Finding Ninee » Sharing our parenting and special needs stories with heart and humor.

My Not-So-Little Boy Wants to Sleep Alone and I Don’t Know How That Makes Me Feel

“I want to sleep alone,” he said. “Please leave.” I remember hoping for similar words in the past, but on this night, I was sad. Unprepared. “Don’t you want song tickles?” I’ve been tickling my son’s back while singing the same two songs to him since the day I brought him home and wondered whether he’d ever get what he needed from my body and from this life.

“I’m good,” he said. “I’m brave.” He patted my arm and rolled over. “Leave the door open though.” 

When my son was three, four, five and then six, I read about moms whose kids wandered out of bed asking for another glass of water, a tissue, a pillow-flip.

“She said she had to pee again,” they said. “Can you believe it? It’s 9pm! What tricks do your children pull at bedtime?” I could hear the collective groans and giggled when they shared Samuel L Jackson reading “Go The F*ck to Sleep.”

I love hearing Samuel L sing-songing swear words in his that voice as much as the next human does but wondered instead at how that worked. Leaving a kid in his bed and walking away while he was awake?

I’d never done that. When my son was a baby, I didn’t believe in having him “cry it out.”  “Babies cry because they need something,” I said to anybody who asked which wasn’t often anybody at all.

Today, I wonder whether kids with special needs want to sleep alone later than typical ones do. Whether that even matters.


Things were different in 1968. Women didn’t often keep babies without a husband to support them, and most moms were ashamed of pregnant teenaged daughters. Babies given up for adoption were in orphanages or in church-sponsored group homes. Birth mothers signed papers, sometimes found out the baby’s sex or touched a cheek while whispering goodbye.

I guess they took whatever medicine they had back then to quiet their screaming breasts and broken hearts.

I don’t know what my life was like from birth until I was eight days old and went home with my forever family. Did I scream for my mother’s milk or was I content with formula? Was I held? Did somebody sing to me? I’ll never likely have answers. It’s likely that wondering about them helped to form my beliefs about my son never crying for me.


The first thing I did when we brought our newborn home was to introduce him to my dog Chief who was my baby before I had a baby. I’d sent my husband home with our son’s newborn shirt the night before. I worried about Chief being jealous and possessive, although I shouldn’t have wasted time on those thoughts. That dog of mine welcomed my son as part of me from minute one.

Special shepherd accepts baby even though mom was nervous

Even before he was born.

sweet dog sniffs pregnant womans belly with special needs son

The second thing I did was to carry my newborn around the house, Chief following closely behind. “This is where we eat,” I said. “It’s called a kitchen.”

“This is our couch, and when you’re bigger, you can play on this mat.” I took him upstairs, and showed him where he’d sleep for a few months, and where he’d sleep after that. “See your bedroom?” I said. “Daddy painted the monkey on the wall.”

I held him and sang to him until he slept at night, and when I failed at not waking him while settling him down, I repeated.

I got up when he cried.

After all, I didn’t know what happened to me for eight days. I’m sure it was nothing awful, but this was something I could be sure of. My baby would never cry alone wondering where I was.


“Mommy, stay with me forever,” he said, grabbing my hand and wrapping it more tightly around his tummy. He was six. There were nights I heard my keyboard calling and the voices from the bathroom wall laughing, and yet I stayed. I stayed because I want to remember this.


He’d be turning seven years old at almost 11pm the following night. It was his birthday eve, and we’d stayed up watching fireworks. The hotel room beds were small and I slept with him while my husband was an arm’s length away. It seemed fitting to sleep with my son kicking me from the outside rather than from the inside the way he’d done the same night seven years before.

Morning called, and the blinds grew thicker with sunlight.

“Mommy!” he whispered.

“Happy birthday, Baby,” I said, eyes still closed.

“No,” he said. “Because look. I didn’t get bigger,” showing me his foot.

“Hmmm,” I said, sniffly after the crappy air conditioning had been blowing up my nose all night. “Let me see your hand.”

He held up his hand, and I held up mine. Palm to palm. “I think your hands grew,” I said. He giggled, and agreed while sliding his fingers up further so that the place between our palms and wrists grew wider.


This summer, my forever-changing from baby to little-boy to bigger-boy turned seven. I recently promised to tell you all about his celebration, about gem mines on a hot summer’s day, and about the most epic Minecraft birthday cake ever. And I will. 

