Wednesday, February 29, 2012

His Little Nook

When our first baby, Willie, turned two, the problem of how to get him out of our bed and into his own little bed seemed to consume every waking hour for months and months. Would he ever do it? Would he ever sleep through the night? Would he cry every night? Would he be scarred for life? This crying—is it separation anxiety, or is he just tired?

I think I lived inside his head for the first three years of his life, anxiously wondering how each new experience would affect him. I wanted him to be attached to me (he was). But I also wanted sleep.

I remember long phone calls with my mother: she indulgently discussed for hours (it seems) how to ease Willie into his own bed. She told me to make his bed "special". She told me to make a little bedtime ritual for him. She told me he'd be fine (what?!).

I talked to mothers of large families. They smiled distantly and said sorry, they couldn't remember how their toddlers slept. What? How could you forget something this traumatic and important?!

When Hugh came along, we were a little more tired, a little more heartless. As soon as he was old enough to sleep alone, we just tucked him into bed with Willie. We made a little ritual of lullabies and a lit candle. He would come back to our bed whenever he wanted. We cuddled him for a moment, but we always sent him back. He was fine.

Matthias has the dubious luck of being the third born. Our sleep ritual goes something like this: Teeth are brushed, pajamas are donned—there is hilarity and violence between brothers as the room is tidied.  Matthias joins in the fun. Papa sings prayers and reads a story. Matthias scales furniture and drives his cars over people's heads. A candle is lit. Matthias blows it out. Ta ta Matthias!  Mama sings lullabies and rocks Matthias. (Or sometimes she just says goodnight.) Kisses and hugs. Then she says, "Matthias, where do you want to sleep?"

Sometimes he chooses mama and papa's bed. Sometimes he chooses not to go to bed. But usually he crawls in with a big brother and makes a nuisance of himself for half an hour. Then, when he starts to feel sleepy, he takes his pillow and blanket, and tucks himself into bed.

Doesn't that make your heart just bleed? He puts himself to bed!

I'm way, way too tired to feel guilt over this at 9 in the evening. So I made him his own little nook. It's special, it's cozy. His baby is there. His books are there. It's there when he needs it.

 There was a time when our children weren't allowed toys in bed. We wanted a "sleep atmosphere"—no playing allowed! Our second child had cuddly toys. He was allowed to cuddle them quietly before sleep. Our third child plays noisily in the dark with anything that isn't a sharp implement. He falls asleep with six plastic guys under his back and a playmobile horse down his shirt (if he's wearing anything at all, that is...)

Three different babies, three different approaches to parenting, three different ways of falling asleep. And all three boys are very, very fine.

In the bunk above, big brother Willie watches out for everyone. In his little bed nearby, Hugh is breathing softly. (Hugh is a champion sleeper.) Mama and Papa are just around the corner. Matthias is getting sleepy. He crawls into his nook. He empties a bin of playmobile on himself. There, perfect. He curls up and goes to sleep.

Goodnight, goodnight!
Far flies the light!
But still God's love
Will shine above
Making all bright.
Goodnight, goodnight!


  1. Mary, I just love this description of the little boy falling asleep with plastic toys all over him.

  2. Mary, every time I see this bed I long for summer so that Scott can start building the bunks we are so in need of in the kids' rooms! We have had such different methods of putting the kids to sleep too over the years...personalities play a huge role in all of it. I remember the shock when I found out that I could lay baby Thomas down and he would fall asleep without tons of cuddles, nursing and rocking. I also remember so, so, so many lazy afternoons nursing little ones to sleep so that I could get my nap at the same time. We do what works, what we need to for survival and it usually all works out in the end. I think I'm starting to become one of those mothers who is beginning to forget how various bedtimes have worked for all my kids. Being flexible works really well! We have one little God-boy of yours who likes to fall asleep during the rosary at night. It makes bedtime easier for sure at times. And the toys in bed...we get that too!

  3. I love this, it makes me laugh! My third child is the same way with sleep. I read parenting books, asked other parents and consulted my mom. I finally decided, if he is going to sleep, that is the ultimate goal, regardless of the way he gets there or where he is sleeping. We pick him up at the end of the night and put him in his bed. He's four, almost five and still usually ends up in our bed somewhere in the wee hours of the morning. He won't always want to do that, cause I am sure that soon it won't be soo cool. Neither will sleeping with Thomas on the floor of the hallway! ;)

  4. Such a sweet post! It seems to me that this is a transition that all parents go through, in various aspects of life, as you learn (and tire!) from raising the older children.

    The little bed area looks so nice :)


  5. What a brilliant idea and an awesome bed!

  6. He must be a cat in his past lives. I thought only cats choose where they want to sleep.

  7. Cute bed :) My son is already 4 but he still likes to sleep with us. I want him to have his own room already, but his daddy thinks it's best he sleep with us until he reaches 1st grade lol!

  8. That's a gorgeous little nook, it looks so cosy and warm... Lucky boy!! x

  9. wow, what a great little play-space!

  10. The play space is adorable. And I laughed at the description of Mattias sleeping with various plastic toys surrounding him.

    We are in sleep-place transition, and I hope it's all smooth before the twins come! I have a feeling I will really value my sleep then!

  11. Oh, lovely! What an awesome description! We're trying to figure out how to get our first little Maus out of bed. She is 29 months now, and her baby brother arrived a month ago. With 4 in the bed it is cozy! I can totally see us going the same way you have with respect to sleep and child number one and then sleep and child number 2!!
    Is that a bunk bed that his nook is under? Fabulous!! Did you design and build it yourselves, or did you find it somewhere?