Parenting Guru: Is Sleeping in the Same Bed as Your Kid a Huge Mistake?

Sometimes it seems as if there are way too many people talking all at once about how to raise your kids, don't you think?

On the internet, on the TV, in magazines, heck, it isn't even uncommon these days to hear tales of complete strangers letting loose in the supermarket aisle with their overwrought, unsolicited sermons on magical breast milk, or their myriad of steadfast reasons for abandoning all lactose and gluten and sugar and meat and McDonald's and fun in their children's diet (life).

People love to tell you what is and what isn't the right thing to do when it comes to helping your kids live the right life, and, after a while, it gets to be too much if you ask me.

For example, there are a lot of such folks in the whole 'co-sleeping' child debate. They argue relentlessly about whether letting your kid sleep in the same bed with Mom and/or Dad is a certain recipe for some sort of social disaster; as if too much/not enough coddling of your kid will surely result in you raising a serial killer, you know?

They debate whether 'co-sleeping' will make the child weak or timid or dependent in all of the wrong ways. They discus appeasing the kid by allowing them to crawl into bed with you, instead of insisting they sleep in their own room for their own good. Or, heavens forbid: displeasing their tiny, touchy hearts by telling them to march their tiny butts back into their own bedroom.

Personally, I don't have the time or energy to research all that kind of crap.

And guess what? I don't think it makes me any less of a parent either. A hundred years ago what did people do when their three year old climbed up into the four-poster with them and whispered, "Mommy, Daddy, I want to sleep with you guys again tonight"?

Do you think they panicked?

Do you think they woke up the next day and ate their hard buttered biscuit and wished on a morning star that there was some sort of forum where all sorts of other parents could meet up in an alternative, anonymous universe and throw a zillion wads of weird advice at each other?

Heck no, they didn't. They didn't even come close.

Instead, they simply covered the kid up with an afghan and let them fall asleep there in that lovably crowded bed, or they said pretty much nothing while Dad scooped up the little one and carried him or her back to their own bed, whispering softly that it was night-night time and that everyone would see each other in the morning.

That's basically the two choices here, people. You don't need to have a giant summit or a forum to figure that kind of stuff out. Kids like to sleep with their parents for a bunch of reasons, most of which we have stopped understanding ourselves. They may be a little scared of monsters under the bed, or they may want to be close to the person who can get them a drink in the night. Jeez, sometimes they simply want to be in there where the biggest air conditioner is, you know? They aren't dummies, remember. Most of the damage here is in our heads, I reckon. Without even an ounce of scientific research under my belt, I will still venture out on a fairly progressive parental limb here and venture a guess that most of the potential long-term hijinks associated with 'co-sleeping' with your kid, or whatever you want to call it, are simply another set of worst case scenarios dreamed up by the housebound and the bored.

My attitude is based on my experiences. And it wasn't always the way I saw thing, either.

When my daughter, Violet, 4, started appearing at the side of my bed not too long ago, at first I was flummoxed by her appearance there after three solid years of strong sleeping habits. She had always gone to bed at her appointed bedtime, in her own bed, with basically no fuss at all. So why was she here now? What could be sparking this sudden need to conk out in Daddy's bed instead of her own (my wife and I have separate bedrooms; it's the greatest thing I ever did, but that's another story!)?

I approached my wife and told her that V was coming into my room at night and falling asleep there beside me while I was reading some novel.

Expecting her to be concerned (this is the age of the worried parent, after all!) about the situation and to be sympathetic with my ultra-modern sensitive outlook ("I don't have the heart to tell Violet to go back to her room," I mumbled), I was taken aback when she just looked at me with a glance of nonchalant disinterest instead.

"So what?," she said to me. "Is it bothering you?"

I was caught miles off guard.

"Well...uhhhh....no. Not really, I guess. But don't you think it might mean she is scared or acting needy or unconsciously reaching out to us for some kind of help or something?"

Monica went full glare; her eyes now boring a hole in my face.

"Oh, what, you think there's something wrong with her because she's a four year old who wants to cuddle and sleep with her daddy?"

Hmph.

I was speechless.

She was right. She was really, really right.

Then swiftly, my entire outlook on the situation, and quite a lot of parenting in general I think, all began to change monumentally. Her words slammed into my brain, and I knew instantly that I was acting like a complete and utter fool just by even thinking about whether or not there was some seriously dark damage going on behind the scenes here.

No, I told myself, I don't mind Violet coming in to my room. In fact, I actually really enjoy it. We chit-chat about her day before she slips off to La-La land and that is often one of the best parts of my entire day. And she is, after all, still my baby sweetheart and she always will be, right? Plus, I know that before long she isn't going to what to be 'snuggling' with her old dad too often now, is she?

No. No, she isn't. So I need to realize that and feel lucky for this opportunity, huh?

That's how it all went down, then. Over the course of one three-minute conversation (and with a tip of the hat to a wife/mother who simply isn't really in the mood for any of this newfangled, far-out parenting debate crap), I decided then and there that there wasn't anything wrong with my little girl camping out with me tonight, or tomorrow night, or for however many nights she felt like doing it. And, I reminded myself, if there are nights that I feel like being by myself to watch some TV or maybe stay up late reading, I just smile and recall that I am the Big Boss! Then I tell her straight-up: Violet, tonight you're sleeping in your own bed because I said so, okay? Okay!

No mess. No fuss. No big chunks of time spent trying to figure out what the 'right' thing to do is.

Because I know what the right thing to do is, buddy; I always have known, and I always will.

Serge Bielanko is proud to be a Shine Parenting Guru. He can also be found writing all about the ups/downs/joys/and blues of being a dad at Babble.com and on his own blog, Thunder Pie.