Friday, April 24, 2015

Ode to the Family Bed

This article just came across my social media feed, and it has me feeling especially nostalgic. Our family has undergone a pretty significant change over the last couple of months. We knew it would happen one day, but we had no idea when or how. Like most milestones, it's a bittersweet transition.

Our son has just begun sleeping in his own bed, in his own room.

He's 9 years old.

For the last 9 years, Alex has slept with us. We didn't plan to adopt a family-bed lifestyle, but on Alex's second night at home, my need for sleep and his need for milk far outweighed societal expectations. A co-sleeping family was born.

The literature was rife with polarized opinions on the topic. I imagine it still is, but I stopped reading about the pros and cons of co-sleeping after my first week of semi-rested motherhood. My husband was on board from the beginning. We both welcomed extra baby-snuggling time after working all day, and we all wanted our sleep. I filed it under, "Things That Work for Our Family: Parenting books be damned."

Nighttime became sacred bonding time. Almost every single night for the first few years, Alex and I would both wake up around 2am. He'd cuddle up, and I would kiss his chocolate-chip-cookie scented head. In the soft glow of a nightlight, I marveled at the inch-long shadows his eyelashes cast on round chubby cheeks. As he dozed, the rhythm of his breath and the "tchk-tchk" noise of his pacifier became my lullaby.

If Alex had a cold or an ear infection, I would wake at the first sign of a fever. Later, when he began to have growing pains, his fitful little kicks would alert one of us to fetch the ibuprofen from the bedside drawer right before he murmured, "ouch." If he cried out during a nightmare, we were both right there to comfort and reassure him that it was only a dream.

When he grew so big that our queen-sized bed began to feel crowded, we went out and bought a king-sized bed. The notion of his sleeping anywhere else became a running joke--one of us would halfheartedly suggest it, he'd say, "No!" and we'd all have a little laugh. Alex had his own room with his own bed, but in our house, the little one slept in the middle, and that was that.

Then, a few weeks after his ninth birthday, our now-lanky boy with not-so-chubby cheeks began to complain that he wasn't getting good sleep. He said he was "too scrunched" to sleep well. I finally asked him if he thought he'd sleep better in his own bed.

He said yes.

That night, he reminded me to put fresh sheets on his bed. At bedtime, he gave goodnight kisses, crawled into his bed, and went to sleep.

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