Last night Sophie and I stayed up so very late talking. And about a half hour after her brother had fallen asleep next to her, he reached over and with the softest, softest hands he pulled himself to her. She shrugged her shoulder away and giggled a bit at his somnolent embrace. His hand gently reached out again, seeking beyond her to touch me. For a few minutes of the nicest possible dance my boy moved close to my girl and put his hand out to us both and so clearly sought us in his sleep.
I wish my husband would come take a picture of us in the morning. By “us”, I mean those who don’t get up as early as he, the remaining three Hogabooms who share the king-sized mattress in the master bedroom (our modest little rental doesn’t really have a “master” anything, but by this phrase I mean, technically, the room with the parents’ bed, not the kids’ bed). Actually, while I’m at it, maybe part of my point is there isn’t a master bedroom, because most every single night the kids sleep with us or halfway through the night come from the couch or the bunkbed and crawl right in with us. I can’t remember the last time I woke in a bed alone.
Speaking of which – back when my kids were babies I wish I’d have not wasted time and effort and thought on the whole, Is it okay to sleep with your kids debate. No really, there is an actual debate about this stuff, at least in the middle upper class obsessive parenting bullshit circles I’ve found myself in, and no I won’t link to countless examples of the intricacies of this worthless conversation but suffice to say: it exists, and many very good people are caught up in needless worry and self-judgment on all sides of the arguments. The main gist of so many proponents of de rigeur nighttime separation seems to be that there are “boundaries” in life and your kids need to learn to respect these, and if they don’t sleep alone at a certain (very young: in terms of months) age then they won’t grow to be independent.* Which is so completely, completely ridiculous, inasmuch that one aspect of familial habit could so hugely influence something as complex as a child’s independence. But I won’t go into that whole “making your kid independent” thing that so many parents, sadly, believe is their weighted and mighty task. I will merely say I have loved, loved sharing sleep time with all the members of the family – it is seriously years and years (so far) of wonderful, tender memories for me (the only exception to family-sleeping bliss: the cat(s) when they are exceptionally farty, Mable, everyone’s looking at you!).
So what I wanted to say originally: in the morning by the time I’m about to wake up (often around nine AM) I am at the east side of the bed and the kids are smashed, absolutely smashed, against me. In sleep they have chased me across the berth for my warmth, or the comfort of their mother (because I’m the cloth-wrapped one, not the wire one), or whatever it is they seek. Often Nels has pulled some sneaky-ass move where he’s shoehorned himself in between myself and whoever is next to me – Ralph, Sophie – and is occupying that space whether the other party has shoved over or no. Since we have a rather large bed the kids’ nocturnal gravitation towards me means that to the left of the terminal child there is a good six feet or so of empty bed. Which a cat (or two) has often decided to take advantage of.
Each weekday morning after Ralph has left for work I escape this embrace and slip out of bed. I love getting my coffee, taking a shower, washing the dishes, starting some food (today: chocolate fudge cookies, a homemade cream of tomato soup with fresh tomatoes, tuna fish sandwiches), knitting or reading a bit, then looking in on my sleeping children. They are truly lovely, and peaceful and having those few moments to see them safe and cared for is like a deep draught of a lovely drug. Watching them sleep and thinking of how wonderful and free and amazing their lives are, or at least have been to this point, and in those moments I feel incredibly fulfilled.
* Fairness compels me to add: I have heard many claim that parents who choose not to sleep with their young child(ren) are committing an injury tantamount to a profound abandonment; as if a child cannot suffer some sorrow and loneliness (indeed, as humans it is our lot to have an awful big portion of both at times), or perhaps as if parenthood is some sort of massive undertaking where every damn decision counts so very much for your child’s sense of self-worth – and you’d better make the right one or risk their entire future!
Hey Kelly, thanks for this post. My husband and I were just ruining a beautiful morning walk crabbing at each other about this…I love waking up with a snuggling baby and he is sure we’re spoiling him (at nine months old) and crazy me is sure that baby’s future heroin habit depends on what what we do or don’t do now. Thanks for some perspective and the vision of your sweet, sleepy kiddos.
I found your blog through my (real life) mama pal JJ.
Carrie, I’m so glad to have helped in any way. You know, in a family you have to think about EVERYONE’S feelings – kids, partners. And the individual needs of the family – yes, baby’s too – might mean you sleep here or there or separate or together. But you don’t have to worry about spoiling a kid or making an un-independent kid by being together at night. My kids have logged YEARS in our beds and are the most rough and tough little scrappers I know.
You know JJ IRL! I am rather jealous. 🙂
I’m so glad my brother and sister in law never fought the fight either. They sleep with their infant son and it’s a lovely thing for their whole family. And thank God my mother just keeps her mouth shut, because it works for them.
That photo is gorgeous.
I sleep and bathe with my son and he is still nursing at 18 months. Some of my loved ones, though they would never tell me what to do, do seem to subscribe to some of the theories of baby autonomy (!!) that you describe here. I’m not about to change any of my parenting practices but I am more vulnerable to some of these opinions than I would generally care to admit. It’s nice to be able to smile equivocally and say, “this is just what we do at our house.” Thanks for reminding me that I can do that!
Medrie, it is very, VERY easy to be vulnerable. I am still surprised when I remember just how many social forces descend on a new parent – especially a new *female* parent – the moment their child is born. My kids breastfed until 3 and 2 years resp. and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There are valid reasons for weaning earlier or kicking a baby out of bed, but the idea of these arrangements de facto harming a child in any way is hogwash.
Besides… oh man, how the time does fly. That baby will be up and about and no longer nursing soon enough.
Thank you for your comments, K8, Medrie.