A Tale of Two Beds

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; we were on the path to big-boyhood, we were all on the fast track to crazy.

As my children one day look back on a childhood that will — regardless of how they are raised — likely be regarded as Dickensian (although in fairness, they are always welcome to as much gruel as they like), one of the great tragedies that stand out will be the tale of James’ two beds.

Tragic for James simply because he was expected to move to a new bed. Tragic for Thomas because he had to wait more than a year to get his long-awaited toddler bed. And tragic for the rest of us because bedtime comes at the end of the day and we prefer sleep to prolonged, hysterical tantrums.

When we moved into this house at the beginning of last July, we placed the big-boy bed in James’ room, right across from the toddler bed, hoping its presence would entice James to one day crawl into it. We decked it out in Diego sheets and made a big to-do about how cool it was. Months passed, and James was happy to play on the new bed, but still crawled into his toddler bed to sleep.

“James,” I told him on several occasions, “Tonight you are going to start sleeping in the big-boy bed.”

I placed all his special toys in the right parts of the bed, and covered him up with his special blanket.

“Good-night,” I would say. It was then, as I tucked him in, that James invariably leapt from the bed, pulling all his toys with him.

“I sleep in my little bed!” he insisted. “I can’t sleep in the Diego bed!”

One night, I removed the sheets from his toddler bed before this familiar routine. James was undeterred. He tackled the bare mattress, blanket in hand, crying, “I sleep in my Thomas Train bed!”

“Would you sleep in your big-boy bed if we put Thomas Train sheets on it?” I asked him.

“No, I sleep in my little bed,” he wailed. “I not big, I just a little boy.”

This was true. He was barely 3 at this point, and being screened for autism to boot. Since Thomas was (and is) perfectly happy to sleep in his crib, James remained in the little bed.

Weeks passed. Months passed. And this month, I realized we were halfway through summer vacation, and that my next chance to break him of his toddler bed without adding to his stress would be next summer — when he’s 4-and-a-half and Thomas himself is nearly too old for the toddler bed.

So I began telling James, “Very soon, you will start sleeping in your Diego bed. Thomas is a big boy now and needs the little bed.”

James tried to reason with me.

“Thomas not a big boy,” he’d say. “He a baby. Thomas sleep in the crib.”

“Thomas can’t sleep in the crib, James. He might climb out and break his head.”

“Thomas can sleep in my little bed, and I sleep with him.”

“Your bed is too little for two boys. You will sleep in your Diego bed.”

“I can’t sleep in the Diego bed! Thomas sleep in his crib!”

And so on.

But yesterday, when we had the conversation at naptime, James suddenly said, “I sleep in my Diego bed today.”

He ended up sleeping in the toddler bed again, but tonight, Chris and I stripped his toddler bed and moved it into Thomas’ room. Out of sight, out of mind.

James hopped calmly — even happily — into the big-boy bed, where all his special cars and stuffies were waiting for him. He insisted that I play cars with him for an inordinately long time, and requested not just his lullabye but three Christmas songs. But when I tucked him in, he stayed. And shouted “Sweet dreams, Mommy!” as I shut the door.

I have been known to cry at bedtime — usually from sheer frustration. It’s nice to shed a happy tear, for a change.

Not a single thump or shriek has been heard from James’ room in the two hours since I tucked him in.

Tonight I rest. And tomorrow, Thomas gets the long-anticipated toddler bed. Unlike the yearlong saga of James’ big-boy bed, however, we’re pretty sure how that one will go over.

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