Spreading her wings and leaving the nest*

My daughter Ava has slept in the same bedroom as me every night for the last nearly four years now. As a newborn she started out in an Arm’s Reach Cosleeper next to Jody’s and my bed, then transitioned into our bed around four months old. When she was two years old, we bought her her own bed, which we put next to our’s to expand our family bed in preparation for the birth of Julian and adding another person to our cosleeping arrangement.

For the most part, cosleeping (or sharing sleep) has been a great experience for our family. I’ve always loved the secure feeling of knowing my children are close by and safe. If they ever cry out or are sick in the middle of the night, I’ve been right there to comfort them. Mornings full of kisses and snuggles and goofing around in the bed are times I cherish.

For the past few weeks, Ava has been saying she’d like to move into her own bedroom. I admit I was rather surprised to hear it coming from her. We’ve talked before about her getting her own room once we move into a larger house (someday), but never pushed the issue in this house. I figure if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

After she mentioned it a few times, weeks apart, I thought we should take this request seriously and respect it. So last Friday we moved her mattress (not her whole bed) from our “family bedroom” to the “kids’ room,” which has always just been a room to store things – dresser of their clothes, a glider, diapering paraphernalia and some toys.

Ava is very excited about her first night in her own room - 4/4/08Ava was very excited to be moving into her own room. She declared that she was going to go to sleep all by herself and “no mama milk tonight!,” something she’s said more than once lately, but has yet to follow through on. ;) (I’m gently encouraging her to wean by her fourth birthday in June.) I thought that was a little much to try to tackle all in one night, but since it was at her urging I figured we’d give it a try and see how it went. She soon acquiesced and asked for mama milk and for me to lay with her while she fell asleep (which is our usual bedtime ritual). Before she went to sleep, Jody and I reassured her that we were there if she needed us in the night, and Jody put down a sleeping bag on the floor next to her mattress just in case. We slept with both bedroom doors open so if she woke up, she could easily wander into our room.

After she had some mama milk, we talked for a bit and she fell asleep. I took my time getting up that night. It was a little hard for me to think that my baby girl was growing up and taking the first of many steps towards independence. I laid in bed with her and whispered that I loved her. I gave her three extra kisses before I got up and left her sleeping contentedly in her very own room. It was bittersweet. I snuck back in there a little while later to snap a picture (had to) and cover her back up.

Soundly sleeping in her own room - 4/4/08Around 2 a.m. we awoke to Ava yelling “Mommy” and she came running down the hall towards our room. Jody met her in the hallway and carried her into our room, where she said, “I don’t want to move back in here.” So Jody took her back to her room and slept next to her on the floor.

We made a big deal about her first night in her own room the next day and told her how proud we were of her.

That night, not wanting her to feel like she had to stay in her own room if she didn’t want to, I told her we could move her mattress back into our room if she wanted, but she was adamant that she wanted to sleep in her own room again.

She’s been sleeping in her own room now for the past week. She tends to wake up and call out for one of us around 3 or 4 a.m. most nights at which point Jody goes in and sleeps next to her on a second twin mattress that we got off Freecycle this week. Other than that, the transition has gone really well. She is happy to be sleeping by herself and has no plans to move back in with us. Gulp.

I am very proud of my little girl. While this transition was a little harder on me than I think it was on her, I know that we’re doing the right thing. I feel lucky that we had such a great co-sleeping relationship for the first 3 3/4 years of her life and that she was able to move on to her own room when she was ready.

It’s hard to watch your children decide they no longer need you with this or that, but at the same time it’s also rewarding. We give them wings so they can fly.

Just don’t fly too far yet, honey, k? :)

*Alternate title: “Proof that AP kids really will sleep in their own beds someday” ;)

Cosleeping Resources
Kellymom: The Family Bed
Attachment Parenting International: Engage in Nighttime Parenting
The Natural Child Project: Cosleeping
Berkeley Parents Network: Co-sleeping: The Family Bed
Mothering: Sleep articles
The Natural Child Project: Articles on Sleeping