My 2-year-old daughter celebrated Independence Day in style: she got a big girl bed. She had asked about a bed for months. I was resistant. Her 4-year-old brother had only gotten his early because we were pregnant with her. And we had no concerns about him getting out of bed; that was not the case with her. Knowing she was in the crib meant I didn’t have to worry about her getting out of bed, wandering around, looking for her brother, for us, or for the nearest thing she could crack her head on. Her crib was the ticket to a little bit of extra time to get ready in the morning. She didn’t need a bed yet.
Around her 2nd birthday, my son made her an art project representing a bed which she clung to and very clearly said, “I want a bed.” Her requests got more insistent after that. My husband and I finally decided what to do: our son would give her his low-to-the-ground Ikea bed that we had inherited from a friend and he would get a new bed (the one we anticipate he’ll have until he leaves the house). They were beyond ecstatic; I was trepidatious. Every night and morning, my daughter would tell us the plan, sometimes before saying good morning.
The weekend before The Big Bed Switch, my husband took them shopping for a new mattress for my son and for my daughter’s new sheets. As soon as his mattress arrived, my son excitedly put it on his bed and gave her his to keep on her floor until she got her bed. She promptly put on the new sheets and started cuddling with us on it. Oh, yes, they were very impatient for Independence Day and their excitement was infectious.
When it finally arrived, I said goodbye to my last morning of freedom. We all marched to their rooms after breakfast, armed with tools and a camera. It was a multi-layered task: my son helped disassemble the crib; my daughter helped to carry pieces out of the room (she knew it was going to a new baby) and we moved furniture around to accommodate her new bed. We put on the new sheets and the quilt her grandmother had made. Then my daughter threw her body on it with exuberant delight. We took photos and cuddled and she showed it to her favorite animal.
When it was time for our daughter’s first nap in the new bed, we all gathered around her. Our son coached her on not falling out of it (he had only done it once). Later, when we were working on assembling his bed and he heard her joyfully yodeling while starting her nap, he smiled and said, “She’s so happy.” She was and, soon enough, so was he. His bed came together. The kids explored all the new parts of it: the headboard with shelves and the drawers underneath.
To manage our concerns about our daughter being a flight risk, she also got a new clock, one that turns green when it is time to get up. We explained the clock to her as she and our son pressed the button again and again which said the current time. Amused but still nervous, we knew that if our children didn’t sleep that night, it would be because they were so excited. And then we would have to see what the morning brought.
The first several days, our daughter did not get out of bed but cried early for us to come get her, much as she had in the crib. And then, one morning, as my husband was on his way to get our son up for camp, we heard a noise…it was my daughter trying to open her door. “It turned green!” she immediately told them. The following day, she made it all the way out of her room to the top of the stairs (we had locked the gate). We leapt out of bed and booked upstairs. Her brother blearily appeared and we all hugged and congratulated her on waiting until it turned green. She was so proud.
Each night, after we cuddle and read with her in bed (extra bonuses that come with it!), we remind her to wait until the clock turns green and she tells us that she will. We tell her to look at the clock and the 7 will be in front: 7:00. At naptime, she asks us if it will turn green and we tell her it will not but she could look for the 2 in front. She seems content with that for now and has only gotten up once before nap was over.
My daughter’s gain in independence has been a slight loss in our own slower movement in the morning but it is worth it to see her beaming at exactly 7:00…even if she is shouting about her accomplishments before we’re fully awake.