Friday, February 22, 2013

Parenting Advice: Do Not Sleep With A Two Year Old

Secondborn hates sleep. He hates going to sleep, he hates being asleep, he hates the very idea of sleep. He considers any suggestion that he should sleep - or, for that matter, that the rest of us would like to sleep - a personal insult. It offends him on an existential level.

It doesn't help that right now he's extremely stuffy, which means that when he lays down he has trouble breathing. Naturally, we do our best to help him get to sleep despite this: a nice, long, steamy shower; a saline rinse for his nose (which he hates); a medicated spray for his nose (which he also hates); and a nightly dose of children's Claritin (which he probably wouldn't hate so much if he hadn't just had his parents sticking things in his nostrils).

This will almost certainly get better as he gets older. It's just that right now, he has tiny little nostrils, tiny little sinus cavities, and tiny little Eustachian tubes... and they clog very easily.

Still, despite all these efforts, Secondborn almost never just drifts gently off to sleep. On a good night, we can coax him into lying still, and that will do it... eventually. If we're lucky, he'll get at least a couple of hours in before the steam and the rinse and the spray wear off, and he starts coughing. The night before last, though, the only way to get him to stay still was to lay with him on the bed. Which, of course, put me in a horizontal position...

Fortunately, Secondborn was a kind and generous monarch. He granted me a few minutes in which to go brush my teeth. Then I climbed back in with him, and we both settled down and went to sleep. So now I have learned one of those Important Life Lessons:

Never, never sleep with a two-and-a-half year old. Somehow, despite being one fifth of my size, he occupies better than two thirds of the bed. As a result, my spine now zig-zags.

It didn't start out that way, of course. No, he lured me in. Then, inexorably, he took over completely.

Here's how it works: in the beginning, I physically move the child so that there's enough room for me to at least lay down on the bed. The child immediately snuggles up, with all the delicate gentleness of a remora. Then, at some later point in the evening, when the blood has pooled in the low points of my body and my fingertips are tingling from holding my arms in awkward and improbable positions, I will roll over. Since I can only roll in one direction (anti-remora-wise), this clears an inch or so of space... for about three seconds. That's how long it takes for his sleeping brain to realize that I've moved, and that he must now kick me in the kidneys a few times, then squoosh in as close as possible.

By the time we've gone through this a couple of times, I'm halfway off the edge of the bed and clinging desperately to the edge of the blankets so my toes don't freeze completely. The only thing keeping me in place is the safety rail that we installed on the side of the bed. My toes have dropped to room temperature, making them slightly warmer than ice cubes, but there's a warm lump pressed firmly against my spine to prevent my escape. I'm lying on my side, on top of one arm, while the other arm dangles helplessly off the side of the bed or flops back behind me.

So, at some indeterminate point in the night, I pry myself out of this artificial crevasse, and move to another bed in the next room. I lay there just long enough to drift back into sleep - blessed, merciful, lovely sleep - and then I hear it. The voice in the next room. The command that I cannot ignore: "Daddy, in here."

I can't ignore it, because every time Secondborn repeats it, it gets louder. And the longer it goes, the more likely he is to either wake someone else up, or get himself so riled up that it'll be impossible to get him back to sleep. So I clamber out of my (nice, warm, comfy, spacious) bed, and shamble back to his room. Possibly I bump into a couple of walls on the way. Then I move the boy aside, so I have at least a foot-wide strip to lie in. The blankets have left completely, so I wrestle them out from under him and make a futile effort to cover my legs and feet. Secondborn thrusts his toes into my ribs, then presses himself irresistibly against me.

I resign myself to remaining here for the rest of the night, and wonder if it's possible to sleep without moving at all.

There is no escape. I am helpless in the grasp of the Small Boy.

Seriously, Kryptonite has nothing on a two-year-old with an agenda.


  1. Okay, so sleeping with a two year old is like sleeping with a cat. I used to joke about my cat taking his half of the bed out of the middle. This was the cat before fat cat who wasn't nearly as prone to that even before she became elderly.

    Quick piece of medical advice: If someone is having trouble breathing, you need to keep their head , and preferably the entire upper body elevated. The idea is to keep at least the upper part of the lungs clear.With a two year old, I'd think an extra pillow would suffice. Also, have you tried experimenting with those nose strip thingies?

  2. Keeping him elevated is part of the process, at least in theory - in practice, the problem isn't so much getting his head and shoulders up, as keeping him from immediately flopping over so that his face is pressed against the mattress and his butt is up in the air. (And he actually can breathe, he just can't breathe through his nose.)

    We haven't tried the nose strips, though. At a guess, we'll have the same problem there: trying to keep them on someone whose first, irresistible instinct is to take them off. That's still worth looking into, though.

  3. I laughed so hard at your description that I offended my dog.

    Amazing how much space they can take up :)

  4. I saw your comment on Permission to Live where you said you were born a Christian and raised a Christian.I was not raised episcopal but later in my life have come to the belief that "salvation" is coming into an experience of what already has taken place. For me, since I grew up in a christian home, I don't have a "wow" conversion moment. Is this what episcopal belief, or how do you see salvation?

  5. At this point in my life, I'm functionally an atheist; so nowadays I see salvation and redemption as psychological experiences more than anything else.

    As far as Episcopalian belief... The Episcopal Church is the Stateside (U.S.) branch of the Church of England (Anglican). Because of the history involved, the Anglican church didn't feel the need to toss out huge chunks of Catholic theology; we used to joke about Episcopalian churches being "Catholic Lite". ("All the Jesus, half the guilt.") As a denomination, the Episcopal church tends to be very big on the conscience of the individual believer; you're not so much expected to live a certain way, as you're expected to do your best and trust that God will understand when you (inevitably) screw up. Salvation is generally taught as something that Jesus took care of for us, so the idea of (personal) salvation as coming to understand what has already taken place would fit right in with the Episcopal view.

    Is that... did that answer your question?

    I've talked a bit about my religious background here, and why I'm not a Christian here. I've also written quite a bit about how believers can talk to unbelievers without giving offense here, which might also help shed some light on my views.


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