I never thought I would co-sleep with my kids. It was always something I was a stickler about because I'm an incredibly light sleeper. I tend to hear every little noise my children make while sleeping, and wake with each toss and turn (and little foot to the back or face). Sharing a bed always equaled a poor night of sleep for everybody in our family, so my husband and I set an early precedent with our kids that they must sleep in their own bed, and it (mostly) worked.
Then, my third son came along and the combination of him being the most determined to do so, me being too busy and too tired to push the issue, and (if I'm being honest) the fact that he is the baby of the family made it impossible to say no to co-sleeping. But I never really considered why he wanted to sleep in our bed so badly.
My youngest son is my wild child. He is fearless and determined to do everything his older brothers do. He never seems to think before he acts. Where his older brothers show caution, he doesn't hesitate. That is why I was so shocked when one day we asked him point blank why he keeps getting into our bed in the middle of the night. My husband and I are both suffering from the lack of sleep, so we asked him if he could try staying in his bed all night.
"But I will be so scared!" he softly admitted. I was crushed.
For some reason, even though he is only 4 years old, it was not the answer I was expecting. I thought that it had just become a habit. That his body had gotten used to waking and that when this would happen, he would climb out of his bed instead of trying to go back to sleep. After all, he has always been so brave and independent!
Sometimes, we forget what it's like to be a kid: to be afraid of the dark, and to wake up in the middle of the night and be all alone in a quiet room filled with shadows. My son sleeps in a bunk bed with an older brother above him, but as he pointed out to me, "He doesn't wake up when I do." Of course, this makes sense, but when he was able to verbalize it, I realized how scared he really was.
Childhood is fleeting, and every child is unique and has different needs. My oldest son couldn't wait to get his own room and sleep independently from everyone, and my middle child often gets anxiety at night and needs someone to be next to him until he starts to doze off. My youngest son will sometimes sleep in his bed all night and other times he will come into our room in the dead of night and announce that his "eye hurts and there must be a black widow in there." It's ever-changing.
One day my little boy will stop coming to me in the middle of the night for comfort. One day he will declare himself "too big" to cuddle up to me on the recliner and read bedtime stories. This will come far too soon, as I have already discovered with his older brothers. So, fighting against co-sleeping is no longer a battle that I'm interested in having. If he is scared at night (in a way his brothers never expressed to be), I want him to know that his parents are there for him, even if it means I will need an extra cup (or more) of coffee the next day to be able to function. My son will only be this little once, and I'm pretty sure I will miss being able to calm him simply by sleeping next to him more than I will ever miss uninterrupted sleep.