Andy Hinds | Parenting
Being human makes you very likely to be guilty of hypocrisy. Being a parent makes it inevitable.
I’ve sheepishly witnessed my own hypocrisy a couple dozen times since the girls were born, even if it was only the kind of smugness that happened in my own head or between my wife and me. If you’re a parent, you know the kind of thing I’m talking about.
Oh my God–did you see how they chase that kid all over the house trying to feed her?
Well of course he’s a little tyrant–they cave in to his every demand.
No way I’m gonna make special meals for a picky kid–my kids will eat what’s on their plate or they won’t eat.
She’s almost 3… and still in diapers? Aw, hell no.
I’ve made variations of these and more, either to myself or my wife, and then later engaged in the same behavior I was judging in other parents.
One of these chickens that came home to roost was caused by the attitude I had developed toward some of my progressive parent friends who felt it was important for babies to sleep in the same beds with their parents.
I actually started out neutral on the idea of co-sleeping. It seemed like an OK idea in the abstract, before I really thought it through. But because we have twins, it was never really practical. My wife and I already have border disputes in our queen bed; how horrible would the tussling become with two babies in there too?
So we had the kids in their own cribs right from the beginning. Well they weren’t actually cribs, truth be told. We had them in Pack ’n Plays in our walk-in closet (but only for the first three years) because it was easier to deal with their nighttime shenanigans when they were near. Once they got too big, we moved them downstairs into actual cribs that had been sitting there, mostly unused, for their early lives.
The kids have always been pretty good sleepers, and we gloated a little when we thought about our friends who had to share their beds with their older kids because of the precedent set when they were babies.
What kind of suckers would let themselves get into a situation where they had to go to bed every time their kid was tired? And what was the exit strategy? How long would these parents be prisoners of their kids’ sleep habits? What about their sex lives, not to mention the discomfort and disruptions of having children in bed with them?
Yep, we had it all figured out.
Finally, almost a year ago, we inherited big-kid beds from relatives. The girls were very excited to “help” set up the frames, emptying out the baggies of hardware and climbing on the pieces as I bolted the contraptions together.
After only a little bit of muttered swearing, I got the beds set up and repositioned the mesh canopies that had previously been draped over the cribs. The girls were excited to sleep in their new big-kid beds.
That is, until that night, when we tried to tuck them in. They immediately started crying for their cribs.
We tried to be tough, we really did. “Monkeys,” we said, “we asked if you were ready for the big-kid beds and you said you were. We can’t bring the cribs back; you just have to get used to sleeping in big-kid beds.”
Then we tried to show them how awesome the new beds were, as well as the new comforters and pillows we had gotten them. They just kept crying.
Their pleading eventually changed from “crib, crib, crib” to “sleep with me, Daddy” and “sleep with me, Mommy.”
So that’s what we’ve been doing since last December. Every night – except when we do grownup stuff and the babysitter puts them down with no trouble, of course – the girls kind of fake whine, “Sleep with me,” and my wife and I kind of fake-protest that we shouldn’t have to lie down with these big 4-year-olds when it’s time for bed.
Here’s my shameful secret, though. It’s really not so bad.
I snuggle up with one kid and my wife snuggles up with the other, and we whisper and giggle for a while, and then pretty soon Mom and Dad are sawing logs. I wake up about an hour later, to the rancid dog breath in my face that lets me know our dog Stella wants to go for her nightly walk.
I might wake my wife, or I might wait until Stella and I return. After our evening naps and my dog walk, my wife and I goof around until the wee hours, at which point we say, “Why are we still up? These after-dinner naps are killing us.”
And then the next night, around 8:30 or so – after bath time and tooth brushing, and reading a half dozen books in the dim light of the lamp on the kids’ dresser – we stretch and yawn and empty our pockets onto the floor by the bed and say, “This is ridiculous. We have to stop lying down with these kids. We just can’t – YAWN – continue like this.”
But there’s always a reason that it’s a bad time to stop. The kids are kind of sick. They’re messed up from being on Eastern time at their grandparents’ house. They had a stressful day.
They’re just not quite ready.
—Andy Hinds is a stay-at-home dad, blogger, freelance writer, carpenter and sometimes-adjunct writing professor. He is known on the internet as Beta Dad, but you might know him as that guy in North Park whose kids ride in a dog-drawn wagon. Read his personal blog at betadadblog.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @betadad on Twitter.