Okay, we missed the bus. Apparently there is a right time to get your child to sleep in the other room. We missed that right time by a mile. You see, we had our daughter after a honeymoon period of 6 years. We'd had enough time to ourselves and couldn't wait for the stork to come calling. When little pink-cheeked, angel-eyed Kiddo came into our lives, the husband and I instantly fell madly in love with her. It was a severe winter and we'd bought a pretty cot with a collapsible side that I lovingly placed on my side of the bed. Sometimes, if it was very cold, I would let her snuggle up to me in the quilt all night because she would wake up every 2 hours, anyway. Soon, it became a habit and she'd start bawling the moment I would place her in the cot.
This was the time we learnt that these little bundles of joy can be quite persistent. On one colicky night, the husband rocked her to sleep singing Saare Jahan Se Achha (because that was probably the only song he knew!) and sure enough, she wanted a repeat performance every night. It didn't help that she was a light sleeper who would be up with the faintest sound. I can only imagine what our neighbours must have thought; bathroom singers crooning all sorts of songs in the middle of the night… Finally, I put my foot down. I secured the collapsible side of the cot and made sure that, despite her tantrums, she slept in it every night. Which meant that one of us would have to get up and tend to her every two hours when she woke up and started howling. When she grew a little more, she would climb right over the cot divider and jump onto our bed!
Time flew by; Kiddo was almost 4 and still sleeping with us. By now we were desperate to reclaim the room and the marital bed. We left no stone unturned to lure her into a room of her own. The walls were painted a bright shade of blue; flower cushions, hanging moon and star-shaped lights and toys of all kinds filled the room to make her feel like a kingdom of toys was welcoming her into the room. Kido appreciated our efforts wholeheartedly. We thought we had achieved the impossible. But come 9pm, and she was back in our room saying, "I've said goodnight to all my friends in the room. Now can I come and sleep here?"
We'd try reasoning with her:
Us: "Sweetheart, all children sleep in their own room. You have a family there too, they are your friends."
Kiddo: "I feel scared there. At night it doesn't look like a family, but a jungle."
Us: "Baby, there is no need to feel scared; we're right next door."
Kiddo: "If there's no need to feel scared, why do you two grownups sleep together? You two big people want to sleep together but you want me to sleep alone?"
I now understand why Dr Spock and his ilk urge first-time parents to get the child out of your bed and into her own before she starts speaking!
We persevered every time an opportunity presented itself. One day she came from school and told me she'd read Wee Willie Winkie that day. I pounced on the opportunity to explain to her that kids had to sleep in their own beds because Wee Willie Winkie would come and check on them. The result was that she became petrified of Winkie and would imagine him peeping from windows and ventilators and scream!
Still later, "Aww all your friends sleep in their own room. Ask them. Even Megha, (her best friend) does."
"But Megha has a little sister and they both sleep together. I will sleep there only when you get me a little brother or sister."
'If only you'd let us, baby, if only…' I would think to myself.
We tried all the tricks we knew to get some alone-time, but to no avail. Eventually, we started taking turns to lie next to her in her bed, reassuring her that she wasn't alone. But Kiddo was ahead of us here too. She'd wait until he fell asleep in her room and would slink back next to me. In the morning I would find him in her room, fast asleep, mouth agape, surrounded with toys and velvet flower cushions
And then we learnt to use her own trick. We'd invite her into our room in a grand manner, smile conspiratorially and wait till she was fast asleep; and then we'd move to the blue room. Being together amidst a jungle of teddies and dolls, and a possible peeping Wee Willie Winkie, was a new one. The crescent moon and stars hanging from the ceiling added a special romantic touch!