Bedtime together, beautiful and attached

IMAG00863My daughter and I stopped bedsharing a few months ago, just before her 2nd birthday. She was excited to move out of the daybed we shared in her room and into her own toddler bed.

Even though we’ve shifted away from bedsharing, bedtime still remains for us a wonderful time of connection. Sometimes I hold her and sing to her, which usually puts her to sleep before the first song is over. Most of the time, we lie together in her bed. She’ll play with my hair and cuddle up against me.

Lately, as her vocabulary and her brain continue to grow and develop, she’s been talking a lot as we lie together. She often talks about times when she was sad and frequently repeats a story about a time when I was out at the store and she was home with my husband: “I wanted you and you weren’t there, and I was crying.”

I believe this comes up often at bedtime, because it’s a time when she feels a need for comfort and knows she is safe. She can share a sad memory while knowing that I’m there for her at that moment.

I’ll listen to her story and acknowledge that it was a really upsetting time. Then I’ll remind her that in this moment she has me and I explain that now, when sadness is over, our emotions change and feeling sad is temporary. I reinforce that I am there to comfort her when she needs me.

Even though she’s no longer a newborn with an intense physiological need for me to hold her, bedtime can still be a scary time or a sad time if a child is alone. I love being able to be with her at this time and to let this be something positive and happy. While I don’t sleep with her in her bed, she still refers to it as “Mommy and me’s bed.”

When she wakes in the morning, she finds me sleeping in the daybed in her bedroom. She’ll walk over, and I’ll lift her up into bed. We’ll snuggle together until we’re ready to wake up. It’s the best part of my day and the best way to wake up. I love that I’m one of the first things she sees in the morning and that, even half-asleep, she knows that she just has to walk a few steps to find me and to feel that comfort and love. It’s beautiful to see how our sleep situation has evolved but is still a way for us to stay connected and attached.

Bedtime, a lesson in reframing

kelly shealer toddler betimeBedtime…ugh!

Every night, it was the same thing: My sons were 4 and 2 and seemed to be doing everything they could to keep from going to sleep. There was a sudden desire to play with all the toys that had been cleaned up, an endless stack of bedtime books, recurring requests for snacks and water, and a lot of stress on my part.

I dreaded it.

I knew that my negative attitude toward bedtime was rubbing off on my sons. They could sense it, and it made them dread bedtime, too. To them, it was the time when play stopped and when Mommy started getting frustrated.

Something had to change.

It wasn’t easy to change my attitude. I started by telling my sons how much I loved bedtime, how I loved lying in bed with my youngest son in the evening and how I loved this special time I got to spend with just them while their baby sister was asleep.

It wasn’t always how I felt, but as I started to focus on the positives, I started to feel that way for real.

I did truly enjoy this chance to lie down with my 2-year-old son. With a new baby, I had very few opportunities throughout the day to cuddle with him, and I loved that he still wanted me at bedtime.

I also reminded myself that reading a few books was part of the bedtime experience, not just something to prolong their evening. I love reading to them, but it doesn’t always happen much during the day, so I reminded myself to build in extra time for it at bedtime.

One of the most important things in changing my attitude was to stop looking at the clock. In fact, I removed the clock from the bedroom. Not stressing over how long bedtime was taking helped me enjoy it more, and soon I realized that it was taking less and less time overall.

I know that I don’t have to stay with my sons until they are asleep — or almost asleep. I know that even if they still want or need me but it really isn’t working for me, I could find a way to transition them into a different routine — just as I did when I weaned them and stopped cosleeping. But I also choose to remind myself that there will be a day that they don’t want me with them at bedtime, and I want to enjoy this moment now.

I no longer think of bedtime as a burden or as something that cuts into my time to myself each evening, and it’s made a huge change for all three of us.