Children sleeping in their parent's room: I had strong opinions before I had kids. The results are now in.

The time has come. 

Prior to the birth of my daughter, I would argue that it was fairly bizarre and unwarranted to have have children sleeping in their parents' beds for any extended period of time. I expressed opposition to the idea that my children would be spending a significant portion of their sleeping hours in my bed or bedroom. I thought that making room for your child in your bed or allowing your child to supplant you from your bed was at the very least a little crazy. 

These statements were not made without reason. At the time I knew many parents who had their children sleeping in their beds or in their bedrooms for a significant proportion of their young lives. I knew many parents whose children slept in their beds through the ages of two, three, four, and even longer. I even knew of parents who installed their child's bed or a secondary bed in their own bedroom.

I still know parents who do these things today. 

Like I said, I thought this was all a little crazy.

When I expressed as much, I was greeted with comments like:

"You just wait until you have kids."
"Easy to say now when you don't have any children."
"I can't wait until you are forced to eat crow."
"Having your kid in your bed is unavoidable."

Parents making these comments were often angry with me and outraged at my assertions. 

But not all. One friend - whose daughter slept in her bedroom until she was five years-old - said to me, "I know it's crazy to have her in our room. I know it's probably not great for her, and it's definitely not great for our marriage, but it's what I need to do."

This is a person who I can respect. This was a mother who I could understand. We're all crazy in one way or another. We all do something in regards to parenting that is inadvisable, overprotective, and perhaps a little insane. Just own it. Acknowledge your insanity and people will understand your decision and even accept it.

"I'm doing this kind of crazy thing, but I understand that it's probably crazy."

Argue that your inadvisable, overprotective, slightly insane behavior is normal and perfectly fine, and that is when people will begin to question the rest of your decision-making and wonder what you could possibly be thinking.  

Since those days of my bold assertions and parents' angry retorts, I've had my kids. I've dealt with their sleep schedules. I'll determined (in partnership with my wife) the location of their sleep on a nightly basis. I have faced the same challenges of those parents who I questioned years ago. 

Here are the results: 

Today my daughter is seven years old. My son is four years old.

Both of them slept in a cradle in our bedroom for the first two months of their lives in order to facilitate late night feedings. After two months, both children were transitioned to their own bedrooms. We trained them to sleep in their own beds by allowing them to "cry it out" for two or three nights. It was not easy, but it worked well.  

Both quickly became acclimated to sleeping in their own beds. 

Since then, Clara has slept in our bed three times: twice due to illness and once because of a hurricane. All of these were late night transitions from her bed to ours in response to the circumstances. 

Charlie has also slept in our bed five times: three times due to illness and twice because of  nightmares. 

In total, my children have spent less than one percent of their nighttime sleeping in our bed. 

In fact, there was a time a few years ago when Clara hit her head hard enough that the doctor asked that we wake her every hour to make sure that she was okay. We decided to have her sleep in our bed to make this process easier, but she refused.

"You have your bed, Daddy, and I have mine."


So to all those naysayers and doomsday predictors who assured me that I would find my children crawling into bed with me more regularly than I expected, I say this:

I told you so. 

Or in the words of my generation: Bite me. 

And to any expecting parents or new parents, I offer this advice:

Take everything that an experienced parent says with an enormous grain of salt, myself included. Our advice comes from the parenting of our unique child in our unique set of circumstances. No two children are alike. No two set of circumstances are alike. Parents love to generalize their child's behavior to all children. They love to assume that their struggles are universal. They love to think that their parenting style is applicable to all kids.  

None of this is true. 

Every parent is different. Every child is different. Every circumstance is different. This doesn't mean that experienced parents can't offer excellent advice. People come to me for parenting advice all the time, and I'm happy to oblige. Just don't assume that their word (or mine) is gospel. Don't assume that they know all. 

And just because you can't keep your child out of your bedroom doesn't mean that we all can't keep our kids in their own beds.

My latest appearance on Mom and Dad Are Fighting: Discussing violent tragedy with children

I made another appearance on Slate's parenting podcast Mom and Dad Are Fighting, talking about how to handle discussions with children about horrific tragedies like the terrorist attacks in Paris or the mass shooting in San Bernardino (which was actually taking place while we recorded my segment).  

Today will be one of the hardest days of parenting so far. I know I’m lucky in this respect, but there is still a hole in my heart.

My daughter is sick. Her kindergarten class has a field trip to the pumpkin patch today.

She’s going to miss the trip.

Last month she was also sick. She missed her class’s field trip to the apple orchard.

Thanks to a couple of poorly timed fevers, Clara is missing the first two field trips of her educational journey.

