Good Night, I Love You, I’m Not Ready for This

Baby sleeping on a white bed
Photo by Picsea on Unsplash

“Mommy. I’m sleeping in the big girl bed tonight.”

We didn’t plan on transitioning our 2-year-old to a big kid bed for a few months. She still fits in her crib and doesn’t try to climb out of it, so why ruin weekend mornings by encouraging her to sleep in a bed she could more easily escape and run into our room? Plus, plenty of toddler-focused resources advise introducing a big kid bed through a nap and snuggling your child’s way up to a full night’s sleep over several nights. 

But a couple weeks ago while staying in a hotel, she climbed up into one of the beds and tucked herself in while I (ironically) was lugging in the travel pack-n-play from the car. When I walked back into the room, she greeted me with a huge, I-did-something-new-all-by-myself-that-you-didn’t-expect smile, then slept there that night and the next. Without falling off, either, thanks in part to the way I sandbagged the mattress with every pillow in the room except mine. She savored having a huge bed to herself just like Mommy does when traveling for work!

So maybe she peeked into the big girl room waiting for her around the corner from her nursery and spied the full-size bed with its new, flowery sheets and quilt all a-flutter with big, colorful butterflies, and a headboard with cubbies filled with preschool books just begging to be read under the covers and decided she was ready for that, too. In typical toddler fashion, she announced that she was sleeping there, and brought her stuffed bunny and teddy bear from her crib to this new frontier. 

We pick a few books out from the cubbies, read them, and sing her song. We tuck her in. She’s all smiles – this is a big night. This is something to be proud of. Mommy and Daddy are letting me do something special!

We close the door to her new room and exchange a look that says, “Well, that was easy.” Then I glance into her cozy nursery with its empty crib and recliner and realize: This isn’t easy. I’m not ready for this. I’ve cheered on all her milestones: weaning, pulling herself up, eating solids, her first words, walking, feeding herself with a spoon, moving up classrooms at her school. But this feels different. Her recliner looks ready to hug us for unhurried storytime at the end of a busy day, but its number one occupant has moved on. She didn’t ask for her lullaby music, and I miss hearing its predictable electronic medley of songs drifting down the hallway. In the morning, I ask her for a hug because I don’t get to automatically give her one as I lift her out of her crib. 

Why is this transition unexpectedly hard on the heart?

She’s still the same 2-year-old who loves Paw Patrol, asks for cookies when she knows we’re about to eat dinner, and insists she doesn’t need to go to the potty but you know that’s because she’s afraid of missing out on playtime. She’s not leaving for college tomorrow. She’s not getting married next week. I feel that I should be grateful for such a smooth transition to a big girl bed because she chose it herself. There haven’t been any tears. She stays in bed paging through her books from the shelves above her head until I come to her room in the morning. Except for one 4:30 a.m. incident in which she came charging into our room screaming like a banshee (we think she fell out of bed — but the mattress rests only on a box spring which sits on the floor, so it was a short, injury-free fall), she’s still sleeping through the night.

Maybe it’s hard because, with a visibly empty nursery, it feels like we’re really leaving babyhood behind. She’s becoming just a little more big kid, and the new room and new bed make it obvious. If I had known while excitedly putting up wallpaper and painting a new dresser and smoothing the sheets on her new bed that this round of nesting would backfire on my mama heart, maybe I would have slowed it down. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end, right

But as hard as this is for me, it’s right for her. She’s so proud of graduating to a bed without walls. She loves sitting under the covers and looking at books by the glow of the hallway light until she can’t fend off sleep any longer. (And no, I’m not mad she doesn’t immediately go to sleep, because as one aunt sagely advised me: You can make them go to bed, but you can’t make them fall asleep. So let them read and learn if they want. Just tell them they must stay in bed!) It’s an adventure for her to climb into bed on her own every night, and it’s extremely fun to jump off the bed in the morning to begin the day. I almost think that if I adopted her zest for her big girl bed, maybe I’d sleep as thoroughly as she does, too!

So this transition is easy, but also hard to process. It’s another milestone propelling her away from dependence on us and pushing her toward becoming the independent woman Husband and I want her to be. But she’s proud. She’s not barging into our room at 6 a.m. She’s happy to become a big girl, so I will be happy for her.