Tonight though, I need to say that this summer has been the first with nights that don’t include lying in my son’s bed with his head on my stomach. I also know that summer is sometimes about eating a hotdog. 

sometimes summer is about eating a hotdog

This summer is the one in which I hopefully learn to explain that not liking a behavior doesn’t mean not liking him. It’s already the first summer he’s forgotten to ask whether he can go downstairs before going downstairs at a too-early hour in the morning.

This summer feels big, and amazing, and while I jump for joy at milestones met by some peers years before, it also feels a little bit sad. After all, it wasn’t that many summers ago when I he was two, and I said “I think something’s wrong.

Which also somehow means that it’s not that far in the future when I stand next to a boy who is taller than I. He will, I know, give me unseen wonders and magic that I’ll never be ready for but will always embrace. Because this summer, and every summer, is also always about Now. I want to remember the Now as much as the before.


This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. To link up, simply answer the sentence “This summer…”

It’s been a pretty heartbreaking couple of weeks for sure. This week’s Finish the Sentence Friday prompt is pretty open and will hopefully inspire you to do whatever it is that you need to with your words. Talk about something that makes you laugh or a great summer memory. Talk about why the events of this summer leave you hollow or inspired to do something. Talk about whatever you want to. We’re reading. 


Your host: (moi) Kristi from Finding Ninee

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  • Louise - First off, happy 7th birthday! Next – yes – it all goes so fast and this was a beautiful telling of the memories looking back as you enjoy now, celebrate (but mourn a little) the changes and increasing independence, and consider the future.July 14, 2016 – 11:07 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thanks Louise! I really can’t believe he’s seven already. It feels like it’s just going way too fast (of course, there were days when he was two when I called my husband at 3pm to see when he was coming home because I couldn’t imagine what we’d do for the next four hours! Aye.July 15, 2016 – 6:45 pmReplyCancel

      • Louise - Oh, I remember those days on mat leave… There were days I couldn’t wait for my husband to get home so there was someone else available to help with our daughter. But those memories are (mostly) blurred out by the cuddly/cute memories 🙂July 15, 2016 – 10:11 pmReplyCancel

        • Kristi Campbell - Me too. Those days were crazy hard and also crazy beautiful when we look back at them. I guess all of life must be that way… and yeah, the cuddly/cute moments? Worth everything forever. When they were little commas on our chests. xoJuly 15, 2016 – 11:15 pmReplyCancel

  • Marcia @Menopausalmom - I can’t believe he is already seven, Wow. They grow up in the blink of an eye. Cherish the moments.July 14, 2016 – 11:50 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I can’t believe he’s seven either Marcia. Sigh. I’m trying to cherish the moments. Even when they involve another playground while mosquitos make me their buffet. 🙂July 15, 2016 – 7:58 pmReplyCancel

  • Ruchira Khanna - Wow! seven years.
    Kristi Rieger Campbell I still remember him as a toddler and now he wants to be left alone to sleep…he is geting his wings thanks to your love 🙂

    Happy Birthday to the little champ!
    xoxoJuly 15, 2016 – 3:00 amReplyCancel

  • Emily - I’m such a dog lover that the photo of T with Chief is just…wow. If I have time today, I’m going to do this prompt – I need to write again and I’ve been so distracted by the busy-ness of my summer! Anyway, that’s a big step that he wants to sleep alone – for both of you. 🙂July 15, 2016 – 8:43 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I know Emily! That photo blows me away still. ARGH I miss Chief. I really hope you’ll write to it – I miss you. Also, no pressure of course but the linkup is open until Sunday late afternoon. xoJuly 15, 2016 – 8:06 pmReplyCancel

  • Blooming Autism - I totally get it. Mine was 7 in March. Why does it seem like they suddenly grew up so much, 7 seems such a scary age 🙁 Love the eating hot dog pic lol xxxxxJuly 15, 2016 – 9:01 amReplyCancel

  • Lisa @TheGoldenSpoons - Aw! Those milestones are so bittersweet, aren’t they??? My middle has been on a youth group mission trip this week – her first time away from home this long without me. I’ve been equally proud of what she is doing and worried about her all week. Bittersweet.

