In a big country inhabited mostly by people with small houses -like South Africa- Christmas and Easter time could usually mean a long journey home to be with your family and no bed for you to sleep in when you get there. I heard an Afrikaans person once talk about a ‘Krismis Bed’ and I love the holiday-casual-funness that it represents. The word comes from when everyone bunks down together on the floor of the largest room with an assortment of mattresses, blankets and pillows because when they come home, there is no room at the inn for spare beds let alone spare bedrooms.
I would love to have a spare bedroom with an empty bed all made up and ready for a visitor but right now I have spare children. Maybe one day when I’m a grown up, like several of my friends here in Ireland and back in South Africa, I will have one. Although it’s more likely that my kids will grow up and leave home first and even then I’m not guaranteed a spare room. It’s common enough in Ireland now for young adults to be living with their parents as rental accommodation is over priced and scarce.
Anyway, I digress slightly: bodies and beds. This past Easter when family and friends came to stay from the far corners of the globe there were twelve people sleeping under this roof. There was a family of five in one room, ‘CinderNicholas’ in the kitchen and Christmas, or rather Easter, beds in a couple of the bedrooms for leftover children. Afterwards when we returned to ‘normal’ our house felt simply huge and empty and a bit too quiet with just the six of us.
That’s our Christmas bed pictured above but so named for a slightly different reason. Sometime way back, just before Christmas, my husband and I came to a decision about the nocturnal habits of our children. Either we keep taking them back to their own beds when they appear at our bedside after midnight complaining of illness/nightmares etc. Or we let them into ours. I know there are parents who have boundless energy and discipline in the middle of the night and are capable of calmly accompanying their children back to their own bedrooms uttering soothing platitudes. On the other hand there are also parents who are so cross at night that their children know not to bother them. I do wonder about those kids though, if the parents don’t care about the bad dreams and sore tummies what are the kids meant to do with that?
Most of the time all I can manage is a drooly mumble into my pillow and a bracing of myself for the clambering body that squeezes in between the two of us. Sometimes I am able to say something along the lines of ‘If you’re feeling sick, please don’t get in my bed BEFORE you’ve visited the bathroom’. Cleaning up diced carrots off the bedroom floor is no picnic late at night but it’s absolutely preferable to cleaning it off your pillow, duvet cover, duvet, mattress, clothes and hair.
So it being Christmas and all we thought what could a parent wish for more than the gift of sleep? We went off and bought ourselves a large bed, the biggest size they have here. It looks small in the picture above with six of us on it but it’s a SUPER king. (King sized in South Africa – they have a Queen size there which is equivalent to the Irish king size). We agreed that it makes sense when there’s an extra person in our bed, that the space left is slightly more spacious. “Hang on”, I hear you cry, “surely you don’t all sleep in that bed?” No we don’t, the teenager and preteen wouldn’t be caught dead. But our youngest two are nine and seven and still pop through on occasion.
Co-sleeping with one’s children is certainly not without its challenges. I think there must be a yoga position called ‘starfish’, it’s the one children adopt when sleeping in your bed. The other one is ‘Rugby Cross Bar’ – that’s the one when you and he are the uprights, one has your kid’s feet in their back and the other has their head. I have also come up with my very own American Indian name (remember ‘Wind in His Hair’ from Dances with Wolves?) mine is ‘Fist in my Face’ and I don’t love it. I wonder whether I would feel more rested if I had got up in the night and taken them back three or four times.
However I wouldn’t change it because I absolutely do love the snuggly warmth of their little body curled up next to mine. I like to feel they are close physically as eventually every aspect of them, their emotions, feelings and bodies will distance themselves from me, and although I know that’s good and normal, I still know I’m going to miss it when it ends.