I recently had a friend cry out for help on Facebook. Her two year old son is struggling with bedtime. She explained that he recently started climbing out of his crib so they had to make an impromptu transition to a toddler bed. But given that he is a two year old who needs to learn how to sleep in a toddler bed, he has been getting up 50+ times a night before finally falling asleep. Seemingly exhausted, my friend proceeded to outline all of the unsuccessful interventions she has tried to help him adjust and teach him that he needs to stay in bed.
In true Facebook fashion, moms raced to the rescue. There were lots of comments, suggestions as well as encouragements for this toddler mom. I love that about Facebook; all a mom needs to do is send out an SOS to get suggestions galore from across the world wide web. My heart soared as I read through the comments and encouragements… that is, until I came to this comment: “Stay with him till he falls asleep. They grow up so fast. Enjoy the cuddles.”
First of all, I know this mom was well-meaning. She was speaking from her own experience and that is always valuable. However, I got a funny feeling after reading her comment. This toddler mom was crying out for help because she was desperate. And at her wits end, this comment leaves her with one of two options: 1) Choose a more appropriate solution for her family but feel guilty for not cuddling her boy to sleep or 2) Ignore their goals for their son’s sleep routine and her own needs in order to satisfy the guilt of not doing so.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with snuggling toddlers to bed. Every family has their own way and every kid has different needs. The reason I take issue with this comment is because I feel like it insinuates that a mom needs to snuggle her toddler to bed or she will regret it later. It seems like everything we do as parents these days is riddled with guilt. But I wonder, why does it have to be all or nothing? Why can’t she snuggle her sweet toddler on her own terms? Does not cuddling with him when he is supposed to be learning to sleep on his own mean that she isn’t savoring his childhood? I sure hope not.
Perhaps you are reading this thinking, “What’s the big deal?” And maybe you are right. Maybe I am taking her comment way too seriously. It is completely possible that I am reading into this comment in a way that the author did not intend. But as another toddler mom in the thick of it, I need someone to stick up for me and my needs. I would want someone to tell me that it is okay to do what I have to do to get through the day or to get through bedtime. I need to hear that it is possible for me to cherish my children’s younger years while still honoring their development and my emotional and physical health. It doesn’t have to all or nothing.
So to this toddler mom: You are doing a great job. The fact that you need alone time does not mean you don’t love your son. You aren’t going to ruin him by setting healthy boundaries and teaching him to sleep independently. You can savor his childhood, while also prioritizing your own needs. Keep up the good work and snuggle him to sleep…if you want to.