    Yay for Tucker and hugs to you!July 15, 2016 – 11:20 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Oh Lisa! SOOSOOOSOSOS bittersweet! Gulp. I remember going to camp when I was oh… maybe seven???? It was Girl Scout camp for a week at first. I loved it so much that I went year after year, eventually ending up at another camp for 5 weeks each summer. I know camp and mission trips are a little different but really, it’s about them being alone and experiencing things without you. I’ll bet she’s having a blast (and yes, very very bittersweet). XO and huge hugs back!July 15, 2016 – 8:08 pmReplyCancel

  • Kelly L McKenzie - Huge milestone, Kristi! Huge. And a sad one, too, for mom. We want them to grow up, we really do, and yet … I saw a little fellow toddling along on the seawall yesterday and my heart flopped. He walked just like my lad did some 18 or 19 years earlier. I couldn’t have told you how my son walked when he was little. I’ve forgotten. However, this little fellow brought it all back to me.
    And Chief? What a gem. Our black lab Fergus, took one look at my newborn daughter and gave me a quick “What is it and how long is it staying?” He passed away in 2010 and Oscar (golden retriever) and now Poppy have graced our lives since. Can’t imagine living without them.July 15, 2016 – 11:58 amReplyCancel

  • Kelly L McKenzie - Huge milestone, Kristi! Huge. And a sad one, too, for mom. We want them to grow up, we really do, and yet … I saw a little fellow toddling along on the seawall yesterday and my heart flopped. He walked just like my lad did some 18 or 19 years earlier. I couldn’t have told you how my son walked when he was little. I’ve forgotten. However, this little fellow brought it all back to me.
    And Chief? What a gem. Our black lab Fergus, took one look at my newborn daughter and gave me a quick “What is it and how long is it staying?” He passed away in 2010 and Oscar (golden retriever) and now Poppy have graced our lives since. Can’t imagine living without them.July 15, 2016 – 11:58 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Wow, Kelly – the toddler walking just like yours had… it’s funny what makes us remember. Sometimes, it’s a scent or a song. Or a place. I love that you saw your little one in another’s toddle. Bittersweet.
      And yeah, Chief was The Best Dog Ever. I miss him. xoxo to Fergus and Oscar and Poppy. I know what you mean.July 15, 2016 – 8:25 pmReplyCancel

  • JT Walters - Good for Tucker and ultimately good for you that he wants to sleep alone but don’t be surprised if when he gets sick or you get sick he wants to sleep together. Alex finally graduated to his own bed but when either of us is not well he is right back to sleeping in the same bed. He is a wrestles sleeper, cold feet touching me and he digs his feet into me.

    I think there is something very healing about taking a nap with your child. My Mom used to say, “Alex crawled back into the womb every night.” Now he only does it either of us are sick.

    This year has been record breaking for sickness in our area so Alex has been sick a lot and so have I. We’ll be good for a decade after this though.

    This summer we have spent so much time learning to communicate, studying Tesla, studying Chemistry, and my goal was to involve Alex in the political process. He is sixteen. He needs to listen to the candidates and not the ads, distinguish between their platforms, and learn how to vote. This is an important part of our democracy. I had to toss the “American Agovernment” book when it claimed the people elect the president. Congress elects the president in the electoral college. My son now knows this. He gets to elect Congress and other representatives. This is the last election cycle I have before he is old enough to vote.

    He attended an NAACP candidate forum and the another candidate forum. I told him…if the message is different based on the audience they are unpredictable candidates. Our sheriff was consistent and I am not wild about him but I have to give home credit for being consistent across audiences.

    This year I involved Alex in politics to teach him about the political process in our country because in less than two years, he votes. I have also had him practice on ballots. He already understands the ballots because during the last election he helped me with mine.

    Unfortunately, through all this political congregation Alex has become ill. So my almost grown man what’s his Mom when he is sick.

    I never let Alex cry it out either and I hate people who suggest it. Alex cried, he needed his Mom and he got her. I will tell you he never sucked a pacifier or his thumb. He always had the security of knowing his Mom would be there for him and here I sit today.July 15, 2016 – 2:09 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Gah, JT, I’d be heartbroken if when he’s sick that he wouldn’t want me to sleep with him!!! I miss taking naps with Tucker. I didn’t say in the post because I thought it was getting long but he didn’t nap alone (in his own bed) until he was like 16 months or something. I just never wanted him to cry and it was very easy to lie him down next to me, and then to sneak off when I needed to do something (or to read a book or sleep myself when I didn’t).
      You rock with the studying and home schooling.
      Tucker never had a pacifier or sucked his thumb either. I sucked my thumb until I was six.July 15, 2016 – 9:39 pmReplyCancel

      • JT Walters - You are an awesome Mom. I know it is hard to be at work missing your son but wanting the autonomy and social advancement of a career but you clearly have your priorities straight. I think you will never have any regrets.

