Tuesday, June 2, 2009

To sleep or not to co-sleep? Such is the Question...


I write this from the comfort of my warm, snuggly bed. With me are my 18 month old son and, next to us, his snoring father. My daughter is here as well, though on a separate bed, but still within the very same room.

It’s not that we have only one bedroom in the house (there are 3.) And it’s not as if our bed is huuuge (Just a regular queen size.) This is just the way our family’s night-time sleeping arrangements seem to have evolved.

I know for a fact that this horrifies some people. Certainly upon hearing of our nocturnal set-up, ex-colleagues of mine quite emphatically stated “I could never do that!“; all the while only just managing to hide their distaste and incredulity for what I then gathered to be such an unfashionable practice. They then proceeded to extol the virtues of the opposite parenting philosophy of having a separate nursery and letting kids “cry it out” and “training them to fall asleep on their own“. The discussion mercifully ended with them imparting some well-meaning, good-intentioned advice — advice which I have thought of following on more than one occasion – but actually have yet to heed.

The reality is, I just can’t bring myself to do it. I just can’t bear the thought of letting my young child cry and cry and cry alone until he’s exhausted and all cried out. Surely, the world is cruel enough? And yes I do understand the concept of tough love – I believe it is necessary – but do I really need to put it into practice for a wee thing that doesn’t even know how to go potty yet and whose vocabulary consists of all but less than 10 words?

I just can’t do it. So sue me.

Funny but prior to all this, I always thought co-sleeping was a normal part of our Asian culture. I never thought to question the practice. I didn’t even know it had it’s own official term. I had no idea there was such heated debate on a topic I absolutely took for granted.

All I know is this: sure there are downsides. For one, it is more difficult for us two adults to share more, um, intimate moments. But that just means we can get more creative and enjoy the times when IT does happen even more. (I can hear my mother and my sister and my in-laws shouting “too much information!!!!! PLEASE!!) But really – add to that the fact that we firmly want to have just the TWO children - and co-sleeping becomes a mighty useful family planning tool. It just makes it easiest to not have, um, too many relations of the sort that lead to going forth and multiplying (know what I’m saying!??) when there are other (albeit sleeping) eyes and ears in the room. (And for good reason. No one ever, ever wants to wake up and see their parents nekked together. Of this I am 100,000% sure. We don’t intend to scar Jaimita and Jaime Jr for life - and I certainly don’t want to have to tackle those delicate, awkward questions just yet – there’ll be time soon enough for that later on!)

In addition, I’m sure you’d agree getting kicked in the face (or other delicate parts of the anatomy) – even by little people’s feet – isn’t exactly the bees’ knees either. Nor is it fantastic to have to sleep contortionist- style to accommodate another warm body in the bed (just how is it that these tiny persons can take up so much space? ?? There has to be some physical law to explain it. Mass is inversely proportional to space eventually occupied, or something like that.)

Granted, I may just be too cheap to install my kids in separate rooms with another heater to keep this bloody, God-awful Wellington winter away (yes, NZ is infamous for not having central heating. Can I get a what what??!) But please believe me when I say, in my decision to co-sleep, I have no express desire or wish to inhibit my children’s independence in any way, shape or form. God forbid!!! Someday I DO want them to fly the coop and hopefully go on to have mature, loving adult relationships and their own lives so that Jaime and I can continue living ours.

(May we ever be so lucky to sail onward and into our twilight years cruising around the world with nothing but more time and money on our hands, and the knowledge that our kids actually grew up…okay! )

The truth is — and this is all there is to it – I just simply like having my kids around me.

I doubt very much that in 10 years’ time my boy’s breath and fat feet and chubby, grubby hands will smell as sweet.
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I’m also pretty sure my elevated status as “bestest, coolest and funniest mom in the whole wide world” (her words, not mine!) will be skewed towards the opposite end of the spectrum once my daughter hits puberty and the maelstrom of raging hormones takes fast hold on a little girl I once knew. I know that inevitably the time will come when a kiss from mommy can’t – and won’t – make everything better; when I WON’T know everything (and will in fact, know NOTHING); and when most, or everything I do, will become waaaay uncool, gross or insufferable.

So. Until then, let me indulge and have my kids here right beside me, tucked safely away (yes, we’ve read the literature on the dangers of co-sleeping and what NOT to do). Allow me the brief, fleeting pleasure of having my children just an embrace and cuddle away, for when the night outside our bedroom windows just seems so dark and big and scary (hey, even big people get frightened too.) Life is long; their childhood so very short. One day in the not-so-distant future, they will retire to their own rooms. I suspect it won’t be as straightforward or easy for me initially, but I would never begrudge them their own space.

For now however, it’s three’s a crowd in the family bed, plus one more on the side. You can agree with it – or not – but I say, here’s to enjoying it while it lasts.

( Now….. move over lil’ buddy. Mommy’s gotta get some zzzzzzsss. After chasing you around all day…she SO needs it!)


Until next time everyone. Good night and sweet dreams.


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