Recently my daughter made the transition from crib to big-girl bed. Her big-girl bed is indeed big, higher than she is tall. One morning at 4AM, my husband and I were startled from our slumbers by a sudden “Thunk!” on the ceiling above our heads. Our parental radars had been tuned in and waiting for that “Thunk!” and its accompanying wail ever since the crib-to-bed transition had been completed. We jumped out of bed and raced up the stairs to our daughter.
My husband picked her up and placed her back on the bed. She hugged him for a while and then me. I turned on her bedroom light, talked to her a bit to make sure she was responsive and then tucked her in back in bed, securing the sheets and stacking the outside pillows again. I turned on her moon-and-stars night light and said good night.
I wasn’t sure what the experience of falling out of bed would bring. She seemed to go back to sleep easily enough, but would the next night bring a reluctance to return to bed and a longing for the crib that had walls to keep her safely in?
As usual I was the first one up in the morning, and I took advantage of my quiet time to work on a Cheese Grits article before my daughter and husband were awake and distracting me from my thoughts. I sipped my café-au-lait and typed, seated in my favorite over-stuffed arm chair, computer in my lap.
Suddenly the “mom radar” kicked in again, and I stopped typing to listen more carefully. I heard a soft “pat, pat, pat” on the stairs. I got up and stood at the bottom of the stairs. My daughter had awakened, climbed out of bed and come downstairs all by herself. I was impressed.
You see, I had taught her how to climb into her new big-girl bed using her step stool, but my husband and I (perhaps somewhat selfishly) had not bothered to point out to her that she was fully capable now of getting out of bed by herself. I figured we would let her discover that fact in her own time. So, I had been waking her up every morning, or going up when she called, and helping her down, continuing the same morning routine we had when she slept in her crib.
I was impressed because my daughter had immediately turned a not-so-great experience (falling out of bed) into an opportunity to grow and gain more control over her life. Instead of being afraid that she might fall out of bed again, she realized that she could get out of bed by herself, however awkwardly, and come downstairs to begin her day on her schedule and her terms.
When she crept downstairs that morning, she did not know what would greet her. Yes, there was the familiar aroma of coffee wafting through the house, and she probably heard the quiet clicking of my key board as I typed, but still she made a brave move.
Life is full of hard knocks, and if my daughter continues to react in his way to the not-so-great experiences in her life, she’s got a huge advantage over most people. She learned, immediately, from a bad experience that she had a skill she could use, and she bravely applied it to do something new and a little bit courageous.
In watching her, I learned three things: First, I need to re-engineer the pillow arrangement I have along the edge of the bed to keep her from tumbling out. Second, it’s time to put up the baby gate in the upstairs hallway so there will be no somnambulatory strolls down the stairs. And finally, and most importantly, the way to handle not-so-great experiences is to learn from them and immediately use what you learn to be a little more courageous in your life.
© 2009 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.