        I think it is because we did not let them cry it out and breastfed them they did not suck their thumbs. Me until I was in the fourth grade. The day after my Mom threw my Dad out of the house I stopped.

        After living through my parents marriage and subsequent divorce which was worse, I never had fear again.

        Tucker will want you when he is feeling weak or is scared. That seems to be the only days my son loves me as a teenager. The rest of the days he is trying to over throw me and pull off a coup??

        He did sleep in my bed last night as he still isn’t feeling well. He will be on there again tonight if he still needs smoother mother love. It heals everything!! Kristi, you are doing exactly what Tucker needs even allowing him autonomy when he wants it.

        It is a very bitter sweet thing to watch our boys grow to you men. I often miss my baby, Alex, who adored me. But as they become more independent, even Alex, he needs me less. I get, “Cable is out. Fix the cable. I want my music videos.” This is said by handing me the remote and I explain the cable is out so he hands me the cell.

        No regrets sweets this is a really positive happy post but Iu destined.July 15, 2016 – 10:41 pmReplyCancel

        • Kristi Campbell - YOU are an awesome mom. I only work part-time. Sometimes, I wonder at how different life would be if I didn’t quit my job when he was born… we’d have more money but I’d know him less and I’ll take knowing him over money every day.
          I agree about the crying and thumb sucking. My littlest brother sucked his fingers until they blistered because my mom was really sick when he was born.
          I will look forward to the nights when Tucker still wants me to sleep with him, but also knowing he’s growing up *SOB* (and yes, I know it’s good)July 15, 2016 – 11:22 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - This was sweet but I can’t believe you were dismissed 🙁 I love that you have it documented. Most times that thing you do stops and then you forget when it stopped. Christopher STILL sleeps with a light on. Even though I did let Christopher cry it out, I totally get why you didn’t let Tucker cry it out. Different strokes for different folks 😉 I won’t make Christopher sleep without a light. And he accidently left Teddy behind (at home) for the first time EVER and I went an bought him someone else (currently named question mark) to sleep with the next day.July 15, 2016 – 3:38 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I can’t believe I was dismissed either. Like for real!!! And most things, I don’t really have documented. I did a great job of all of it with scrap books and notes but then I started blogging… which I guess is a document in itself but still. The other day somebody asked me when Tucker finally started doing #2 in the potty. It was SUCH a HUGE deal, and yet… I wasn’t 100% positive. I Know it was almost a year after #1 happened… and I remember him hiding to do it in his diaper and then later waiting until naptime when he HAD a diaper on… but was he 3?
      And to the sleepie loves. Tucker has so many… right now he HAS TO snuggle with his 2 Minecraft buddies, Spiderman, his Tennessee Dog Pillow, and a snowman that started as a Christmas decoration and now is “Snowy.”
      I don’t think I’ll ever think he’s too old for that stuff. I remember sleeping with a childhood Winnie into high school. Comfort it comfort.
      I’d like to know what Christopher names the someone else who is question mark now…July 15, 2016 – 9:44 pmReplyCancel

  • Kerry - Happy Birthday Tucker.
    Seven years ago summer took on a whole new and unforgettable meaning for you.
    I guess, seven is the “I can sleep by myself” year, officially, at least in your family.
    With all the bad happening in the world, nice to read about the love that exists. This is one of those posts full of love.July 15, 2016 – 10:33 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Aw Kerry,
      So much love to you (and I will get you those questions soon I promise because this is going to be “epic” as Tucker likes to say).
      Seven is huge for me. xoxo to the love existing in the world. Too much bad, and too hard to process or even write about.July 15, 2016 – 11:24 pmReplyCancel

  • Lizzi Lewis - I guess it’s a bittersweet kind of wonderful to watch him grow, and to have been so intimately a part of his everything, and see the ways he’s developing his autonomy and asking you to step back. It means you’re doing an amazing job as a parent. It means he feels safe and secure enough to not need you RightThere, and that’s wonderful, as are his milestones.

    But I know it hurts, and I know that being a good parent is probably one of the most difficult, complex, and demanding things on the planet. I’m glad you’re doing it well. All your efforts will go into shaping the content of his character, his outlook, his ability to cope with life, and all I can say is, so far, so very, very good.

