May 27, 2011

Family Bedroom

The family that sleeps together stays together.

While co-sleeping in the family bed is a standard in attachment parenting, staying with it becomes a challenge with one aggressive snuggler and one obsessive thrasher. Our family has always found creative ways to continue the spirit of night-time bonding while still managing some sleep, and it may be time for another version of Together.

First came the co-sleeper - a crib with one side open onto our bed, so that the baby lay right beside me but still in his own space. With each nighttime cry I could simply lean over and try to soothe him back to sleep, or hand him over to the Dairy Queen if necessary. I learned the nighttime rhythms of each boy through that intimate side-by-side sleeping.

In Vancouver the boys shared their own room, first on a queen-sized floor mattress then on bunk beds. We could still lie with them for blissful falling-asleep time, then have our own love-nest to return to. A love-nest that was wall-to-wall bed (queensized with a twin squeezed in beside it) to allow for morning snuggle time and special sleep-overs.

When we moved to the island, we put the boys on a queen-sized mattress on the floor in our bedroom and they've been there ever since. Plenty of room to lie in the middle as they both fall asleep scrunched up against or on me (on good nights I fall asleep with them for a while), and a full night of being right there when a scared nightmare cry or confused dream-talk breaks the silence. I love hearing their safe secure breathing, their secret morning whispers, monitoring the clock until a resounding "7:00 SNUGGLE TIME!"

I treasure this extended together time, subconsciously melding our energies and dreams - somnastic synergy. I deeply believe that it brings us closer together, strengthening a connection that will last a lifetime. But with the boys now at 7.5 and 9.5 years old, how much longer will it work for them (or us)?

Most people would probably argue that we've long passed the appropriate age for this form of attachment. I hear society accusing me of wanting to keep them as babies, asking why we can't just be "normal" with one room per kid. But I search deep and still see the pure intention to hold our children close in a healthy, nurturing way. I celebrate their growth and unfolding much more than I fear it, but they are still little boys and the night is a big dark scary world. As long as they derive security from sleeping with us, and as long as that's feeding a trusting loving attachment, I don't want to artificially sever that link just because "everyone else" has their own room or theory or rules.

I've always envisioned a time when there would be obvious signs or verbal expressions of a desire for their own space, but the random calls for "my own room" are about as infrequent and non-passionate as requests for a horse or a pick-up truck. It's just not a pressing concern for them.

So it falls on us to project the healthiest path for our family. Can we milk this beautiful nocturnal togetherness for another year or two, or do we look at an alternative that might yield other opportunities for growth and connection - one that they haven't had the space to envision for themselves? A place for the boys to call their own, decorate, keep their treasures, have sleepovers, whisper their fantasy life to each other unrestricted by sleeping parents, retreat into a book from a busy household - are they at an age where this would be even more beneficial than integrating their snores into our dreams each night?

Whenever the shift happens I will dearly miss the feeling of having our family so close each night, even as I anticipate a new cosy lovenest just for me and my beautiful lover (and nightmare kids and morning snuggle fests). But separate rooms does not mean separate lives or loss of intimacy. Perhaps it will mean more space to grow and blossom and all of that will shower back on us with renewed vigor and Joy. Distance couldn't possibly make our bursting hearts grow any fonder, but it just might allow a little more sunlight and air in to nurture new growth.

1 comment:

  1. beautiful words rick! i get the same social side-glances and my little one is only 2 1/2. i have no idea how long we'll co-sleep, because there can never be one answer to a question, but i like to think that there isn't even a question here...
    much, much love to you and your sweet family.