The three-year-old has never had her own bed. The boys slept in my bed ‘til they were about one, then moved easily (ish) into their own rooms. Little B reversed the process. A brilliant sleeper at first, she had a Moses basket, then a cot in which she slumbered peacefully. But at six months she started waking all through the night, and so started coming into our bed. Soon it became ‘mine and mummy’s’ bed, while long-suffering husband moved into the spare room. ‘This is where me and mummy sleep,’ she tells visitors busily. If they ask where Daddy sleeps, she looks bored.
But now it’s time to gently steer her towards the next stage of her development – the mighty independence of her own room. So, a trip to Ikea. ‘You can pick your very own bed. Any bed you like’ (me, trying to whip up an atmosphere of enthusiasm). ‘Can my new bed go in our already room?’ (her, suspiciously). ‘No love, this is for your very own room’ (hysterical cheery inflection on ‘very own’). ‘No thanks, I’ll just stay in our already room’ (her, losing interest, wandering over to examine a plush velvet carrot with eyes and smiley mouth); ‘can I have this though?’
We bought a bed anyway, and a new duvet cover and pillow case, and a kind of collapsible trunk to go under the bed and store stuff in. My inner Arab Grandmother (I really do have one, I’m not being racist) fought with my more pragmatic self over the size of the bed. The inner Arab Grandmother was horrified at the extravagance of buying a cute little bed that the child would grow out of in a couple of years, and wanted to get something she could have until she leaves home at the age of 38, and squash friends into when they get old enough to need to hide out in each other’s houses because they are too drunk on alco-pops to go home. But the pragmatist reasoned, ‘no, it needs to be cute and little and appealing, because that way she might actually sleep in it.’ The success of the mission clearly depended on acceptance of a certain impracticality.
Bed home and assembled (it took much longer than that in real life of course). Three-year-old delighted with it. She put so many dolls and teddies into it, there wasn’t a scrap of room for her, said she loved it ‘and I will sleep here every night.’
Bedtime. ‘I don’t want to sleep there. I want to sleep in our bed, with you mummy’ (pitiful wail). ‘But this is such a lovely bed, why don’t you want to sleep here?’ (me, faking calm reasoning voice). ‘Because I’m scared…’ long pause, eyes casting around desperately... ‘I’m scared of…’ more pause. ‘I’m scared of foxes’ (triumphantly).
So that’s it. She’s scared of foxes. Although I’m not sure she’s ever seen one. We’ve tried the expert tips: make the child’s room inviting, put her favourite toys in there, encourage her to play in the room … all of which works just fine, by day. Come night, like a nervy racehorse, she will not go into that bed from any angle, nor subject to any bribe or cajolery. I may eventually have to blindfold her and lead her in. Meanwhile, I’ve decided to shelve the move for the moment – any mention of ‘sleeping in your own bed’ is beginning to provoke hysteria – on the basis that discretion is the better part of valour. But this is a strategic retreat, mind, not an admission of defeat.