Dec 20 2016

On Second Thought, We Are Totally NOT Ready for a Big Kid Bed

Until just a couple months ago, our daughter was still in a crib.

Oh…um, is there a question in the back? Yes, you, with the impeccably pulled-together outfit.

How OLD is she, you ask?

*looks away, mumbles into back of hand* She’s thrmmhmm.

What? Louder? You can’t hear me?

She’s…she’s three and a half.

She’s almost four, okay?! She was THREE AND A HALF YEARS OLD AND STILL IN A CRIB. There you go.

I know. It’s a miracle we’re still allowed to keep her. Please don’t turn us in.

But somehow, the same child who repeatedly flings herself from multi-story play structures and cartwheels off couches never once thought to climb out of the crib. It didn’t even occur to her. And without an older sibling, she didn’t seem to realize there was a crib alternative. So we just…kept her there.

It wasn’t solely about complacency. We actively chose to prolong this milestone for as long as possible. Many frazzled friends with kids confirmed: Don’t do it. It’s awful. We’ve spent the last three nights standing outside Jimmy’s room holding his door closed while he tries to escape. We’re looking into installing a reverse lock on his doorknob. Just keep her in Baby Jail forever, okay? Promise us. YOU MUST PROMISE.

There was such a feeling of comfort, of impenetrable security, that came along with putting her to sleep in a crib; we always knew EXACTLY where she would be. Our evenings used to look like this: Shower. Brush teeth. Bedtime story. In crib by 8-o-clock(ish). Twelve hours later, we’d see her on the monitor, pulling books through the bars of her crib and reading to her stuffed animals, playing patiently until we were ready to start the day.

And then, one fateful weekend we took a trip wherein the only available bed for P was not a crib. Back at home, she informed us, politely and maturely (and so, so manipulatively) that she was ready for a big kid bed. We believed her.



This is sooo us.* Obviously. And take a look at my thick, shiny hair. *This is not us.


Oh, it started out well enough. She was so thrilled with the new arrangement — and so terrified of losing it — that at first she behaved exactly the way she used to. But that safe, secure feeling I used to have each evening? Gone. Instantly. Suddenly I was plagued by uncontrollable nightmares of her wandering out the front door in the middle of the night, or sneaking into her brother’s room and wreaking havoc, or somersaulting down the stairs (she cracked the baby gate code long before she knew a big kid bed existed).

I was never a heavy sleeper, but I immediately lost the ability to slumber beyond a light doze.

And once it dawned on her that she was no longer trapped? Game. Over.

The baby still wakes up once or twice a night, and he’s become the easy one — we’d maybe take a newborn at this point, actually. Vanished are the (admittedly miraculous) twelve hours of P’s past. Her sleep schedule has gone completely off the, er, rails.

The minute we tuck her in, she materializes before us half a dozen times, and always for various reasons: I forgot to offer a seventeenth hug. She needs water. There was a noise. What used to be precious alone time for Al and me has become a two-hour fitness regimen in which we take turns running up and down the stairs to put her back to bed.

Finally, when the house is dark and everyone has fallen asleep for the night for the next ninety minutes, I attempt to get some rest — but I can only lie in wait, anticipating the inevitable creak of our bedroom door, which of course will occur the very second I manage to drift off.

You have never known true terror until you are awakened by a face, two nanometers from your own face, that is breathing raspily and staring deep into your wild and startled eyes. It doesn’t matter how cherubic the cheeks — when an invisible hand shakes your shoulder and a voice hisses, “Mommmm” against your ear hairs, you are ripped from sleep with an explosion of adrenaline guaranteed to keep you up for hours. And then at some point in the night you stumble into the bathroom to pee and find her lurking in a shadowy corner like the girl from The Ring.

Repeat times two. On occasion, times three. Last night it was times five.

Despite her transformation into a nocturnal being, she now rises with the sun. At 6:30 AM, our door cracks open a final time, and we find that she has kindly roused the baby on her way down the hall.

We’ve begged. We’ve bribed. We’ve yelled. We’ve reasoned. We tried this clock, which was successful for two mornings until she figured out that it does not possess a Tase When Disobedient function and that she could actually just sort of ignore all the prettily changing colors.

