My son sleeps in our bed.
But that’s not the confession part.
It isn’t that he won’t sleep in his own – he does happily, through the entire night.
It isn’t that I am an attachment parent, and I have the philosophy that it is better for bonding or his self-confidence or ability to form emotional attachments.
I have in the past rationalized it as a function of human evolution. Modern living arrangements are a blink in the eye of human history. When was it ever a good idea to put your most defenseless family members the furthest away during the most vulnerable time of the day? Think about it – thousands of years of evolution on savannahs with prowling lions and hyenas. Does this make sense to YOU?
However, I know this is just a rationalization. I don’t live on the savannah. I live in the rural suburbs. In the United States. In a 3-year-old house with a wired-in alarm and fire detection system. The nearest lion is well-fed and behind a very big fence and a very deep moat, miles away in the Zoo. The closest thing I have to feral predators is the occasional possum that makes it’s way into my backyard, or VERY rare fox or coyote.
Here’s the confession. Harry sleeps with me simply because I want him there.
From the moment he drew his first breath I have been loathe to part with him. Kris begged me to let the attending nurse take him away to the nursery the first night in the room so that we could get some sleep, but I adamantly resisted. He slept his first night curled in the crook of my arm. The thought of him being somewhere distant, where he would wake and cry and not have me to pick him up and hold him was more than my nerves could bear. Having him taken away wouldn’t have been restful. It would have been hell.
The first months at home Harry slept in a bassinet, at arms reach by my bedside, out of the practicalities of midnight feedings and changes. Then came Katrina, and there was no bassinet – in fact, no room at all. He simply slept with us out out of necessity, in whatever space we could find – the guestrooms of friends and family, in cramped hotel rooms, and eventually in a tiny apartment. He was all we brought out of New Orleans, and he was the center of my overturned world.
Now the necessity is gone. But the reassurance of having him close remains.
Sometimes in the soft glow of the reading lamp on my bedside table, I like to sit and gaze at his perfect porcelain skin, the round curve of his cheek, the light playing through his halo of hair and painting it golden. His relaxed limbs are already outlined by the sturdy muscles of childhood. I like to hear him murmur and sigh in his slumber. And when I turn off the light, I want to wrap my arms around his heavy sleeping form, and inhale the sweet smell of his baby shampoo, fresh from his bath. He is everything clean and beautiful and innocent in that very moment. And he is mine.
In the days where the assertion of his independence is increasing daily, those stolen minutes of maternal reverie are precious. In the quiet moments between wakefulness and sleep I feel I can stop time, and he is once again the baby I fiercely guarded from the maternity nurses. I can fool myself that somehow the relentless march of time will never take him beyond the call of my voice, that our separate-but-not-quite-separate closeness will go on forever.
I want him close because I know that the self-deception will not last. I know that my time in this world will become his time, and I will only see a glimpse of it. I know that my place in his life will move steadily away from the center. And that is as it should be.
But I also know that I will miss these moments, and I want to emblazon them on my memory. I know I will regret the time taken away, the milestones I missed, and the thousand little negligences of normal parenthood. Not far away are the storms of adolescence and the day that he shall leave me. And I will wave at the door and watch him go and send the prayers of my life with him.
But right now, right here, he is still my little baby. And I am selfish.