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June 1, we started having Kaitlyn and McKenna share a room. It has been three weeks. Overall, things have gone very smoothly and I am happy with where things are. I though I would share what we did and have done, and how the process has gone.
Preparing for any major milestone event helps make the process smoother. I have learned this from potty training, transitioning to a big kid bed, starting a new activity, etc. I figured this would be no different.
First, I asked around for advice. I asked here on the blog and got a whole lot of great advice from you readers. Thank you! I went through your comments with a piece of paper and pen in hand and wrote down the advice. My husband and I then went through it and talked out our game plan and what our rules would be.
An important step we took was to verbally prepare our girls. We actually started talking about it last February or so, and they have been counting down the days to this event. They were so excited. We would talk about the need to respect each other’s sleep and that you need to obey.
A great piece of advice a reader gave that I fully agreed with (hence our timing) was to make this big transition when everyone can lose sleep. Do not do it during the school year or right before some huge event that you want the children well-rested for. Know that sleep will be lost. If we had tried to do this when Kaitlyn needed her sleep for something (McKenna is young enough she doesn’t have any events going on in life, but Kaitlyn will be starting Kindergarten this fall), it would have stressed me to the max. This way I was only stressed to the upper third :).
To help get the girls excited, I redecorated certain elements in Kaitlyn’s room (we moved McKenna in with Kaitlyn) and had them involved in it. Kaitlyn had some things with her name on it that we made work for both (turned KAITLYN blocks into SISTERS for example). I spent two days before our first night moving McKenna into Kaitlyn’s room. I moved her clothes and toys over. The girls were excited to see things getting set up.
The first few nights were THE WORST of the process.
We got the girls ready for bed and then went over the sleeping rules with them. We had only three rules:
- Once lights are out, you must whisper
- Never wake a sleeping sister
- Stay in your bed
That is what we started with.
The first night, we got them down too late. They were at my parents for the day, then we were explaining rules to them and they were excited about the new room set up. We decided to shoot for the best case scenario in putting the girls down. A friend (holla Harmony!) had recommended I just put them down at the same time and let them get used to each other. While on vacation, we have always staggered, but sometimes the one you put down first takes a long time to fall asleep and the second one gets down way too late. We agreed that ideally, they would be able to go to sleep at the same time, especially with a baby coming. We didn’t want to be worrying about when to put down child number two while worrying about a new baby. The girls talked (but whispered so they followed the rule) for an hour after they were in bed. Then Kaitlyn woke at 6:40 (I was watching in the video monitor). McKenna soon followed.
They stayed in bed until the light turned green (Kaitlyn has a clock that turns green when she can get out of bed), so that was good. They were both quite emotional that morning–especially McKenna who rarely woke before 8 AM. They were both put down for a nap by 12:30 that day.
With the right perspective, I think it was a good first night. They obeyed the rules. The sleep wasn’t perfect. I expected that–that is why we are started 2.5 months before the baby is due. But it is still hard for me to see sleep lost. Also, when you are on the front end of anything, it is hard because you don’t know when it will get better. If I knew three nights would be hard and then things would be pretty perfect, I wouldn’t have worried so much, but I was worried. I worried if they would ever get it–what were we going to do if the girls stayed up late and woke up early every night?!?!? That would not work once school started. My husband was calm and just reminded me to be patient over and over. One of you needs to decide to be the calm and rational one–that is a must :).
I also had the great advice of many of you who said to give it time, and my friend Raegan even commented to give it two months. I kept that advice in mind while my logical self tried to tell my irrational self to chill out.
The second night, there was improvement. We made sure the girls were asleep early (more advice from a reader!) so that they could visit before falling asleep and still fall asleep at a good time. The both woke around 6:45 or so the next morning.
The third night, I gave Kaitlyn a new rule and she followed it perfectly. Her rule was to ignore McKenna. No matter what McKenna said or did, I told her to just lay there, close her eyes, and try to go to sleep. We changed our “whisper” rule to “no talking”–that is the rule for now. As they get used to sleeping together, we will allow for some visiting before falling asleep, but McKenna is a party girl. She likes to have fun, so if she gets to talk with Kaitlyn, she will.
