Us: Bed Time

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One of the earliest decisions we had to make in our parenting life was what to do with the newborn at night. The first few nights home from the hospital, Hope would get William out of his bed in our room, feed him and then, if I was lucky, she would return him to his bed when done. A couple of times she did not make it to step three and William would spend the short time between feeding lodged between us. We were sleeping in a full size bed at the time, so having a small, new life wedged between us freaked me out. I could not sleep for fear of rolling over on top of him so I would lie there, perched perilously on the extreme edge of my side of the bed and watch him and his mom sleep. (Hope received special New Mom Dispensation for her need to sleep at this time for obvious reasons. What I didn’t know was, once offered, she would claim this dispensation forever.) No, it wasn’t an enjoyable bonding moment but it didn’t curdle into resentment and anger either. It was strictly survival and I could see my future if we didn’t discuss the situation. So we talked and decided we would make a conscious effort to avoid sharing the bed in the future.

Once William got moved to his own room and began his night tethered to his parents via room monitor, the issue went away. He was sleeping through the night and 90% of the time when he woke up crying could be handled by one of us rooting around to find the pacifier he had lost contact with. (We eventually began leaving six pacifiers in his crib, strategically placed in each corner and along each side so that we could go in, quickly find a replacement for him and get back to our own bed without actually opening our eyes and, sometimes, without waking up at all.) The decision phase came right after William moved into his “big boy” bed and achieved total mobility. Every night he attempted to leave his room and spend some bonus quality time with his parents and every night I took advantage of my obnoxiously deep voice and told him to leave us alone and get back in bed. Being the first born, he obeyed.

But it was after we had gone to bed followed by the sound of his little feet padding across the living room, warning us of an incoming violation of air space, that we had to actually put a rule in place. My suggestion was to just keep yelling, something I was good at and tended to use as my default response to everything. Hope, on the other hand, came up with an actual solution (a common thread in our parenting, tag team, relationship). She decided that constantly turning away the child was a touch cruel but opening the gates of our bed for an every night visitor (and you know that would happen) was no less cruel. So she created a palette on the floor, a couple of blankets and a pillow, and designated that spot for William (and all the other kids moving forward) when they decided to visit us during the night. No need to check in and let us know you are there. No fees or taxes would be applied. Just come in, lie down and go back to sleep. And it worked. They accepted the rule and were content to be in the room with us and we were content to not know they were there, sleep undisturbed. Occasionally, I would disrupt the peace by stepping on one of them getting up in the morning but that only happened a few times, early in the process, before I trained myself to check.

Some evenings one of them would come in before I was asleep, usually Laura (she inherited my lack of need for sleep whereas the boys fell happily into the genetic arms of their mother’s need for “at least eight hours, if not more”), and I enjoyed spying on them as I faked being unconscious. It was fun to watch them march in and command their space, happy to have entered the sacred sleeping grounds of the adults. And Laura always brought a purse with her. I guess she wanted to be prepared in case we decided to start charging after all.

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