Much like any other big step in raising our son, my husband and I talked tactically and pragmatically about when we were going to transition B to a “big boy bed.” And like any other big step in raising our son, these plans were totally derailed by B letting US know when HE was ready for this transition, instead of the other way around.
The plan was to move him from his crib to a bed some time around his second birthday. That plan gave us the whole summer/fall to decide how we were going to fix up his bed, finish child-proofing his room and get a twin mattress. We decided against converting our crib to the toddler bed because B still likes to be rocked and held before he goes to sleep. We figured getting a twin mattress and putting it on the floor. Would it look a bit silly? Sure. But it would alleviate any fall concerns, give us plenty of room to snuggle if need be, and give B a bed that would grow with him for some time.
That was the plan.
However, when we got back from our summer vacation my husband I realized immediately that returning to our previous sleep routine was not an option. B laid awake at night crying, thrashing and just generally u.n.h.a.p.p.y. We figured it was, in part, due to the cozy co-sleeping arraignment we had on vacation. But that was an adjustment we knew he’d make, and he’d go back to enjoy sleeping in his own room soon enough. We soon realized that the other thing he missed was sleeping in a bigger bed – having room to stretch out and freedom to move around.
After five nights of our poor boy’s poor sleep, we decided not to wait. In one afternoon we picked up a twin bed from my mother-in-law’s house, a set of twin sheets that feature – to our son’s delight – trains, and a nice comfy fleece blanket.
That was the easy part.
Soon after setting up the bed we quickly realized that B’s room was NOT ready for his full, unrestrained toddlerhood. We had to take out the changing table (otherwise referred to as shaky/unstable, climbing hazard of parenting nightmares) and bolted his dresser to the wall (a process that involved stripping two wall anchors and some swear words, I’ll admit). We also decided to add some “quiet” toys to Ben’s room that included one of his wooden trains with a small track, a set of blocks and a stack of his favorite board books.
His first nap in his new bed was long and peaceful. While he rested, I realized why this transition was so difficult. It wasn’t the amount of work it took. It was us. We were not prepared for this, in any way. This was the last official piece of his babyhood we were still holding on too. Babies sleep in their crib, safe and sound and young. Babies call for you when they wake, asking you to come to them. But now, I have a toddler. A little boy who gets excited about Thomas the Tank Engine sheets and the train stickers on his wall. A little boy who wakes up with bed head, and comes padding down the hall clutching a blankie and his cherished teddy bear. This little boy needs me for one less thing.
I never want to stunt my child’s growth, and part of this awesome child-led-parenting approach is that I don’t have to worry about stifling him, or forcing him to be “too little” or “too big.” Within reason, if he’s ready to do something or not ready to do something I’m open for exploring those needs and desires. But it’s hard for me not to mourn a little each time he makes one more stride towards becoming the independent, confident child who doesn’t need Mama to come get him out of bed anymore.