I managed to keep Lil out of our bed for a few years, but when I was pregnant and overwhelmed at the prospect of the sleepless nights that lay ahead of me, I decided there was NO WAY I was going to sleep train my four-year-old AGAIN. I spent the first 10 months of her life trying to get the child to sleep more than 3 hours in a row and then spent the next 10 months trying to get her to fall asleep without me present in the room. She quit napping a year or two before most kids and has required less sleep than the average child since day one. Even when she's very tired, it takes her a long time to wind down. She's quite skilled at negotiating how much time we will spend tucking her in at night and relentless with her seemingly endless bedtime requests. "Tonight you're going to cuddle with me for two minutes, rub my back for five, and then lay with me for 2 minutes." I turn this nightly routine into a math lesson so as to not lose my mind. When my shift is over she whispers, "Now get Daddy. Get me five buddies. Leave the hall light on and don't close the door all the way!" If she gets up to use the bathroom, she isn't satisfied until someone tucks her in again and gives her more buddies. She then spends 20 minutes or so bossing her stuffed animals around. One night, rubbing her eyes sleepily she moaned, "I hate sleeping," confirming what I'd suspected since birth. When her friends were transitioning to 'big kid beds,' I tried for a few nights to do the same, but after escorting her back to her own bed countless times, often kicking, screaming, and collapsing in a heap (her, not me), back in the crib she went. I kept her there until she was over four years old and she'd probably still be there today if it weren't for her brother's arrival. I'm also too cheap to buy a second crib.
During my last trimester of pregnancy, the beginning of last summer, Lilly seemed to sense my need for physical space, and in true spirited-child fashion, that made her even more determined to invade it. No matter how close she got, the baby remained physically closer, and she was determined to protect her territory. Her visits became even more regular when I made the mistake of warning her that I might go into labor in the middle of the night. Once Jonathan was born, he slept in a co-sleeper attached to our bed. Lil didn't want to miss anything and she certainly didn't want to be left out.
So, this is how it happened. I like to think of myself as persistent, but I have nothing on my first-born child. While Alan doesn't love having a child in our bed, he certainly isn't about to have his sleep interrupted trying to correct it. She's going to start Kindergarten in the fall and we figure she won't be in our bed FOREVER. At some point, she will roll her eyes at the thought of sleeping with her embarrassing, out-of-touch parental units. I'm not terribly eager for that time to come. Having a child sleep in our bed HAS to be less annoying than living with a teenager will inevitably be.
Having a second child with a completely different personality than the first has given me some perspective as well. Jonathan has no interest in sleeping in our bed. Even when he's teething and miserable, he seems to prefer tossing and turning in his crib. From the beginning, he has gone down for naps easily and seemed to enjoy sleeping more than his sister. He isn't a nursing connoisseur and only does so for the calories. In many ways, Jonathan is an easier baby than Lil was, but in other ways, he's not. Lil never put anything in her mouth, and he isn't satisfied until he has mouthed every piece of bark on the playground. Lil wasn't fond of outlets, power cords, or slamming doors. She didn't walk at 10 months and she was much more cautious than her rambunctious brother.
I'm now keenly aware that life flies by in seconds. In ten years, the dog may still be in our bed, but I'm pretty certain there will be room for me on the left.