In our most bleary-eyed, desperate moments, we’ve even fantasized about putting her back in a crib, because Dear Lord, WE HAVE CHANGED OUR MINDS. THIS WAS A HORRIBLE MISTAKE. Why did we not just keep her there until college? That would have been perfectly normal and healthy and socially acceptable, right?

Whatever. At this point, I’m too exhausted to worry about all that.

So now it’s my turn. Here I am, your frazzled friend, coffee in hand, and I implore you: Unless your child is hurtling himself over those crib rails in an open threat to break every bone in his body, hang in there as long as you possibly can. There are plenty of other milestones to celebrate. I know he’s getting so big and this is such a cool moment and you cannot wait to see his face the first time he climbs into that big kid bed…but he’s not ready. You’re not ready. I don’t care if he’s twelve years old. IT’S A TRAP.

Please. Please, please get some sleep for those of us who no longer do.

Okay? Promise us. YOU MUST PROMISE.

About Melissa

Melissa is a SAG-AFTRA actress and former high school teacher from Michigan who (reluctantly) moved across the country when she was six months pregnant. She is the winner of the SmokeLong Quarterly Grand Micro Contest and a past winner of the Breakwater Review Fiction Prize (selected by Susanna Kaysen, author of Girl, Interrupted), the F(r)iction flash fiction competition, and The Writer's inaugural personal essay contest, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review, The Greensboro Review, New Ohio Review, HuffPost, Scary Mommy, and The Boston Globe Magazine, among others. She has been shortlisted for both the Bridport Prize and the Bath Flash Fiction Award and was recently selected for The Best Small Fictions and the Wigleaf Top 50. Melissa is represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

8 comments on “On Second Thought, We Are Totally NOT Ready for a Big Kid Bed

  1. Oh, Melissa! All the chaos of this x three kids came rushing back in…I started to say technicolor and then realized that REALLY dates me and my kids! Both my daughters have had/are still having this experience with their daughters. I am pretty sure my son’s wife still finds him sleeping somewhere in the house other than bed many mornings! Sorry, daughter-in-law. Not my problem–you married him! Laughing with you –this will pass…when she hits puberty and wants to sleep all day! I love love your writing!

  2. Well, I’m not exactly sure what you are talking about because mine was practically perfect! I just don’t recall the need to be worried in my own bed, she in hers…… until of course the water dripped, dripped, dripped down the ceiling light fixture and almost engulfed her room in flames….or was that the little Christmas tree from grandma that went up in smoke in there while she slumbered in her big girl yellow bed……..okay different stories and JK. Great story M.

  3. Haha!! I’ve been doing some photography the past month or two and working on other projects, so I had kind of let blogging fall to back burner. Glad I got a chance to come over again.

    Love this! I have kept each of my kids in the crib as long as possible, so I am with you. My first and second came out of their cribs at the same time, because when my three-year-old graduated to make room for our third little girl, my eighteen-month-old decided to learn to climb out and her bed turned into a jungle gym. I had to babysit her every nap and bedtime for months!! My third also learned to climb out early. But, because there is some mercy in this world, my “baby” boy still happily wakes up in his crib at three. Cue angels singing. ?

    The good news is that soon your eldest will learn to turn on PBS by herself…so there may be some rest ahead. (Have I totally flagged myself as a lousy parent now? ?)

    • Eighteen months! Please, please no. Hoping my son takes a cue from your baby boy! (Also, you’re 2 for 4 when it comes to long-time cribbers? Not terrible. If you were playing baseball you might be a millionaire with that kind of average.) 🙂

  4. Love your blog. And I do have a bit of advice if you want to hear it. My daughter (currently 17 years old), was so ready to transition into a “big girl” bed at 3. However, we made some rules. Only getting out of bed for: 1. going potty. 2. if you feel sick. 3. thunderstorms (which she was terrified of) and 4. if the house is on fire. It took a few nights, but she eventually understood and followed the rules. Also, when she woke up in the morning, she was to come straight to our bedroom and wake us (usually me because my husband went to work so early). That rule was broken a few times, but we hung bells on her door and would hear them chime when she opened it.

    I wish you the best of luck. And it seems like yesterday she was in that crib and now she’s a senior in high school.

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