Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bedtime Stories

For many years, I slept in my parents' bedroom. I don't know whether this was because I was an only child, or whether I was an only child because of this. I remember hearing my parents whispering in the dark, and making whispering noises—bsss, bsss, bsss—to let them know I was awake. I remember my father saying, in the morning, “Don't look. I'm getting dressed.” He used the second person plural, lest I suspect that my mother was exempt.

In those years, one of the highlights of my life was sleeping with my mother. This happened for a few nights in the summer, when my father stayed behind to work in Barcelona and my mother and I went to my grandparents' house in the country. I remember the delicious feeling of falling asleep, knowing that my mother would come in the night and sleep next to me. To this day, when my husband, who stays up later than I do, comes to bed, that same feeling of joy and security washes over me.

I was in elementary school when I was exiled into my own bedroom, a long, long way down the hallway from my parents' room. I had looked forward to spending my first night in my room. But when the lights were turned off and the footsteps grew faint along the hallway, I was in such anguish that I was given a reprieve.

I eventually got used to sleeping alone, and then we moved to Ecuador. We shared a house with the cellist, the second violinist, and the violist of my father's string quartet. They were all unmarried men in their forties. My hyper-vigilant mother decided that until she knew what was what, I had better sleep near the conjugal bed again. I was ten and didn't much mind, but began to find the “don't look. I'm getting dressed” routine tedious. During that time in Ecuador we did a lot of traveling and staying in weird hotels. And once again, for safety's sake, I slept with my parents.

A mere fifteen-or-so years later I brought home my first-born daughter from the hospital, and set up the crib next to our bed. But her snufflings and garglings kept me up all night, and soon she was sleeping in the hallway—close enough that I could hear her when she woke, but far enough so I could get some sleep. This was long before co-sleeping, which makes a lot of sense in an evolutionary kind of way, became popular.

These days, when Bisou wakes me at 3 a.m., I often take her into the guest room and put her in bed with me. I don't get much sleep, but I keep doing it for some reason, and I know she enjoys it. Man or beast, sleeping arrangements are powerful things.

4 comments :

  1. I love this post.

    Our kids slept with us for years -- they had their own bedrooms, but would make excuses to come to our bed before the night was over. Andrew would snuggle down inbetween his dad and me and say, in a singsong voice, "I'm in the middle of the grown-ups!"

    I remember falling asleep in bed with my mom and being carried (pretending to be asleep) to my bed by my dad who worked on cars in the garage until late at night.

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  2. your memories of your mother are almost the exact opposite of my memories of my mother. i don't remember my mother ever voluntarily touching me.

    but you're right about sleeping arrangements. two nights ago, boscoe was poorly (he's ok now; needed another insulin adjustment) and i slept on the downstairs couch so that i could let him out if he needed to go.

    he did, at 2 a.m., and then he came back in the house,leaped onto the couch, and curled up behind my knees. he fell asleep instantly. i stayed awake a little longer, relishing the sweet closeness.

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  3. I was banished from my parents' room at 2 weeks old--for the same reasons you say here. And I never stayed a night in there again that I can remember. Mike grew up in an open bedroom kind of house--his mom slept in his brothers' room (they were twins) until they were 5 or so, almost every night between them in twin beds smashed together. And I thought this sounded so cozy and nice. So we co-slept with a crib right next to my bed (with the 4th side removed, making sort of a side-car). Sophia hadn't moved out by the time Maeve was born--we did a hard 3 months with Sophia between us and Maeve to the side before she gave up and went to her own room (which is attached to our room by a pocket door, frankly). Maeve left at almost-3, but comes down in the night sometimes now that the girls live upstairs. Leo is still snuggling with me and will be for probably another 2 or 3 years. I like it in the middle of the night.

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  4. My sense is that, as a species, we were meant to sleep in a big pile--dogs, kids,and adults--close to the communal fire.

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