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The Family Bed

Even though I'm not married, I'm never alone in my bed.

Since my ex moved out over two years ago, I’ve had a constantly rotating schedule of bed partners. Some of them steal all of the covers and kick me with their long legs, while others are so short that their presence barely registers in my king-size bed.

What’s that, you ask? Am I some type of little person-loving, Chelsea Handler type? Have I joined the ranks of the Moms Gone Wild divorced gals?

Sadly, or perhaps happily, it is usually one of my four kids who have staked his or her claim on the coveted spot beside me each night.  Often, I come home late from an endless municipal meeting to find my room darkened and a big lump where reading material and remote controls usually sit. My immediate reaction is irritation: I’ve got stuff to do. But then I look at that sweet, sleeping face and am glad it’s so close, even though it’s keeping me from Facebook.

Don’t get me wrong, the kids don’t come to my room just for the great company I provide. I happen to have an amazingly comfortable bed. It’s like a big marshmallow, with the softest Costco sheets and a heated mattress pad for when the temperatures dip outside. There’s a ceiling fan to keep things fresh and a new flat screen TV to replace the ancient TV/VCR combo, with a Care Bears movie stuck inside, that my ex took with him when he left.

While I often just stumble upon the kids in my room, a lot of times my roommate du jour and I enjoy activities other than just sleeping side-by-side, like reading or watching one of the many fine On Demand movies available, like the seminal Justin Bieber classic, Never Say Never.

A few months ago, my 8-year-old-son asked, “Hey, Mom. You want to get into bed and watch Cougartown?”  Aside from the insane inappropriateness of him even knowing what that show is (youngest of four), how could I not have fallen for a line like that?

There was a time, in the early stages of my separation, that I worried that I was creating a weird mother-child dynamic and potentially unhealthy sleeping habits. But now, I just enjoy the company for the most part and the opportunity to spend that time together. The older two kids are already over the novelty of my boudoir and it’s only a matter of time before the younger two follow suit.

When they were younger, the kids very rarely slept in my bed. I’d occasionally scoop a crying infant out of its crib and let it nurse alongside me as I slept. And one time, my oldest daughter had one of those scary high fevers in the middle of the night that required monitoring. After cooling her down in the tub and filling her with Motrin, I brought her burning hot body into my bed where she created a small oven in the pocket between her father and me while we waited for the fever to break.

But emergencies and personal needs aside, three people sleeping in one bed is annoying. The little kid in the middle, who starts the night all cute and cuddly, becomes a swirling dervish of arms and legs once the lights go out. I need my sleep.

And I never understood the parents that went and slept in their kids’ beds. Haven’t we done our time in stiff, twin beds when we were children? Don’t we do enough for our kids during waking hours—crust removal, hair washing, butt wiping—to absolve us from working the night shift? Enough already.

Last week, I returned home at bedtime from a few days away with the oldest at college orientation while the other three kids stayed home, and we all cuddled on my bed shortly after I walked through the door. Because in our house there seems to be a constant need to claim things—calling “fives” on the TV remote or the last cupcake—my 8 year old “called” sleeping in my bed while the others had briefly left the room. Naturally, the 14 year old returned and tried to do the same. They argued for a bit, and I suggested everyone slept in their own beds since they couldn’t agree and I didn’t have the energy for mediation.

They muttered for a little bit, and then my older daughter said, “Nick, you want to sleep in my room?”

And before I knew it, they jumped off my bed and went down the hall to her room. I walked by a little later to find the light already off and soft laughing coming from behind the closed door.

For a moment, I was sorry to not be a part of the fun. But then I went back to my quiet room and snuggled in my big marshmallow and turned on Cougartown.

Shannon K. Winning August 04, 2011 at 12:22 AM
I am like a fierce mother bear when it comes to her cubs, only for me it's the bed. NO ONE gets to sleep there. Fevers, nightmares, thunderstorms, extra loud fireworks - doesn't matter - back to bed, young one and take your stuffed animals too. Many nights I too come home to my snoring husband and a small sweaty pink lump beside him. No matter how tired I am I hoist that lump back to her twin bed and reclaim my tempurpedic. But isn't it such a good barometer that they want to sleep there with us? That we are still the refuge? Maybe I should give in once and a while. Just not tonight.
Rob P August 04, 2011 at 09:37 AM
He took the "Care Bear" movie...that's just not right.
Susan Buchenberger August 04, 2011 at 01:05 PM
Love this! We occasionally have some cute visitors in our bed early in the morning. Yes, very annoying at times, but sweet at times too!

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