On Kicking A Co-Sleeping Kid With Special Needs Out Of Your Bed

I wake up in the morning when my son does. This is because he’s lying right next to me. He typically wanders into our bedroom at around 1 in the morning. I’m half asleep when I pick him up and plop him down between me and my husband. Sometimes, I’m surprised to find him in bed in the morning because I don’t even remember putting him in the there.

Max is 9. When he was a baby, I wanted to co-sleep. He’d been through serious trauma at birth and I had real concerns he could stop breathing in the middle of the night or have a seizure. By the time he was 3, though, my husband and I wanted out of our bed. It wasn’t easy. In the ensuing years, bedtime was a constant struggle and too often Max ended up with us.

Finally, we tricked out his room: mattresses on the floor for him and his sister to “camp out” on, special turtle night lights that glowed different colors in the dark, Pillow Pets. It worked… for a few months. Then he was back in our bed again.

Neither my husband nor I get a great night’s sleep when Max is with us. He tosses and turns, and has been known to whack one of us across the face. My fantasies these days involve being in a hotel room, alone, and having a king size bed where I and I alone get to sleep.

I was recently talking about this with a friend. “I hate to admit it, but we finally put a lock on J’s door so she couldn’t come into our room in the middle of the night,” she tells me.

Hmmm. Locking your child in is one solution, but it seems so medieval (not to mention unsafe, in case of a fire).  I know exactly what we need to do: play hardball. Return Max right to his bed, again and again and again, night after night. It’s what’s best for us, and for him, too; he’s 9, and needs all the independence encouragement he can get.

At 1:00 in the morning, though, my willpower is way weak. I’ll admit, too, that part of me wants to still watch over this child who’s been through so much. I’m haunted by memories of the morning when he was 1&1/2 and woke up early in the morning in our bed, burning up. Suddenly, I noticed one of his legs twitching. And then his entire body was shaking. He was having a grand mal seizure, one that didn’t stop until doctors at the hospital got it under control. If Max hadn’t been sleeping with us, who knows when we would have noticed the seizure.

My son’s co-sleeping issues are partly his, and mostly my own.

The time has come for me to deal. Last night, I went upstairs to go to sleep and found both of my kids asleep in my bed. I crashed in my daughter’s bed, my husband slept in Max’s. Our co-sleeping saga had reached new heights of dysfunction.

Tonight, when Max wanders in, I’m going to walk him right back to his bed. And I’ll do it again if I have to.



From my other blog:

The American cheese milestone 

Kids with special needs: an awesome slideshow

The best swim gear for kids with special needs

Image of feet sticking out of bed via Shutterstock

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  1. by Beth

    On August 15, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    Excellent post, Ellen. It really speaks to me. As the mom of a son diagnosed with Asperger’s, who didn’t much like being touched or held for the first few years, it’s pretty hard to put him back in his own bed now that he wants to have his back rubbed, do Eskimo and butterfly kisses, and “schuckel.” Bedtime is often our best time for conversations; he’s smart and funny, but this is when he shares and I get a better idea of what he’s thinking. But he’s 9, too. So I try to limit it. I’m with you. It’s hard.

  2. [...] On kicking a co-sleeping kid with special needs out of your bed. (Parents.com) [...]

  3. by Bron

    On August 15, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    oh Ellen I was laughing out loud at this post with being kicked in the head! We play musical beds at our place too! cooper at seven now is the most settled sleeper as is the baby, its the middle one who wanders and kicks! I can feel those exact protection feelings though and never mind if I have to snuggle next to my big boy every now and again xxxx

  4. by kat

    On August 18, 2012 at 6:17 am

    This is just another way of raising, weak entitled
    children. Plus the co-sleeping child is often used as a buffer between spouses…to avoid physical or emotional intimacy. Your relationship with your spouse comes before your relationship with your children. A healthy marriage can equal better outcomes for children.