The Benefits of Teaching a Child to Sleep Alone
by Robbie Rawls
My birth father left us when I was 18 months old. My Mom got a job with the telephone company. To make ends meet, she sold the tiny home we had lived in and moved in with my Grandmother and Granddad. Their house was a one bedroom, one bathroom home in Dallas, with a closed-in back porch. My crib just barely fit by the double bed where Mom slept and Grandmother and Granddad slept on the porch. Mom tells me that we would sleep holding hands through the crib railing until I was big enough to sleep in her bed with her. That continued until I turned 4 years old.
That year, my mom met and married my step-father and we were able to once again move into a home of our own, with two bedrooms! I LOVED my new "big girl" room, but found it very frightening to have to sleep in a big full bed in the dark all alone. Every night I would wake up and cry for my Mom to come sleep with me in my bed and she usually obliged. (No one had to "tell" me about this ... I remember vividly!) Finally, after many months of that, my new step-father had had enough of having his brand new wife of only a few months disappear each and every night from their bed. He sat me down and told me that I would have to "learn" to sleep alone, that Mom belonged in HIS bed with her husband, not with her daughter." They bought night lights. They bought really thick curtains so shadows outside would not scare me. They left the hall lights on at night for me, but nothing was working, I would wake up crying and calling for Mom to come to me. Finally, my new Dad took charge
and gave me a spanking that I can remember to this day. It left a mark on my little four-year old bottom and a strong impression in my mind that I was being disobedient and that I had to shape up.
So, I began the business of "self-soothing" and dealing with my fears head-on at the tender age of 4. Even though my parents rarely went to church, they always took me there faithfully every Sunday. I grew up with wonderful Sunday School teachers that taught me about Jesus, His love, and His readiness and willingness to comfort and protect me. They taught me about the power of prayer and of having faith in Christ. When my parents put me to bed at night, I immediately started to pray. I would pray about church and about the Bible. I would pray for my parents that they would go to church and worship with me. I would pray for me to be brave at night and to not see monsters creeping around in my room. I can also remember to this day, the vivid sensation I had that Jesus or my guardian angel was at the foot of my bed. If I woke up in the night, I would see shadows, I would catch my breath, but then, relax ... it was Jesus. He was never more real in my entire life than during those nights alone in my big girl bed.
I never once thought my new Dad was mean for spanking me. I never once thought my Mom loved me any less for refusing to join me in my bed. It was the opportunity of a lifetime ... I had to grow up a little, learn to sleep alone, in the scary dark room, but in doing so, found my Savior waiting to join me there.