My daughter has nightmares. A lot. Most nights she wakes up at least once. Some nights she wakes up two or three times.
It’s not enough for us to go into her room and assure her everything is alright. She wants someone to climb into bed with her, and preferably stay there until she falls back asleep (which can take up to an hour).
What she really wants is to sleep with us.
I don’t want to sleep alone! You and daddy get to sleep together! Why do I have to sleep by myself?
It’s a fair question.
We have never been a co-sleeping family. I move around a lot in my sleep and was always scared I would hurt my kids (or worse) when they were babies (I almost broke my husband’s nose when we were dating, and I did break my grandmother’s favorite antique lamp when I was in high school). If I did bring them into bed when they were infants, hoping to sleep some more precious shut eye, I would sleep only fitfully, never comfortable enough to fall into a deep sleep with them next to me.
Now we have a queen sized bed and the truth is our daughter wouldn’t fit between us. She’s a tall girl and many mornings I find her sleeping upside down in her own bed. To say she’s a fitful sleeper would be an understatement.
Also, my husband snores. Loudly.
When we do share a bed on trips I sleep horribly. She wakes me up constantly with a hand in the face or a foot in the back. It also takes her hours to fall asleep, which means there is no sneaking away when she finally passes out–by then it’s my bedtime too! Sleeping with her makes me crazy.
And yet, I wonder every day, if I’m doing her some horrible, irreparable damage by forcing her to stay in her own bed.
Two weekends ago, after a particularly rough string of nights, I convinced my husband to sleep in my daughter’s room so that our daughter could sleep with me. She was jubilant. And she slept straight through the night, without one wake up.
It was her suggestion to institute a “week off orange or red earns you a night in mommy’s bed.” Last week wasn’t a great week for her, but so far this week she’s on track. I hope she earns the treat for next week.
I worry a lot about my daughter. Why does she have nightmare’s every night? Are her bad dreams a manifestation of some emotional trauma? Is she just really sensitive and easily scared? Does she just really, really want to sleep with me? Is my refusal to allow her in my bed every night being processed as some kind of inherent rejection?
I’ll never know the answers, at least not until it’s too late.
At the end of the day, I’m just tired. And need a good night’s sleep. Is that too much to ask?