I cannot describe how much this hurts my heart. I am beside myself. 

image image 

I have a lot of things about parenting figured out. I know that may sound arrogant and nearsighted, but it’s true. Parenting isn’t easy, but it isn’t very hard, either.

And it’s joyous. Joyous on a daily basis. At least for me.

I suspect that a number of factors have allowed this to be the case:

  • A childhood spent as the oldest of five children (oftentimes serving as a substitute parent)
  • Sixteen years spent teaching elementary school
  • My previous experience raising a stepdaughter
  • The clear and rationale perspective that a life of incredibly difficult challenges has brought me
  • Most important: A wife who was also the oldest child in her family (don’t discount this asset) with more than a decade of teaching experience as well

Choose your spouse carefully. As my friend, Kim, says, it is the most important decision that you will ever make.

Elysha and I are also a couple of fairly relaxed, easy-going people who understand and live by the principles of divide and conquer, delegation, and strategic prioritization. Neither of us are control freaks. 

We are also nonconformists. It may surprise you to hear that about Elysha, but it’s true. She’s an undercover nonconformist, meaning she isn’t as blunt and stupid about it as me, but her nonconformity exists in abundance.

This is important, too.

Sometimes I think we hear parents whine about their kids or complain about the restrictions associated with parenting and start to believe it for ourselves. Get a group of parents together, and before long, they’ll start moaning about sleepless nights and the cost of diapers and the price of babysitting.

It’s easy to fall into this trap if you’re not careful. If you don’t assume that the world is a little crazy. If you lack perspective. If your self confidence is low. If you didn’t know what you were getting into when you decided to have kids. 

If you’re not a nonconformist.

These factors, I believe, have combined to provide me with the knowledge, wisdom, and fortitude to make good parenting decisions and raise my children without too many missteps or uncertainty.

Yes, it’s arrogant. But it’s true.

If you feel like I sound too arrogant, please refer to my 2014 list of flaws and shortcomings. It’s a long list. At least I’m balancing arrogance with humility.

But this situation with my daughter missing her first two kindergarten field trips due to illness… I find myself at a loss. My heart aches. I’m saddened beyond description. I have no solution.

Parenting has suddenly become impossible.

Actually, if it were up to me, I’d try to send her to school for the field trip, but my wife would never allow it, and rightfully so. We have already promised her a makeup trip to the pumpkin patch this weekend, but it won’t be the same, and I will always know it.

So will she.

And so I have a hole in my heart. I know that in the grand scheme of things, a field trip to an apple orchard and a pumpkin patch won’t make or break Clara’s life, but in this year, on this day, in this moment, these are enormous events for her.

Enormous opportunities that she is missing.

I experienced so many missed opportunities as a child. So much that I wanted to do but could not. As a result, I want something different for my children. Not a path free of struggle or strife, but a path wider than mine ever was. A path with a multitude of forks.

Forks to apple orchards and pumpkin patches, damn it.

As trite as it may seem, this is a problem for me. I can allow my children to cry it out in their cribs and sit in timeout and save for months for the toys  they want and get no dessert if they haven’t eaten their dinners, and I suffer no heartache whatsoever. No pain. I know that what I am doing is right.

But this… I’m going to think about her friends, riding the bus to a pumpkin patch, running around a field of round, orange orbs, and I’m going to be sad. Heartbroken, really. All day long. And probably longer. Probably a lot longer.

I suspect that Elysha will handle this better than me. I’ll lean on her today. Try to draw from her wisdom and her perspective.

Choose your spouse wisely.

But even the great Elysha Dicks will not be able to fill this hole in my heart.

This is when parenting is the hardest for me. Today will be a hard day for me. Joyous, still. But hard.

My best piece of parenting advice

It takes a special and exceedingly wise breed of parent to ignore a temper tantrum like this and instead retrieve the camera and document the moment for posterity.

My wife is that kind of parent. She gets it.


I have a great deal of parenting advice to offer. Most people think that I am full of bluster and hubris. You probably do, too.

But I believe that my 16 years of teaching experience, in combination with my experience raising a former stepdaughter to the age of 16 and my two own children has given me wisdom that would prove valuable to anyone willing to listen.

Few admittedly do.

A colleague recently suggested to a parent that she ask me for advice on a childrearing issue. The person laughed. So did two other people at the table. The notion that I could have anything useful to offer was ludicrous in their minds. 

Regardless, this photo of Charlie’s tantrum reminded me of my best piece of parenting advice that I have to offer:

Don’t become emotionally attached to your child’s poor decision making, regardless of their age. If your two year-old son is having a tantrum because he isn’t getting what he wants, that’s his deal. You can help him process his emotions and calm down, but the fact that he is having a tantrum should not impact you emotionally.

It’s not about you. 

Instead, ignore the tantrum and take a photo. Capture the moment for future blackmail.