You awake in the middle of the night with the strange sensation that someone is watching you. Ghostly whispers linger in the air. The covers are slowly being pulled back and you feel the start of methodical finger tapping on your shoulder. Terror grips your chest because you know what is coming…just don’t turn around….don’t open your eyes….
It’s 3 am and your child is standing beside the bed. Staring. Lurking. Waiting to pounce.
There are many reasons for this: tommy aches, unquenchable thirst, bad dreams, vomit, pee, itchy pyjamas, no pyjamas, lost stuffies, concern that there is an owl in the house, concerns over global warming…the results are the same- your cozy warm slumber is over. I would like to say that I handle this with patience- make up some warm milk and snuggle my child back to dreamland in their own bed while singing about raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. I do not. My response generally goes something like this:
Ughh. What time is it? Why are you here? No, you can’t sleep here- there’s no room. Why are you sad? Sleeping people aren’t sad. I wasn’t sad until right now. That’s it- no more iPad- EVER. Or sugar. Uggh. I’m so tired. Talk to your dad. Okay, fine, I’ll sleep in your bed, you climb in here- but I’m taking my pillow. We are going to talk about this tomorrow [tripping over something on the floor as I wander toward the tiny twin bed I will be forced to occupy for the night]. Seriously? Who left this here? Why is there stuff everywhere all the time? We need rules in this house. Where are the rules? I’m never going to be able to fall back to the sleep. Nobody talk to me in the morning. I love you.”
I’ve lived through an apartment with bedbugs- an infestation of night time children is worse. Sure, with bedbugs you may have to fumigate and buy a new mattress, but at least you don’t notice them until you wake up in the morning with itchy welts on your forehead. Bedbugs don’t beg you for just a little bit more milk in the middle of the night or keep their foot firmly lodged in your ribcage because they are incapable of sleeping lengthwise.
I know there are plenty of books and articles that I could read with helpful advice on keeping children out of your bed at night. Unfortunately, despite owning dozens of baby and parenting books on every topic from making perfect baby smoothies in less than a minute to teaching your two year old financial responsibility, the furthest I’ve ever gotten on child-rearing research is the first chapter of “Happiest Baby on the Block” (spoiler alert: apparently, you’re supposed to swaddle). Instead of finding ways to deal with the situation using proper child-rearing techniques, when the moment comes in the middle of night and I’m staring into the face of terror, I inevitably give in. I relinquish my spot and stumble away to seek refuge for the night in a child size bed with Elsa sheets and 1400 stuffed toys.
Sometimes it’s really no big deal- and then sometimes something like this happens:
Then 3 year old: Mom- can I sleep in here and you sleep in my bed? I peed in it.
Me: I don’t want to sleep on your pee.
3 year old: I put a towel down for you.
And yes, I slept on the pee towel.