Gentle Parenting

I never “sleep trained” my kids.

Golly gosh, you must think. That woman can’t possibly get any sleep and her poor children must wander the house all night long in desperation; wishing that they had been given the opportunity to learn how to self soothe as babies.

Wrong!

In fact I’m just now lying in the dark, making the most of their sleepy snuggles and the peaceful silence filling the room. The rest of the night will be quiet and I wont hear from them again until it’s time for the morning rush.

As a child I vividly remember trying to soothe myself to sleep. I remember tucking the blankets in around me and taking care to not expose a single part of my body. For some reason having my feet uncovered worried me the most.

I tucked the blankets right around my head leaving only my face exposed. I remember looking at the shadows and convincing myself that under my bed was a terrifying creature waiting to pounce on any body part I had not successfully covered.

I considered my blankets some kind of shield; an armour.

I wasn’t raised in a household where I was left to cry, it was however expected of me to fall asleep on my own from a relatively young age.

When I was about the same age as my daughter is, I remember having terrible nightmares and I remember how scared I would be waking up in a dark room. I remember my heartbeat pounding as I would rush down the stairs to my parents bedroom, where my mother would lift up her blanket and let me cuddle in to her. The bed was warm and cosy and I felt safe.

When my daughter was born I never even considered having her in my bed. The idea frightened me.

After two weeks of exhaustion and a hysteric baby I decided that the only place my daughter belonged was in bed with me, snuggled in to my chest breathing deeply and contented.

My son however had other ideas and preferred his own bed from the day he was born. Although I missed the nighttime snuggles I felt strongly that I had to respect his individuality and his wishes.

When I come across mothers who who desperately ask for advice about getting children to sleep in their own beds I always wonder if they are asking because of the societal pressure to not share a bed with their babies rather than what they want to do themselves.

To me the concept of not happily sharing a bed with my children is alien, probably as alien as it is to those who parent differently than I do and want their bed for adults exclusively. They likely can’t understand how I am ok with being manhandled by two tiny humans most of my nights.

The only thing I knew as a new mother was that I never wanted my children to go to sleep feeling frightened or lonely. I never wanted them to feel as though they needed to protect themselves with blankets.

My daughter is seven and my son is about to turn four. They are fiercefully independent, stubborn and opinionated.

They will take on most tasks with a level of confidence I admire greatly yet when it comes to bedtime they fall asleep in my arms as they always have. They need me to be there to make them feel safe and there’s nowhere I’d rather be.

At times I used to find it beyond frustrating to have to cuddle my daughter to sleep. After several hours in her toddler sized bed I would be ready to scream, and to be honest I probably did at times but I also have endless memories of sweet bedtime chatting and hugs that didn’t last long enough.

As the children have grown our lives have changed. We have school, nursery and work. Life is busy.

After hobbies and dinner we have spent an entire day without being able too have a full conversation. Everything is geared towards making the day flow as smoothly as possible and I have now come to really appreciate those minutes of silence where we cuddle in to each other.

I realised that there is nothing I love more than holding my children and feeling their bodies relax as I hear their breathing slow down.

I just lay there, holding them and feeling completely overwhelmed with love. There’s no rush or interruption. No sibling bickering or disagreements it’s just peaceful and quiet.

Of course there are times when it’s just not possible to uphold a nightly cuddle marathon with two sleep stealers but if you find yourself able to spare a few minutes there is nothing I would recommend more then spending those last few minutes of awake time with your child in your arms.

Unfortunately I’ll have to find another “sleep association” to support my “bad habit” when my children grow up and no longer have the time or want to cuddle their mum at bedtime, but for now I take pleasure in knowing that my children fall asleep every night feeling loved and safe but more than anything I know they fall asleep without worrying about monsters under their beds.

Before I know it they’ll be teenagers but I will still have the memories of bedtime cuddles and I will cherish those forever more.

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