i wanted to do a follow up post to my most recent nursery tour post all about sleep and how we manage it with our three kids sharing a bedroom here in the city. i actually did a blog post all about sleep a few years ago when conrad was just six months old, if you’d like to check that post out as well. much is still the same when it comes to how we structure it all and what goes down.
i find it so interesting how much i’m asked about how we make our two bedroom apartment work for our family, especially the shared bedroom situation for the kids. i think we must just be a really tight knit family who enjoys being together the majority of our time, because as of now, we’ve really had little issues with it. in fact, once when we were staying in our friend’s 4 story townhouse in Washington, D.C. that had countless bedrooms, we all ended up in on the same floor in rooms close together by the end of the night. haha! it’s how it usually goes whenever we travel these days. everyone just sleeps better when we’re somewhat close together. i’m sure as the kids grow older, they will want and appreciate a little more personal space, but for now, they are just fine with their room and i can’t imagine doing it differently. of course every family and child and situation is different, and i’m always a little hesitant to share on these sorts of topics because of that, but since it’s such a frequently asked question, i wanted to just share how we do it in our family.
our kids have only ever known sharing a room. and in an urban setting no less where many of the city sounds often come through our windows at any given hour. i think this has actually worked to our advantage however, because once our kids are asleep, they don’t get woken very easily! they’ll sleep through a siren or car horn outside, and when one of them wakes up in the night, it is so rare they wake the others. this is what i also credit to my kids being incredible stroller nappers. they sleep so well on the go (when they did nap, now it’s only conrad!) regardless of how loud the bustling city is around us. it’s been a major plus of getting out and about to explore each day knowing we don’t have to run home for naps midday.
OUR BEDTIME ROUTINE
we try to stick to a structured routine and set bedtime these days because our morning starts early with school, and we really can tell the difference in our littles when they are well rested. our kids are so tired and exhausted by the end of the day, that they are ready (and often willing) to begin getting ready for bed right after dinner. we work hard to communicate and explain to them the need for sleep, what time bedtime is, when dinner is, with frequent reminders of how much longer it is until we eat and go to bed so they aren’t surprised. while we often get out of our routines when we travel to different time zones, i think having some sort of structure around bedtime is super helpful for little ones, so we try our best to stick to our routine as best we can even when on the road.
after dinner, we’ll go straight into bedtime mode by getting into pajamas and brushing teeth. the kids can help us bring their water cups to the nursery (does anyone else have children that wake up insanely thirsty in the night?!), and we usually gather for stories together on conrad’s trundle bed as long as we are on schedule. if we don’t read books that particular evening, we like to do something one on one with each child in their bed or maybe sit in a circle and make up our own stories together instead. we do this by everyone taking a turn in the circle to come up with the next sentence. like, “once upon a time there was a dog named spot who visited his friend norbert the chicken at the park….” then the next person can take the story wherever they would like…. “norbert was actually just about to leave for the airport and fly to bermuda!…” etc etc. this is so much fun for all of us! even when we can’t really fully understand what conrad contributed during his turn. haha! we just go with it. but these stories get so silly and it’s a fun story telling game that everyone can participate in.
GETTING THE KIDS TO SLEEP
after books and prayers (and closing our most blessed black out curtains! and taking several last drinks), josh and i will lay down with the kids until they fall asleep. i know people think we are crazy for still doing this, but it’s a routine we got into when we switched from co-sleeping and the occasional crib to toddler beds with eleanor and samson a million years ago as it always helped to lay down beside their little bed as they fell asleep so they didn’t get back up to play or run around. and somehow, it’s just evolved to laying beside each of them in their trundle or bunk bed until they are asleep now, too. i will lay down in the trundle bed with conrad while josh lays on the bottom bunkbed with samson. if josh is away or i am away that evening, the other will just do the process beginning with laying with conrad first until he is asleep and then over to samson next. the boys always fall asleep rather quickly (unless conrad has had a late nap), and then either josh or i will climb up and lay with eleanor in the top bunk until she’s fully asleep once they are down. this time is really special for us. i think it’s really calming for josh and me as much as it is for the kids. the days are so busy and crazy and go-go-go, it’s really rather nice to have those few minutes at the end of the day to just be beside each of our little ones and cuddle them up and remind them of how great they are, how much we love them, and all of the good things they do. if josh and i are going out for the evening and aren’t home for bedtime, our sitter does this routine for us with the kids (thank goodness for finding incredible sitters over the years, right?!) sometimes the kids fall asleep within a matter of seconds and we don’t need to stay in the room for long, and sometimes it takes much longer, but honestly i know there will come a day where we won’t be needed beside them, so i’m savoring it. there was a time where we’d do bedtime in shifts and put one down at a time because they were a little chatty or silly, but these days we can usually put all three down at the same time because everyone is quite tired and ready to sleep or better at being patient for their turn to snuggle.
DURING THE NIGHT
because our room is right next to the kids bedroom, we hear them in the night if they end up needing anything and call out for mama or papa (it’s rare.) BUT, conrad still does not sleep through the night well and we’re still working through this. it’s really tough. eleanor and samson did not sleep through the night until i fully weaned each of them from breastfeeding, so i figured t’d be the same for conrad when i weaned him this fall. but he’s holding strong and wanting to party in the night sometimes and yes, josh and i are kind of going mad in the process. this is the only con to having them all in the same room. fortunately, he doesn’t ever wake the older two, and sometimes all it takes to get him back down is just putting a hand on his back or letting him know mama is near and having him lay back down and fall asleep. but other nights he is super chatty and so i bring him into our room so the older two kids can still have a restful sleep. it’s a process and we’re figuring out. i think he just wants some alone time and our full attention for a little while. i’ve talked to my pediatrician about it a lot and we’ve tried several different things, but we’re still trying to figure this one out.
THE MORNING ROUTINE
one of the reasons we get our kids to bed so early is because they all have internal alarm clocks that go off at the same time for each of them every morning no matter what time we put them down! and no matter how dark the room is! because they are in a shared room, they know that once they wake up, to come out of their room to ours or the front room quietly so they don’t disturb their siblings if they are still asleep. we’ll start our breakfast routine as everyone wakes up and comes out and work our way back into the nursery a little later in the morning to get dressed and make beds, play before school, etc.
NOTHING SLEEP RELATED IS A FORWARD PROCESS
one of the best things josh and i have realized over the years is that when it comes to kids, it’s a process that truly ebbs and flows. remaining flexible and staying patient is always helpful. there are growth spurts, days and nights where sickness strikes someone in the family and also time changes during travel that knock us out of routine and put us back at square one at times. i talked about this more at length in my first sleeping post, but understanding that it’s okay and also expected to have weeks where you aren’t making progress but maybe taking a few steps back when it comes to something with your little one is totally normal and okay. you’ll get back on track soon enough.
so that’s what we do in our family. we don’t have this routine perfected, and like i said, still figuring out how to get conrad sleeping through the night, but that’s what seems to be working best for us with our shared nursery bedroom when it comes to our bedtime routines and shared spaces. i am so thankful for the relationships my little ones have with one another and while i know there may be times in the years to come when they aren’t as close as they are now, i hope that these early years of being together and building a solid foundation of love and closeness will show in other ways during their lives and that *hopefully* they’ll look out for each other always. a mom can dream, right? ;)