I was very happy with the progress this night. Kaitlyn fell asleep before McKenna for the first time that night. McKenna is kind of noisy as she falls asleep (or was up to this point). She had this routine where she needed to sing loudly for a bit before she fell asleep. I was been worried about that leading up to room sharing. That night, Kaitlyn fell asleep and stayed asleep through the singing. Before that, she didn’t fall asleep until McKenna did first. That was a huge weight off my shoulders–I knew Kaitlyn could fall asleep even if McKenna was noisy and that meant there was hope this would all work.
I determined McKenna was having a hard time with the light from the sun. The sun goes down so late here this tine of year. It is light until about 10 pm. McKenna’s old room is super dark. When we moved into this house, I knew it was the perfect room for her because even as a newborn, she did not nap well if there was light in the room (my other kids napped with blinds open). Kaitlyn’s room is quite bright–one of the brightest in the house, which is perfect for her because she sleeps great with light. She kept falling asleep at 9:30 when the light got to be less outside.
The fourth night, falling asleep went well. The girls got to bed late because Brayden’s baseball game went until 8:30–which is 30 minutes later than we had been putting them down and we still had to come home and get ready for bed. Kaitlyn was asleep within five minutes. McKenna was very quiet until she was trying to figure out if Kaitlyn was asleep or not and was first whispering her name and then escalated to yelling it. Kaitlyn kept sleeping. My husband went in and told McKenna she was breaking two rules (“I am?!?!?”–she has those things memorized better than I do but obviously needed some application training). She then went right to sleep. Great success! I was happy to know Kaitlyn would sleep through McKenna yelling her name. This was another relief for me.
The next morning was not so great. McKenna visited me in my bed, woke me from some crazy dream, and asked where Daddy was at 6:15 AM. I asked what she was doing and she said she needed to go potty. I told her to sit on the potty (which she did and produced nothing). Kaitlyn was going potty. I was going to tuck McKenna in bed, and I was busy telling Kaitlyn to go back to sleep because it was still night when I realized that wouldn’t happen with them together. Just like the sun is up late, it is up early. It gets light in the 5 am hour so by 6:15 it is shiny and bright outside.
We had left McKenna’s bed set up in the other room just in case I needed to enforce some rules. I knew being separated would be a problem for McKenna. So I put McKenna in her old bed and told them both to go to sleep. McKenna was very upset and I told her she is supposed to stay in bed. She fell asleep and slept until 8:30. I knew I had a great power to hold over her if needed, and I knew that she would remember this separation and try to avoid it from happening again. But I was still not sold on the room sharing and that it would work out long-term. I spent time thinking about other options.
The fifth night,
the girls were perfect that night and the next morning! They both fell asleep quickly. McKenna didn’t need any rule reminding once she was in bed. They woke just before 7, saw the light wasn’t green, and tried to go back to sleep. They never did (light turns green at 7:15), but they tried and that is all I ask. So I was very happy and thought maybe it would work after all.
The sixth night, the girls fell asleep quickly and they slept past the light turning green the next morning. Victory!
Things have really only improved since.
One thing that helped McKenna a lot is that I made black-out curtains. Kaitlyn wanted a light pink front and a hot pink lining, so one day I was choosing which hot pink would help with the sun best. As I was doing it, Brayden was giving his input (he has an opinion about home decorating). He told me I needed to use black fabric if I wanted to block the sun. I agreed but wanted it to be colors that matched the room. He then said, “Why don’t you just put the black between the two pinks?” Genius! And I did. And the curtains are awesome. The sun is not a factor in anyone waking up nor not falling asleep at night.
Another big help was the placement of white noise. Most everyone with room sharing children seems to stress the importance of having white noise in the room. We had that. Once I moved it between the girls, though, morning sleep improved.
We told McKenna to sneak out if she woke up before Kaitlyn, and she did, but it always woke Kaitlyn up. One mornnig, Kaitlyn was awake and saw how McKenna sneaked, and we realized why. McKenna’s idea of “sneak” is not what the standard connotation of sneak is. She crouched as low as she could put her hands up, and basically stomped out of the room. We all got a good laugh out of that.
All in all, things have been good. They are learning to sleep through each other’s noises. I am learning how to accommodate two different people who like different sleep environments. Most nights we have zero issues. I now feel confident room sharing will work out great. The girls love sharing a room. An interesting thing is that McKenna falls asleep much faster because she has stopped singing to herself before falling asleep. She lays quiet and still to allow Kaitlyn to sleep, so she just falls asleep. Who would have thought sleep could even improve with room sharing?