I woke up with a foot in my ear this morning. Well . . . the heal of the foot was in my ear and the ball was pressing against the side of my head and pushing against my temple like a an old person uses an accelerator . . . fast, slow, fast, slow, really fast. I knew immediately who the foot belonged to based on size and smell. My wife’s foot is larger and doesn’t smell like the inside of a gym bag. It was Eli’s foot and apparently his dream changed from geriatric motoring to race care driving. He floored it. I became fully awake as he accelerated to pass coming out of turn four at Talladega and forced my head into my nightstand.
I took the smelly boy foot off of my head and sat up. I smelled a little like a boy foot. Eli was thoroughly showered and scrubbed pink last night. I am amazed at how his little feet can regenerate foot smell overnight in pajamas. Well . . . maybe they aren’t that smelly. Maybe they are just too smelly to have on the side of your face. I covered him up. He reached for me. When he didn’t find me, he shifted in his sleep and snuggled against his mommy. I love watching that.
Eli has slept with us off and on since he could move on his own. Having an infant in the bed is incredibly sweet and comforting while being very dangerous. After Eli got old enough to fight back, he got in our bed and has been there ever since. I have heard both sides of the kids-in-the-bed debate and I fall squarely in the Move-Over-and-Savor-Every-Moment camp. I move over and let the boys in our bed because just like every other phase of their childhood, it only lasts for a relative moment . . . and it will never come back again.
I was a staunch No-Kids-In-the-Bed guy at first. When my oldest, Parker, was little he stayed in his bed . . . at first. His mother and I worked shifts, so one of us was usually at work at bedtime. When Parker was about three he grabbed his blanket and his panda and climbed in bed with me. It seems I had queen-size all to myself and he thought I needed company. It became a routine when his mom worked nights. We would snuggle and sing along to the “Lion King” soundtrack. He never made it past the third song.
Charlie was a little different. He slept with us off and on until Eli started climbing in bed with us. He moved to the floor and eventually into his full size bed. He took the dogs with him. Sometimes he comes in our room, but mostly he likes his space.
I have read a little on the “Family Bed” concept and, predictably enough, opinions are split. Dr. Benjamin Spock, the 20th Century’s child-rearing guru thought that letting children sleep in the same bed as their parents caused children to be needy and over-dependent. I know he was a doctor and all, but our children very decisively moved into our bed. When they wake up that are incredibly independent. But at night they really need mommy and daddy. It is really hard to put a negative spin on that.
One major issue raised by the anti-family bed faction is sex. I try not to talk to much about sex in this venue, but it really is kind of the elephant in the room when we talk about children in the parents’ bed. One author explained that it didn’t stop her sex life at all. She said they just wait until the kids are asleep . . . they rarely wake up. Rarely. Rarely implies that sometimes they wake up. Ewww. I’m thinking that it will only take one time for a kid to wake up and see Mommy and Daddy . . . you know . . . and that could be psychiatric game, set and match for junior. That is a risk that simply can’t be taken, in my opinion. From a practical stand point alone, I would think that it would undoable. I cannot, even in the recesses of my mind, imagine trying to engage in intimacy while in constant fear that a little hand or foot might make contact . . . you get the picture.
I will admit that the sex issue was a major concern to me when my first child wanted to be in bed with us. Seems like I thought quite a lot of myself back then. Reality has this way of catching up with all of us and the reality is that having kids in the bed has never really put a damper on that part of my life . . . not really. Being a jerk has had more negative effects on my sex life than the kids. Besides, the kids want to be in our bed at night when we are tired and stressed. I have been told that I am not at my hottest when I am tired and stressed. I get that completely. I also tend to think that if you have confined your sex life to late in the evening after the kids are asleep, then you probably aren’t thinking outside the box and you are definitely putting to much pressure on yourself. Okay . . . enough of that subject.
There are negatives and positives, pros and cons to everything we do in life. Parenting is not different in that respect. For every “do-it-right” we manage to pull off in one facet of parenting there is a corresponding little bit of “screwing-it-up” it up in another facet. It’s kind of Newtonian in a way. The trick is to find balance and maximize the “do-it-right”.
So Eli sleeps with us. He will sleep there until he decides not to. Experts say that he will leave our bed at seven or eight. I will savor every moment until then. There is something wondrous and joyful about the sense of security he gets from being in our bed. Once in a while Charlie comes back. Our king-size is too small for four of us, especially since Charlie is as big as his mom these days. I get out of bed and let him sleep in my spot. I tuck them in and then grab a blanket out the closet and snuggle with a dog on the reclining love seat in our room. First, I stand and watch my family sleep. These are the moments that I feel most like a father and husband . . . a protector. They are beautiful as they sleep peacefully next to their mother. It’s right and it’s beautiful and it is temporary. When it ends, it will never come back again, not exactly as it is now. Until that day comes, my children will sleep in our bed and I will hang on to every moment.
Thanks for reading and sharing. We will talk again soon on This Side of the Diaper.
Hanging on . . . by Curtis Rogers is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.thissideofthediaper.com.