The Family Bed

The Family Bed. Ah yes. Such a lovely thing… Just to make sure we are all on the same page, let me define that for you.

Family Bed: noun. Mom and Dad’s bed. The place where nursing babies, crying toddlers, scared children, and sick children gravitate to in the middle of the night. There is always room for one more. 

(courtesy of Esther Heneise)

I have endured the family bed for 18+ years now. With our first child we were highly influenced by the trend of making your baby learn how to sleep through the night at an early age and if she came to our bed in the night, we took her back to her own bed immediately. Then we had more kids and we just got tired, and we also realized that the time we had to pour out affection on our kids was actually finite and so we just resolved to welcome our children whenever they wanted us. Which for some reason or other, is often in the middle of the night. 

We have had nights when I’ve counted five kids in the bed by the time we hit morning. We have had nights, more than once, when a child walks into our room and says, “Mom I’m not feeling well…” and then promptly throws up on our bed. We have had nights when the abundance of children in our bed has made one or both of us adults abandon the parental bed and go sleep in one of the empty children’s beds. (They usually end up following us though.) Let me say, this doesn’t happen every night, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. My six oldest have outgrown the need for parents in the night and I realize that our time is short. But, every once in a while we get nights like last night where I question my relaxed philosophy.

So, last night my husband and I had the lights out by 11pm. We were fast asleep when somewhere around 2 am I heard the telltale rattle of our doorknob, accompanied by the fretful cry of the two year old. Since this is a regular routine, you would think I would react calmly. But no. Every night, without fail, I jerk awake and poke my husband, ANDY! THE BABY! I don’t know why I do this. It is my nighttime response to anything unexpected…ANDY! DO SOMETHING! Maybe because I know that I am incapable of doing anything coherently in the middle of the night and I hold on to a slim hope that my husband will somehow be better able to cope. Which, he isn’t. He grunts and lays there. I poke him again. THE BABY! OPEN THE DOOR FOR THE BABY! He grunts again. Grumbles, “He can open the door himself.” Which, three out four times he usually can. I’m just always worried about that 1 time when he can’t.

We lay there listening to the door knob rattle and then finally the door opens and we hear the trotting feet of a baby boy. He comes around the bed and climbs in with me. He’s still nursing, which is unusual for me. I have weaned all my others between a year and eighteen months, but this is our last baby and I’ve been dragging my feet about giving up the last tie to babyhood. I let him nurse for a while, then I’m over it and I tell him to go to sleep. He is a hot-natured baby and so he hates to be under the covers. Andy and I both want to be under the covers. This makes for an awkward arrangement, but we finally all settle back down to sleep. (Because taking him back to his bed at this point, is a lesson in futility.)

About thirty minutes later, I jerk awake again. I’m pretty sure I just heard footsteps. I squint into the dark and there is our six year old daughter, hovering by the bed. The kids have learned to hover on their dad’s side of the bed, not mine, since I usually wake up, see a face five inches from mine and scream, which then makes them scream. All very unpleasant. They now hover on their dad’s side of the bed, because he doesn’t wake up. 

My little girl looks like she woke up from a bad dream. Lately she has developed a fear of the dark which wreaks havoc on bedtime. I tell her, Get in your dad’s side of the bed, this side is already taken. She peers into the bed and sees the baby laying next to me. She lifts up the blankets and crawls in next to her dad. Fine. She’s not bothering me. I can still sleep.

An hour later I wake up again. More footsteps. Good grief. Is this an epidemic? There is the seven year old daughter. She shares a room with the six year old and must have woken up, saw her sister was gone and got scared also. I’m not sure what to tell her. We already have four people in the bed. I tell her to go sleep in my armchair in the corner of the room. There’s a lap blanket on the chair that she can use. She hesitates, nods her head and goes over to the chair. Fifteen minutes later she is hovering by the bed again. Apparently the chair is too far away from mom and dad. I sit up a bit, survey the bed, and then point at a small open space in between my husband’s feet and my feet. Crawl in over there, I say, pointing at the foot of the bed. She nods again, lifts up the blankets and crawls in at the bottom. I silently groan. Now I can no longer fully stretch my feet out. There is no way I’m going to make it through a whole night like this. 

