When we moved to our two bedroom apartment, our daughter had just celebrated her first birthday and I had been sleeping in our living room for the past 6 months. I had also recently gotten my hands on some books about Dr. Maria Montessori and her philosophy of raising and educating children. Needless to say, I was hooked. It is, however, always easier to do external activities than make internal changes so instead of sitting quietly and observing my daughter to learn of her current interests and skills, I dismantled her newly set up crib. My ever-supportive husband with one raised eyebrow looked on as I put our little girl down to nap on the crib mattress which lay directly on the carpet of her bedroom floor. And guess what? She slept!
Our daughter has for the most part always been a sleeper that parents hope for, and if she stays awake, she has access to her toys and books and goes to bed when she’s ready. Her room is safe for her to explore, but we did eventually get a video baby monitor from a friend only because often she would be awake and playing, but quietly, so I would be waiting for her to wake up so we could go run errands, not knowing that she had been up for an hour playing independently!
I don’t like going to bed when I’m not ready to sleep yet, and as I read more about RIE, which coincides so much with what I believe from my Catholic faith about the dignity of the human person, I don’t want to make her go to bed when she’s not ready either. For my own sanity, for the sake of our marriage, and for our daughter to learn to adjust to the routines of our family, we do lead her to her bed around the same times every day. We tell her beforehand that it is time to rest. A few minutes later we tell her it’s time to tidy her room, because if it is at all disorganized, she won’t sleep, but will want to play! If it’s nighttime, we help get her pajamas on her, say a prayer and/or sing a song, bless each other with holy water, and then it’s time to lie down. If she is tired, she will lie down on her own, usually. We simply then tuck her in and give her a kiss. If she is not tired or tired, but cranky, we let her know that it’s time to rest and she can read or play with her toys, but that we are going to leave her alone and shut the door and that her “bebé” is going to sleep now and when she’s ready she can join her in bed. Sometimes there are brief tears, but more often than not is painless.
If we can hear/see her staying up for an extended period of time playing or sitting by the door, knocking and saying, “Mamá! Mommy! Mamá! Meemah!”, it generally means she has soiled her diaper with a number two so we change it and she then goes right down on her own.
When her little brother is born, he will stay in our room as long as that works for all of us, and then he will be in a crib, sharing a room with his sister. We will get her a twin at that time, so we don’t have to upgrade anymore as she grows. I’m glad I didn’t just toss the crib when I first read about floor beds, because the room would not be safe for both children if they were unsupervised all night without barriers between them (my toddler already smothers her doll with love, blankets, and sometimes her own body, so I’m going to keep my eye on her when her baby brother is around!). From what I’ve read, we will probably take down the crib and move our son to a floor bed when he is 18 months old, because by that age he will be able to defend himself against his older sister! But we will take it one day at a time, making sure to keep them safe, and trying to be present in every moment!