If you’re familiar with the sound of a knock on your bedroom door in the early hours of the morning – from a sleepy child who just won’t stay in their own bed – you’re definitely not alone.
Sam Faiers, formerly of The Only Way is Essex and now star of The Mummy Diaries, recently admitted that she and her partner sleep in the same bedrooms as their children – Faiers bunks in with her daughter while her partner Paul Knightley shares with their son.
This might sound like an unusual night-time setup, but to many parents and grandparents – myself included – it’s relatively normal. Sharing a room with your kid may be the only way either of you get a decent night’s sleep and, in moderation, it can reinforce the close bonds you have with your child.
First time round, I loved having my son in with me. I was a single parent living on the eighth floor of a very dodgy tower block. Worse still, my son’s bedroom was situated right by the front door, with its own back door onto the balcony.
Even though I locked both for safety, I hated the idea that he might wake up and somehow get out there in the middle of the night. I had nightmares of a Spiderman-like miscreant scaling each floor to reach my precious little bubba – far fetched I know, but stranger things have happened.
When we moved into our house a few years later, I encouraged him to start sleeping in his own room and he absolutely loved it. The risks of our old flat had mostly disappeared, giving me peace of mind that my son and I could sleep safe and sound – and separately. I bought bunk beds for when he had friends over and he embraced his newfound independence, inviting them over constantly and heading straight to his room with them once they arrived.
Fast forward 25 years and things are different with my live-in grandson, Clay. My son and I love having our lil’ man in our rooms at night. Occasionally only, mind, because the boy sleeps badly. He starts out like an angel – head on the pillow, legs down, arms out – but through the course of the night he moves 360 degrees and ends up deep in the small of my back, using my face as a footrest and my body as a punch bag with every turn he makes.
Together, we decided it was time he got his own space, for his growth and development – and for our sanity. We redecorated the spare room, bought him a toddler bed and brought most of his toys upstairs. We gave him an old TV set, allowed on only for his favourite shows, and at the start he loved it.
At every opportunity, he would remind us it was ‘Clay’s Room’ and proudly point at his bed and belongings, declaring they were his. Once, when he was being especially bossy, he told me to get out of his room, as it was just for ‘Clay Clay’. And at night, he would excitedly climb into bed and bid us all a smiley goodnight. Job done, we thought, pleasantly surprised that the journey from Nanny or Daddy’s room to his own room had been so simple.
Unfortunately for us, that smooth transition only lasted a month. The novelty of sleeping alone quickly wore off and now it has become hard to get him to sleep in his room at all.
I’ve tried lying down with him (on a cramped toddler bed) and even bribery, all without success. When it’s his dad’s turn to bath and bed him, it’s particularly torturous. There will be tantrums, tears the size golf balls and wailing. The sound of him calling through tears for Nanny to save him gets me every time. Some nights he’ll cry himself to sleep and it can be hard to hear.
Now he has new ammo. He goes to bed and falls asleep (after the tears) in his own room, but wakes up like clockwork at 2am and heads straight to mine – knowing his dad would simply return him, ignoring the tantrums. When he arrives and wakes me, I simply scoop him up beside me – anything for a quiet life and full night’s sleep.
But for Clay, it’s not just a sleepy wander to fall asleep next to Nanny. I’ve noticed his night-time escapades have turned into a midnight adventure.
Because in his eyes he is awake and will be awake for a little while – and I should join him. It’s something he finds quite funny. There have been demands for juice, toast, biscuits; to watch Paw Patrol, SpongeBob SquarePants or PJ Masks. He has even tried to head downstairs. There’s only one thing he doesn’t want – to return to his room.
My son has little sympathy when I come down, bleary-eyed, first thing in the morning. He thinks I want to baby him for as long as possible and he’s probably right. I can’t deny the closeness I feel having my grandson there. But the reality is that I need to let go – and this has to happen pronto. Because soon, we’ll all be too old for these nocturnal antics.