Sure enough, a couple minutes later, Andy has had enough. He is squeezed in between two babies and now has another child curled up by his feet. He sits up. “You two girls need to go back to your bed!” Instant crying.  I check the time. 5 am. The girls still have two more hours before I need to get them up for school. It’s time to take one for the team. I crawl out of the bed, grab my pillow and tell the girls to come with me. We all head up to their bedroom and climb into their big double bed. I am stuck in the middle, and since the girls sleep in the bed sideways instead of the proper way, my feet are now hanging off the edge of the bed. I brought my phone along with me because it has my alarm which is going to go off at 6:45 am. I lay there. Wide awake. Waiting for my alarm to go off. 

I’m pretty sure this is why moms take naps during the day. 

Snow Day: Expectations vs Reality

Snow Day. I remember the joy those words used to cause when I was a child. Back in those olden times, we wouldn’t know it was going to be a snow day until we woke up early in the morning. Our parents would check the closings on the news or the radio and then come quietly say the words at our bedroom doors, “Snow day! No school today!” We would of course then jump out of bed and race to the window to see how much snow there was. Forget about sleeping in, it was a Snow Day!! Must get outside as fast as possible and play with the snow for as long as possible!

Now I’m on the other side of the equation. Nowadays I hear the night before that school is cancelled for the next day. I receive an automated phone call from the school board. They make their decision based on all the weather reports and predictions. Forget about waiting to see what actually happens. This of course has resulted in us sometimes having a snow day and no snow as the weather refuses to cooperate with the weather channels’ forecasts. But, that’s alright. I like knowing in advance. Being forewarned means that, in theory, we should be able to switch off the alarm clocks and sleep in. In fact, my mind conjured this really great image of a Snow Day.

It looked something like this..

fireside#1

And maybe some of this…

fireside#2

So the reality is my kids were in my room at 7am, before sunrise, asking to go outside. I made them wait till it was light enough that they could at least see their hands in front of their faces. Then we had to dress everyone in snow pants, coats, gloves, hats, snow boots…we didn’t even attempt scarves as that just seemed one thing too many. All of these items had to be pulled out of storage. (We get snow maybe two or three times a year.) Then someone dressed the two year old for me, trying to be helpful, except the baby had a poopy diaper, so I then had to to completely undress him again to change him first. And of course, since my kids like to use our gloves for things like storing dirt; or making baby doll hats; or storing a marble collection, we didn’t have enough gloves for everyone which then resulted in this…

noahgloves

 

After finally launching all of them out the door, I stood at the doorway in my slippers and took the obligatory Snow Day Pictures…

phoebenomisnow

judahjoshsnow

 

The teenagers of course tried to sleep in as much as their younger siblings would let them. When they did finally emerge, they looked out the window at the snow, grunted, and went back to their lairs…I mean bedrooms.

Little children ran in and out of the house in soaking wet, snow-covered clothing, complaining about wet gloves, snowballs in the face, and the most interesting one: the claim that the eleven year old had stolen all the snow. My pointing out the window at all the white stuff on the ground was not convincing enough evidence for the seven year old making this claim. Apparently all that white stuff didn’t count, he had stolen the “good” snow.

I did make an attempt at being Pinterest Worthy. And told the kids I would make them hot cocoa. I got the water boiled, cups laid out, children gathered around, then opened the hot cocoa tin and found out that we only had a tiny bit of hot cocoa powder left. I divvied it up and everyone had a little bit of weak cocoa. Without marshmallows.

The house got trashed. The kids watched a lot of TV. I may have “raised my voice” a couple times. Ah yes. Snow Day.

Finally late afternoon I got hold of the situation and had everyone clean a section of the house. Turned the TV off, played scrabble with my daughter. Enjoyed a cup of tea. Made a nice hot supper. Had a chaotic, but family centered evening.

