By Catherine Deen
Like most first-time parents, my husband and I were extremely protective of our firstborn. During his first three years of life, he slept with us in the master bedroom. From a crib, he graduated to our bed, then later on, to a small fold-out bed of his own. While he had a room of his own, which housed his toys, books, clothes, and other items, his bed was stored and used in our room.
Although not uncommon, this is a less-than-ideal sleeping arrangement for many families. Yes, we may have saved on electric bills since we only needed to use one air conditioner, but it did not create an independent spirit in our son. This sleeping arrangement also resulted in our personal loss of privacy and couple time. As you can imagine, neither my husband nor I appreciated this.
When our son turned three, my husband and I discussed how to transition him into sleeping in his own room. We were very concerned about separation anxiety and thought carefully about how to implement the transition. Ultimately, we decided to turn the experience into a “surprise,” hoping that the “fun factor” would assist in the transition process.
First, we cleaned his room. Second, we secured his bed prominently in his room, strategically placing some of his favorite toys on the bed. Third, we put up educational posters—numbers, letters, good manners, parts of the body, and others—around his room. When the room was finally ready, we called him up and nervously announced, “Son, welcome to your room!”
We were busy preparing a surprise but the surprise was on us! Imagine our amazement when our son responded, “Oh my! I had been dreaming of having my own room!” He then proceeded to enter and OWN his room!
My husband and I looked at each other, dumbfounded. The whole time, we thought our son would have a hard time, but as it turned out, he had been ready and waiting for it for a long time.
That evening, our son slept in his room all by himself and without supervision. There was no need to even stay with him to lull him to sleep. Our little man was ready to be by himself. Throughout the night, we found ourselves a bit lonely in our room without our son. Laughable as it may seem, we found ourselves going back and forth from our bedroom to his to check on him several times that evening.
In this scenario, who had separation anxiety?! Ironically, it was not the son but the parents!
This significant parenting experience taught me one of the greatest lessons in parenting that I still practice today. Indeed, our primary role as parents is to prepare our children to face life on their own and not to overprotect them. Many times, we fear for our children’s safety and security. But, can we truly guarantee that? No. Cliché as it sounds, parenting is truly like a slightly open palm—not too tight to become stifling overprotection, yet not too loose to develop irresponsible freedom.