Monday, December 7, 2009

Taking Sides (Babble)

I’ve been thinking lately about how it’s probably unusual that Ian and I never staked out certain sides of the bed. Most couples I know who share a bed seem to establish fixed sides. It makes sense, especially when you have nightstands on either side to store your things. My dad’s side of the bed has always had a crossword puzzle next to it, and my mom’s a book and the alarm clock. Ian and I always just went to sleep wherever on the bed. If I’m there by myself I’m in the middle, and often (when he’s home) if I’m there reading or working on something, Ian will stand at the end and say, “Well, which side am I on?” before he gets in.

When we started having kids, we dubbed the two sides of the bed “The Working Side” and “The Vacation Side.” Whoever was in charge of getting the baby in the middle of the night took the working side, and whoever was allowed to sleep through it got the vacation side. As the kids got older, the working side mostly meant whoever was going to make breakfast. Before Ian left for his deployment he tried to give me the vacation side of the bed as often as possible. After he left, the whole thing was just “the bed” and it didn’t really have sides anymore. It seems too big when it’s just me in the middle, and often when I have the bed to myself I sleep diagonally just to use more of it up.

But after Ian had been gone a few weeks, Quinn asked more and more often if he could sleep in my bed. He has a twin size bed in the same room as his sisters, and at first he would let me put him to bed when they went down for the night because he liked the ritual of it, but after a minute he would get up and come into my room. “Can I sleep in your bed, mom?” he would ask in his sweet little voice, holding his stripey blanket and beaming up at me with his dimples and his squinty eye. How can I say no? There is plenty of room and he is a sound and gentle sleeper. After a few nights in a row of letting him come to my bed, I came upstairs to find he’d simply set himself up with his own pillow and a blanket, a few stufffed animals and a book. He gave me the proudest smile when I found him there. He’s been there pretty much ever since.

I was worried it would be a problem when his dad came back for Thanksgiving, but he was surprisingly good. I explained every night for more than a week beforehand that when Ian was here he’d have to sleep in his own bed. Quinn did stay in his own bed all three nights of Ian’s visit, but I also promised he could come back to my bed if he wanted when daddy left, and I think that was the key to his compliance. The day Ian flew back to Fort Polk, Quinn set up all of his things again on the far side of my bed.

I know a lot of people have issues about letting kids sleep in your bed, and normally I tend to agree with that. When Ian is home there isn’t room for an extra body in the bed. I make exceptions for when one of the kids is sick or has a bad dream, and Ian and I kind of draw straws to see which one of us is headed for the couch downstairs rather than all of us being uncomfortable in one bed. More often then not, however, the girls prefer their own beds, and I’m glad. I like that they like thier beds.

But things have always been different with my son. During the last deployment, I was pregnant with Quinn for a good chunk of time, so he was technically with me in the bed then. I used an Arm’s Reach co-sleeper after he was born, so he was next to me for months. After I started putting him into his crib at night, he’d still want some cozy snuggle time in the morning in my bed. He was nice company then and he still is. I’ve heard people say that letting kids sleep in your bed does not count as spending ‘quality’ time with your kids, but I disagree. There is a lot of cuddling and giggling, and I like that I’m a source of comfort even when he’s not conscious. He likes to press up against me at night, and if I move off into my own space he pats around in his sleep until he finds me and cuddles up again. It’s nice.

And frankly, I don’t sleep well alone. By myself I lie awake and my thoughts tend to race around. I obsess about things both big and small and I get restless. On bad nights I even scare myself with where my thoughts go. When Quinn snuggles up I’m just happy. He’s warm and dear and he reminds me I’m loved in the middle of the night when I’m most likely to feel lonely. I like to think I do the same for him.

By the time Ian returns from Iraq next fall, the plan is to shift around all of our sleeping arrangements anyway so that Quinn will finally have his own room. With a little luck, all the crazy transitions happening then (Ian being home, Quinn starting school, moving things around…) should distract from the fact that he’s not sleeping next to me anymore. We’ll see. It’s impossible to predict what his needs will be in a year on a lot of levels, not just surrounding sleep.

In the meantime, barnacle boy remains by my side both day and night. There are times during waking hours where I dream of a break, but never at night. The bed feels better with him in it. So after years and years of sharing a bed with my husband and not developing a habit of staking out a particular side, I now share the bed with a bitty boy who has become entrenched on one side, with his toy cat and his copy of ‘Caps for Sale.’ It shouldn’t surprise anyone that I am always on the working side.

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