How to get your bed back
Hi, pleased to meet you. I am the sleep fairy. I get up at 4am daily to fulfil this role and yes, I can fly in the rain. It’s a role that I hope will be temporary. It would be really twisted and sad if I had to sneak into my teenage son’s room one day to leave him little gifts. Not to mention the financial ruin we will face. But I am confident I won’t have to, and for now getting up at 4am is a small price to pay in return for getting my bed back and not being kicked in the head five times that I know of. I thought I would share this drama-free way of getting your toddler to sleep in their own bed.
Let me start by saying that I am not against co-sleeping. As I have often told friends; it is not like a bird puts her chicks on a tiny branch of their own and then tell them to ‘go the fuck to sleep and see you in the morning’. We are the only living creatures to do this to our young and by ‘we’ I am not even including all cultures. Many people believe in the family bed, I myself have made it publicly known how much I desire a 5×5 meter bed. I will literally give my left boob (the one damaged by breastfeeding) for a bed like this. BUT there comes a time in one’s life where years of not-so-great-sleep catches up with you. Enough already! My brain needs it. My poor colleagues and the population in general (especially road users) need for me to sleep better. There is of course also the issue of the baby-daddy…while you enjoy cuddling with your spawn, the poor guy might not so much. Fact: moms get the head while dads get the legs with random, unexpected kicks in the nuts.
So here is what we did; we started by building lots of excitement and setting the scene. A casual after work conversation between you and your partner might go something like this: Baby-daddy: “So you will never believe who called today” Mom: “Who? Grandma?” BD: “No, the sleep fairy!” (Kids are now paying more attention to you than to Dora) M: “Oh, long time no see. How is she?” BD: “She says the kids are now old enough for her to come and visit” M: “No ways. Already? But (pregnant pause) they don’t sleep in their own beds? Really. Ever. Why did we even spend money on beds? Why do we even have more than one room in our house?” BD: “Anyway, she has gifts and she is ready to come from tonight if they are ready.” M: “OK. I think we will need to draw her a map. Her sense of direction is totally messed up.”
As you draw the picture or map of them in their beds with their own little heads on their own pillows and not wedged between you and your husband, you can start discussing the rules. It is simple: you must go to sleep in your own bed and stay there for the whole night. Big people are not allowed as they scare her. You must build her character as if you are directing a bad American hero movie. You know the type of movie where in the first scene they show you his tragic past so you don’t judge him for being the alcoholic conspiracy theory loser he now is and you want to root for him to be the hero once again. And you must be prepared for all kinds of questions…where will she come in? (Leave a window open, kids aint stupid). Can she fly in rain? Should we leave food? What if she needs to pooh mid-flight? What does she wear and where does she live? Will she come if there is load shedding?
On the first night in question you have to be super strict with yourself. Read the bedtime story, do your prayers and get out. If your child is used to falling asleep with you there then put something on the floor where you can lie down. You cannot lie on the bed once its time to sleep. I put an ugly looking mattress thing on the floor near the door and after 5 minutes I did my best leopard crawl out of the room. For the first time in ages I could watch some TV with my husband instead of being comatose with the kids way too early. And of course the next morning you need to get up before your kids so that you can plant the gift. Mine sadly get up at 5am ‘because the sun is up” apparently. You will know what time you need to be awake and the happy squeals of ‘she was here mommy!’ will be your reward. What if you oversleep? Just don’t. Do not. if you blow it on night one you have lost your bed forever. But if you do oversleep by accident on any of the subsequent nights then sleep fairy’s sidekick must step up. Get your husband or partner to quickly remove the kids from the room to do a window-check while you drop the gifts under the bed (remember they have already looked under the pillow). You then suggest they look again and conduct a thorough search this time. Obviously the dogs had scared her and she had to act quickly. If you don’t own a dog you are on your own in coming up with an excuse. Or just borrow the neighbour’s’ dog if you must.
* a window check is to make sure she did not get stuck somewhere or fly into the window.
The first night was like we had regressed to the newborn years. They were like hyped-up little junkies high on acid looking for “the fairy” every hour and thrashing bedding around in a frantic search for “the gift.” They were so excited and so anxious that she would not be able to follow the map. By night three my 4 year old asked me in a not-so-discreet way to please leave as I am very big and scaring her. I was a little bit sad; it was like we had reached a milestone. But my brain was happy that the end of torture is in sight. Kai now animatedly tells the world about the sleep fairy as if he is an expert on the subject and I will kick in the shin repeatedly the child who tells him this is not true. My biggest problem right now is how to end this, if you figure it out please let me know.