The first time it happened, I didn't even know it. We were in the last throes of an afternoon party at our house, complete with about 16 kids ages 8 and under, when I put my exhausted 2-year-old down for his nap, hours later than usual. He seemed more than ready, but 10 minutes later, he appeared at my feet.
I assumed my husband must have heard him crying and took him out, but instead of finding him among the chaos that was my house to confirm, I marched my little one back upstairs and tucked him in again. Five minutes later, with my husband in eyesight, he appeared again. "How did you get out of bed?" I asked him, genuinely confused. Was there a trap door I didn't know about? Was one of the older kids helping him?
He sweetly shrugged his shoulders and gave me the most innocent expression a kid who regularly Hulk smashes me possibly could. "I don't know." "Buddy, you need to tell me how you got out of your bed," I pushed. "I show you," he replied, grabbing me by the hand and leading me to his room. He had me place him back in his crib, then quickly swung a leg over one side. "I go over," he explained, in basic toddler-ese. "Then I drop." He landed on an ottoman near his crib. "Then I jump down, and I out!" Well, sh*t.
The reviews were mixed about what to do next.
No nap was had that day, but as I was lucky to have a few friends on hand who had been through similar experiences with their kids. (My oldest never mustered the courage to escape from her crib.) The reviews were mixed about what to do next. One friend told me her doctor had insisted she immediately put her son in a big-boy bed after the first time he crawled out of his crib. However, he was 19 months old and barely talking; my son had a full year and basic conversational understanding on him.
Another told me I should expect regular middle-of-the-night visits; once her daughter crawled out of the crib, she couldn't get through a night without one. A third friend, pregnant with her third child and lugging around her 1-year-old, nudged me. "Does this mean I can have your crib for this one?" she asked, pointing at her belly.
I wasn't sure. Yes, I understood that there were dangers associated with my toddler scaling crib walls and jumping down to the floor. But wasn't the danger of losing my sanity higher if a big-boy bed also meant the end of his delicious two-hour afternoon naps? As a mom who prizes sleep — my kids' and my own — over pretty much everything else, rocking the boat by putting a consistently good sleeper in a new bed seemed ridiculous.
I decided to go with a wait-and-see philosophy. A month later, my kid hasn't broken any bones during his crib escapes, which he uses as an exit strategy about 10 percent of the time. Mostly, he still calls for me or his dad and waits until we get him. And his napping? Well, it's stayed awesome, eliminating most of my motivation to make the big-bed transition.
As I was rocking him to sleep the other night (I said his napping was good; going to sleep each night is a whole different story), he started telling me how he wants to be big. "I grow and grow, and then I'll be big like Daddy," he said. "You are growing, buddy, but if you get too big, we're going to have to get you a big-boy bed, and Mommy and Daddy won't rock you in the chair anymore," I explained. The kid loves his chair cuddles.
His face scrunched up. "It OK, Mommy," he said. "I stay little." For now, that's my answer.