I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that sharing your bed with young children is a form of torture in some communist countries. No one can argue how unpleasant cold feet are on the back of your legs. Or a knee to the back. Elbow to the ribs. Hand slap unexpectedly across the face just as you were to the best part of your dream!
My wife and I don’t make a habit of sharing our bed with our children. A bunch of psychologist got together and named this behavior co-sleeping. Personally, I call it “if you get in my bed, you better be still and go to sleep, and if you move even an inch and keep me from sleeping, you’re getting back in your bed, and there may be duct tape involved” uncomfortable.
Developing a closer bond is said to result from co-sleeping, and where that may be true with infants – and I know there are two very heated arguments around this – I’m pretty sure my six and four-year-old aren’t concerned about the bonding experience when they try to get in bed with us. It’s more likely that they’ve been awake for the last 15 minutes because they heard a sound that is surely a monster under their bed, and have been planning how fast they can get across the dark house to let you know about it. How they navigate in the dark without tripping on a toy or stepping on a Lego is truly an art form to be admired.
My six-year-old and I have shared an incredibly deep bond since his birth. He and I are completely in sync with each other – at least as in sync as you can be with a six year old. I can assure you our relationship was built by spending time together while our eyes were open. I’ve found it’s hard to interact with him when we’re asleep.
The story with our four year old is a little different. Sometimes, I feel like she could take me or leave me. Understand, however, the love I have for my daughter is unmatched. Honestly, I couldn’t be more proud of her independence and strong will. She is destined to make a great impact on this world (but that’s for another post).
Though she’s getting better, the attempts to climb into bed with us are more frequent than her brothers. She succeeded in finding a warm place next to her mother recently at 4:30 in the morning. The significance of 4:30 is the fact that I typically start my day at this time. 4:30 to 6ish is my time to move closer to goals while not using time that I could be with the family. Plus, I really appreciate the quiet before a busy day.
On this particular morning, as she snuggled closer Mom, I chose to lie in bed just a little longer. The excuse in my head was that I didn’t want her four year old mind to think it’s time to get up… truth is, my thirty-five year old mind was telling me that one day of sleeping in is a great idea.
Cuddling close to her Mom is the norm, however, even in a king size bed, I’ll get a foot in the back, or a cold hand across the face. At 4:30 in the morning, when I should have already been alone with my thoughts, a cold foot found the backside of my warm thigh. As I grit my teeth and slowly pulled away, I noticed that she intentionally stretched her leg further to touch mine. Her body never retreated from her Mom’s side, but she was clearly stretching to touch me.
At some point, she repositioned herself to get more comfortable, to snuggle deeper beneath the sheets. Shortly after she found that “just right” spot, her hand stretched across the bed to rest on my shoulder, though she still lay close to my wife. For the next hour and a half, until 6 AM, she followed the same routine, always making sure that she reached across the bed to touch me.
On this morning, when I would typically have left the comfort of my be to read and write, to focus on my goals while the rest of house was quiet; when I would have found time for me, I discovered something much more invaluable… my daughter needs me. She needs to know that I’m there, that I’m close. Despite her independence and desire to be self-reliant, she needs to know that she can reach out and Daddy will be right beside her.
So, next time that knee jabs you in the back, you receive an elbow to the ribs, or a cold, uninvited hand lands on your warm body, remember your children need you close by. The discomfort is temporary; the bond with your children is for a lifetime.
How do you feel about co-sleeping? Have you had a bonding experiencing by sharing your bed with your children? Or, do you value a kid-free, peaceful night’s slumber? Join the conversation in the comments below.