***All rights reserved
A few weeks ago, I had a terrible dream that I was being suffocated by a slobbering St. Bernard. And then I woke up ... covered in kid.
For accuracy, my dream-dog should have been a whippet or a Weimarauner: all skin and ribs and other bony protrusions, including a pointy little chin that had put all kinds of hurt on me. "Tomorrow night," I said, shoving my son back to his side of the bed -- building a pillow wall between us so that he couldn't smother me again -- "you're sleeping with your Dad!"
But he should be sleeping by himself, so why isn't he?
1. The baby has to sleep in his own crib.
2. OK, the baby can sleep in a bassinet beside the parent bed, but only for the first three months.
3. The baby is allowed to sleep in a pack-and-play, now that he's bigger, but only for three more months -- then he has to sleep in his crib.
4. The baby is allowed to sleep in the parent bed, but only at nap time.
5. The baby is allowed to fall asleep in the parent bed at night but then he must be carried to his crib.
6. OK, the baby is allowed to sleep in the parent bed all night, but only when mom or dad has been away.
7. The toddler is allowed to sleep in the parent bed every night.
8. The toddler is allowed to sleep in the parent bed but one of the parents has to leave.
9. The child has to alternate sleeping between mom or dad's bed so no one feels left out.
10. The parents must stay in a hotel, and leave the child with Grandma, if they want to sleep with each other.
Once upon a time, my son spent his nights tucked safely behind the bars of his crib and that was the last time my husband and I had a good night's sleep.
Eventually, Joe outgrew his whimsically upholstered cell and discovered a new and more satisfying world that included the full range of nighttime motion. Unfortunately, he gained his freedom right around the time I started a long-distance commute and was away from home three nights out of seven. Making matters worse, the child also learned how to talk: "I just want to be close to you" with those pleading, puppy dog eyes echoed across my grand canyon of mommy guilt. I caved under the pressure.
For a long time, Mark and I suffered our sleep dysfunction in shame and silence. As society evolves and some secrets about what goes on behind closed doors come out of the closet, we make room for new ones to go in. But what I've learned about skeletons is that they will have their day in the sun.
I don't know what I'd done to provoke her wrath, but one night a few years ago in a room full of other moms and dads, my sister decided to "out" me at a dinner party. "Oh yeah," she said, winding up her right arm, finger pointed straight at me, throwing a classic sibling curve ball, "She still sleeps with her kid!"
And you know what happened? They all came to my rescue. They pulled me out from under the bus I'd been thrown under and it was all Cabernet and confessions, and "Oh my God, you too!" and swapping war stories about footprints in faces and getting kneed in tender places.
No longer feeling as though I was the only mother in the world who had failed to figure out how to put her kid to bed, I let go of the shame. I decided what my family needed was a monster bed -- a Las Vegas-style gangsta' bed. I went online, expecting to wade through alternative-lifestyle websites with Hugh Hefner lookalikes in shortie robes, surrounded by expectant blonds with too much Botox.
Guess what I found?
Even more people sleeping with their kids! There were photographs of kids having pillow fights on seven-by-seven-foot beds while glamorous and seemingly well-rested parents lounged beside them. Sadly, it's a 21st-century dream that is too big for my 19th-century house. And so we muddle on with two queens and a double.
Most nights we end up chasing each other from room to room, in a sleep-deprived stupor of musical beds. To quote Clark Griswald of National Lampoon fame, "If I wake up one morning with my head sewn to the carpet," I won't be at all surprised.
Sometimes I wonder if we'll be OK. Will all this Little House on the Prairie group sleeping make families or break them? Time will tell, my friends. Only time will tell.
In the meantime, please excuse me while I go take a nap!