Tomorrow the kids go back to school, one hour delayed. That sounds so much better. One hour to sleep in a bit later, not be so rushed, but we still have a schedule to cling to. I think that’s going to be my new plea to the Weather Channel, Let’s have a one-hour delay!! That works for me.

 

Morning People

Morning People. Ugh. I am not a Morning People. My husband is a Morning People. Ugh. My alarm goes off at 6:45. That gives me 15 minutes to get out of bed, get dressed and lay out breakfast for the kids. My husband is usually leaving the house about the time I get up. He walks up to me, all chirpy. His eyes are wide open, he’s grinning. He gives me a big enthusiastic hug. I passively stand there. Raising my arms feels like a bit too much work at this time of day. My eyes are barely squinted open. He laughs and makes some comment about opening my eyes up. I grunt. Barely murmur the words..Love you..and send him on his joyful way.

I used to think that I was a Morning People. When I was a young teen I would habitually wake up early to exercise or practice piano before going to school. I would read my bible and eat my breakfast and have a leisurely morning. Then college came and this thing called sleep deprivation. I remember coming home for Christmas break when I was in college. I would sleep in till noon every day. Of course it helped that we were in Alaska and the sun wasn’t getting up till after 11 am. I think that is some of the best sleep I ever got. I still remember it fondly.

Sleep deprivation has become a way of life. For the past 18 plus years, I have been pregnant or nursing a baby or had toddlers climbing into my bed. I can honestly say that I haven’t had a full, uninterrupted night’s sleep in 18 years. Of course, my husband really hasn’t either, but he still manages to be chirpy in the morning. So maybe I can’t use that as an excuse. Hmm.

Every morning I wake my kids up at 7, they get dressed, brush hair, put on shoes, come down and eat a quick breakfast and then we’re out the door at 7:15. Five kids going to school and often the baby and toddler ride along with us if they’re awake. I go to the elementary school and then the middle school. The middleschooler always rides up front. This suits me fine. The middleschooler has the same opinion of mornings that I do. We go over our Bible memory verses in the car, I pray for my kids, and the rest of the car ride is silent. Ok, my two little girls can be chirpy in the morning, but they sit further back in the van and I don’t have to hear them. My highschoolers walk to school. One time though I had to give my oldest son a ride to school. I can’t remember why, sprained ankle? Broken bone? I just remember that for a short time I had him sitting up in the front seat when we drove to school. He takes after his father. He likes to talk in the morning. Loud, enthusiastic talking. Telling me all about some show or movie that he really likes. And I’m just sitting there driving thinking…Stop, stop. Be quiet. Please stop talking. It is too early to be talking. Stop. Why???

I am fortunate that I am a stay at home mom. There is no pressure to be fully functional by 7am or 8am, or even 9am if it was a particularly rough night. I come home after dropping the kids off and sit on the couch with my two little ones. I zone out. I don’t do caffeine. I’ve never liked the thought of being addicted to any type of substance and so I’ve never developed a hot beverage habit. So, I just wait till my body finally says, Ok, we’re awake now. Let’s get on with the day.

Little kids, in general, are Morning People. Saturday morning they come bouncing into my room at 7am. What’s for breakfast Mom?? Me: hmmph? They climb up on the bed, hit me in the head with a book..Will you read this to me Mom??? Me: (barely whispering) Go away. Mom! Mom! Watch this! They do a somersault on the bed, landing on my legs. Me: AAAGHH!!! GO PLAY SOMEWHERE ELSE!! They finally run off to make noise in a different room. My husband climbs out of bed, says in a loud cheery voice, Well, I think I’m going to go work on some projects right now. Me: (thinking to myself, IT’S SATURDAY!! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!) covers head with pillow and groans.

I am hopeful that one day my children will all sleep through the night and then maybe I’ll start sleeping through the night, and then maybe, I’ll just wake up early because I’m well-rested. And I’ll be cheerful and have lots of energy. We’ll see. I’m not holding my breath.