My son has been sleeping in his own bed every night, all night since a new room “opened for business” in our house. Yes – he has his very own Spider-Man room, and it is the greatest solution to toddler sleep issues ever invented by a father, humbly speaking.
He is 3 now. From when he was an infant until about a year ago, he slept in his crib pretty much every night, but he never wanted to fall asleep in his crib. He would have to fall asleep on the couch with mommy and daddy nearby, or in our bed. Then when he fell asleep, we’d whisk him away to his crib. For the last several months, matters had been worse. Not only would he not fall asleep in his own bed, but when we would place him there, he would inevitably wake up in the middle of the night and come to our room, seeking a comfy spot right in the middle of mommy and daddy’s bed.
We didn't want this to continue. And I realized he not only didn't sleep in his room, but he never spent any time in there at all. He just didn’t like his room. We assembled it for an infant, with a soft yellow color and a nice Beatrix Potter mural on the wall. While relaxing for an infant, it just wasn't exciting to a three-year-old whose tastes have shifted to superheroes and Disney Pixar movies.
By far, his biggest fanboy obsession has become Spider-Man. Everything from the movies to the Disney XD cartoon, to books, to clothes, to toys, this kid loves Spider-Man. As a somewhat handy dad, I decided that I was going to convert our boring guest bedroom into our son’s very own Spider-Man bedroom.
I envisioned what I wanted the color scheme to be and that there would be a big Spider-Man Fathead® on the wall. It would be a regular Spider-Man bonanza and, in theory, he would actually enjoy spending time in his room, and thus, sleeping there.
Boy, was I right. This picture of his new Spider-Man room should capture the essence of what it is like. Hyper Blue and Real Red paint from Sherwin-Williams. Spider-Man Fathead® from Fathead.com. Spider-Man curtains and bedding ordered from various websites, etc. And, for old times' sake, my own bedroom furniture from when I was growing up – solid oak furniture that looks practically new at 25+ years old (my parents kept it well preserved).
Now, for the first time ever, Vinny actually asks to go to his Spider-Man room. He loves it there. The other day he said to me, “Look at my Spider-Man room, daddy. It’s so cool!” I was teeming with pride. Shows you what a little daddy ingenuity can get you...
Not only does he sleep in his own bed every night, he actually falls asleep in it. No more waiting for him to fall asleep somewhere else and then sneaking him into his room. And even when he wakes up in the middle of the night (which happens often, as we have to check his blood sugar due to his Type 1 Diabetes – another blog post on that soon), he seems so comfortable in his own Spider-Man bed that he stays there. No more wandering into mommy and daddy’s room at night seeking refuge. He has his very own superhero watching over him to keep him where he is.
These heroes really are pretty super.
What worked/didn't work in getting your child to sleep in his or her own bed?
Last week, my two-and-a-half-year-old son started asking me “Why?” “I have to wash your face.” “Why?” “We have to eat dinner now.” “Why?” “We can’t watch TV now.” “Why?”
I am not sure what to make of it yet, other than that IT’S REALLY CUTE!
But as someone who works for a fatherhood organization, I try to reflect on these mundane parenting situations to make sure that a) I am making the most of them as a dad, and b) I have something interesting to write about on this blog.
So, to kill those two birds with one stone, I began waxing philosophical about what my role is in answering the “why?” for my son.
I have often heard, and mostly agree, that dad’s primary role is teacher. In fact, you are your child’s first teacher. While mom is nurturing and loving, she is creating a “nest” to protect her child from the dangers of the world. But at the same time, a good dad is slowly and safely exposing his child to that same world and teaching him how to navigate it.
I am generalizing of course, but generally speaking, men and women approach things differently, and parenting is no different. In fact, another recent study confirmed this by showing that fathers stand further away from their children than mothers while the kids are playing in a playground. Moms want to protect, dads want to teach safe risk taking. Neither approach is better than the other; they are both necessary and important to child development.
So, my role is to start revealing the world to my child. When he is asking why, he is really saying, “I want to understand the world!”
Therefore, my balancing act is to give him just enough to understand the truth, but not too much to forego his using his own imagination to make sense of things. This can be tough, but I have to practice now while he is asking me “unimportant” things like why Spider-Man can’t come to the dinner table with us. Because one day, he is going to start asking things like, “Why do I have diabetes?” (he was diagnosed with Type 1 two months ago).
Then, of course, he will inevitably ask the King of All Why Questions, “Why do I exist?” (or “What’s my purpose in life?”). If I can help him answer that question, then I will feel as though I am a successful father – even if I give him terrible answers to his questions about Spider-Man.