Friday, September 23, 2005

Family Bed

Recently, the FYO has been regularly waking at about 4:30 a.m. and coming into our room with some Midwestern passive-aggressive apophasis to sleep with us in bed.

We have designated two appropriate situations in which she is allowed to join us. The first being sincere illess as represented by some irrefutable symptom such as regurgitation or fever. The second is a seriously scary storm.

The rules established, the FYO's job is to determine exactly the boundaries of those rules. To know that the fence surrounds the yard is not enough. It is important to identify which grass along that border are considered IN the yard and which OUTSIDE of the yard.

And so it began.

In the beginning, her approaches were obvious, and simple, if not, still impressive. I mean, how in the hell did she force herself to actually wake at 4:30 a.m. just to test our limits? Is this not an impressive example of internal fortitude? I imagine her in there, the inexplicable desire to roll over, or the very beginnings of a need to urinate, causing what would normally be a temporary wake, but instead she wills her eyes open like a teenager on a road trip trying to get the most out of spring break by driving all night to his beach-front destination, espresso in hand.

Being a relatively light sleeper, I hear her door open and her feet padding toward our room, insouciently passing up the bathroom along her way despite, I'm sure, the pressure in her bladder as if out of spite for us in anticipation of the rejection.

She approaches one of us slowely, quietly. Waiting for just the right moment to interrupt our REM sleep. In a whisper:

It is storming.

From this we are to infer that one of the exceptions to our rule should be allowed and she should be welcomed into the bed.

Of course, in this case, it usually is a lovely, starry-skyed night and one of us (alternately) takes her to the bathroom, oversees the emptying of the bladder, and points out to the dissapointed FYO, that the night is clear and that she will be spending the rest of the fleeting evening alone, in her own bed.

The next night:

I'm sick.

And again, we perform the back-to-your-room drill. Its no use just saying it. Go to bed! Because a debate ensues and I end up wide-eyed the rest of the night having had the logic-center of my brain awoken by the FYO's demand for attention, any attention, just so that it be in our room, with us. If she can't stay in the bed with us, read to us, or play with us, at 4:30 a.m., an irrelevant and illogical discussion will do.

Recently, her approaches have become more thoughtful. More manipulative.

Calmly: I'm having trouble breathing.

Lately it has been storming insessantly. One night, the lightening and thunder was particularly loud and scary. Every crash, BioMom would let out a little yelp and the house would shake with the thunder. I actually started to go and get the FYO, worried the she may even be too frightened to make the journey down the hall to our room, but I opened the door to find her confident and unafraid self:


Said she, as she marched by, blanket over her shoulder, confident with the assurance that this, THIS was, in fact one of our documented exceptions and that we could not, in all fairness, retract her God-given right to a spot in our bed on that night.

She misunderstood, apparently, the spirit of the exceptions: actual fear, actual sickness. And, being not yet able to fully comprehend the fable of the boy who cried wolf, she invoked every exception available if not for the SPIRIT of the exception (she was not afraid, or sick) but for the PRINCIPLE of the exceptions themselves.

I should mention in this discussion that I do recognize that there are different schools of thought on the family-bed issue. One book, that I recommend, Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn, sent to me by Cousin's sister (also a cousin, obviously) insists on the developmental importance of welcoming a child into your bed.

They begin in the chapter of that name, "Family Bed" :

We have some funny ideas about sleeping in this society.

From this, I have gleaned from them that as a parent, sleeping at all should be considered secondary to the goal of nurturing your child. You haven't slept much since your newborn came? What did you expect???

Our pediatrician recommended we keep our first child in his own bed, in his own room, so we could establish from the first that they would have to follow our rules and learn to sleep alone without bothering us. But we went into parenting wanting to be bothered.

Okay, already they're making me feel selfish. . .

They go on:

In fact, we saw it as essential. We felt that our infant baby belonged with us. Sleeping next to us, he could relax into the softness and warmth of our bodies. He was bathed in the security and comfort of our presence. All was right with the world, for him and for us, when he was sleeping between us, usually snuggled right up against one or both of us. . . . For several years we slept together, breathed together. Even when he slept in his own bed, our bed was often where he started off the night, or wound up by morning. . . .

A greater intention came into play here, one we valued far more than sleep. We intuitively felt that the security and the peace that our physical presence gave our children was nourishing to their whole being. The effect was tangible. We could see it in their open, curious, lively, loving faces. Our presence at night rounded them in their bodies and in the world, and that rounding could be seen in the way they quietly observed the world around them. They were curious without being frenetic, active without being out of control. The well-being and joyfulness emanating from them was wonderfully contagious. They were wholly present--whether it was in laugh of delight, a shout of anger, or a loving embrace. The purity of their aliveness was enlivening for us and more than made up for the lost sleep.

So, basically, if we don't let the FYO sleep with us, her life will be a doomed, intimacy-fraught search to replace the losses she felt as a child. A divorced, 40 year old mother of three, she'll return to our house, looking for the intimacy refused to her as a child.

If we let her, she'll pass Go, collect $200 and head off to Harvard Medical School on a scholarship.

And, what if she wants to crawl into bed with us forever?

We believed that when the children were ready to sleep through the night, they would; and when they were ready to sleep in their own beds they would choose to do so; and of course, they did.

Why not let her sleep with you you ask?

It is horrible. Horrible I tell you. Sleeping with her is like sleeping next to a trout flopping around in the bottom of the boat, flipping about, in its last attempt to reach its aquious sustinence.

And that is if she falls back asleep.

More likely, she has urgent stories to tell.

Or, a desire to finish that chapter in Judy Moody which requires a police-officer's spotlight, filling the quiet room with light as though the sun had come up inside the house rather than at the horizon.

If she comes in at 4:30, I can kiss 2-3 hours of restful unconsciousness goodbye. While she might feel nurtured at that moment, I can tell you that already tapped pitcher of patience runs thin when I'm exhausted.


hfrm#1 said...

thought of you, Biomom, and the FYO last night with the huge cracks of thunder/lightning. i assume you all 'enjoyed' some stormin' family bed togetherness last night, no?

coffee, coffee, coffee ... !!!

Anonymous said...

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