    Hooray for Seven, and summers still big enough to contain the whole world.July 15, 2016 – 11:12 pmReplyCancel

  • Mo at Mocadeaux - My daughter always needed some extra help and comfort to fall asleep. I stayed because, like you, I wanted to remember that time spent with her. She is now 31 and I promise you, the memories are oh so sweet!July 16, 2016 – 9:11 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thank you so much for the reminder. It’s funny – when our kids are babies and people say “REMEMBER THIS” we’re like um duh while just wishing for sleep and then they get older? And OMG I just wish he’d want me to stay!!July 17, 2016 – 11:56 pmReplyCancel

  • Hillary Savoie - Oh. This. Kristi. I too have never understood that other parents just put their kids in bed read some books and kiss them and then say goodnight. My daughter is 5 1/2 and still sleeps in a crib. So I rock her every night. Sometimes for hours. I’ve always felt like it was this weird ritual that others couldn’t understand. There are times I’ve really wished it was easier, shorter–and she cries so much so often because she cannot tell me that she needs something. But I haven’t imagined that odd longing that must come when she won’t need or want me to do this for her…how beautiful. how sad.July 17, 2016 – 11:54 amReplyCancel

  • Nicki - Such beautiful words as always, Kristi! I love this: “Because this summer, and every summer, is also always about Now.”
    Happy 7th birthday to Tucker! My boy is turning 15 next week, and is towering above me in every way. Hard to remember the little boy I lay next to at night, but reading your lovely post brought those memories back with a smile. Thank you! <3July 17, 2016 – 12:09 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - NIX! Hi hi hi,
      And thank you. Here’s to remembering and to cherishing because both can be so damn hard. xoJuly 18, 2016 – 12:02 amReplyCancel

  • Tamara - A hot dog for sure. And ice cream!! That’s summer.
    My kids have actually always been decent about falling asleep. I just put them down and walk away. For real! It’s less easy as Scarlet gets older and wants more back scratches to to stay up past summer sunset.
    Des is the exact age I was when my father died so I think a lot about him overnight. If he even stirs, I’m generally awake and by his bedside. It’s funny how our infant and toddler experiences can change our parenting, and at different times.July 17, 2016 – 4:11 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - FOR REAL you just walk away for sleep??? I’ve never been able to do that (jealous) and Scarlet’s back scratches – did you know it’s the number one thing that releases oxytocin? Lizzi told me that as she’s studying for massage school.
      And of course you’d be affected and check on Des. Life is wonderful and horrible and all the betweens and all of it changes how we parent I guess. xoxoJuly 18, 2016 – 12:05 amReplyCancel

  • Dana - I remember feeling like 7 was such a big step from 6 – more so than some other years. I also look back on “lasts” that I didn’t realize were lasts at the time – watch for those, because I wish I had known. My baby will be 15, and overnight (literally, last night) he started getting facial hair. Hold me, Kristi.July 17, 2016 – 5:58 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - What IS IT about SEVEN? Because it’s like from little kid to kid, just like that. And OMG so holding you Dana. LAST NIGHT he got facial hair? SO SO holding you. Also lunch soon yes?July 18, 2016 – 12:07 amReplyCancel

  • Allie - You break my heart with the eight days, you really do. Tonight is Cammy’s birthday eve and I can’t believe it. It freaks me out. Nine:). So glad y’all are have a big beautiful summer. xoxo, AllieJuly 19, 2016 – 12:58 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Sorry Allie but I mostly turned out okay so it couldn’t have been all that awful 🙂
      and NINE!?!?! NINE. Oh nine. Being nine feels so young though too. It’s just no longer four, ya know? xoxoxoJuly 19, 2016 – 4:14 pmReplyCancel

  • My Inner Chick - O! M! G!

    The photo of Tucker & Chief is freaking PRICELESS))) xxxJuly 20, 2016 – 12:53 pmReplyCancel

  • Christine Carter - Oh my… I think this is one of my favorites. You pulled me in, as you always do- with your gorgeous words and world. I adore being invted into your heart. I feel like I am walking alongside you and your precious growing Tucker as you share the beauty and milestones of your journey with him. Ah, what an enormous gift you share with us all!!

    Here’s to more summers, more changes and shifts and reflections on all the NOWS and past cherished moments that linger on…July 24, 2016 – 3:57 pmReplyCancel

  • Jenny - Happy to read this. Thanks a lot for sharing.February 10, 2017 – 7:45 amReplyCancel

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