitar?” Nope, not one bit. Some nights he tried to bring the whole contents of his room with him. And sure, I had to remind myself almost every morning to step with care so as not to squish his little head. Not a problem! It was a price I was willing to pay. I was rested; no-more-bags-under-the-eyes rested. And it was glorious.
Do What Works for You
Early on in this crazy journey I learned that for any parenting tactic in question–if you look hard enough–you’ll find books, parents, or Facebook groups that agree with you. Just as you’re likely to find books, parents, in-laws, friends, and co-workers that say the exact opposite. Heck, you might even find yourself the recipient of unsolicited parenting advice when shopping for socks at a Target with a screaming child in your cart. The options are limitless.
For as much as we all try to find that perfect parenting posture, a lot of it just comes down to going with what works for you and your family’s dynamic. Parenting is the ultimate “it’s an art, not a science” experience. And just as you get comfortable in one chapter, a new one emerges.
So from one parent to another, be it a “Bottoms up!” or “Bring me a double!” kind of day, find that parenting cocktail that works for you and go with it. Cheers!