©2008, Stephenie Freeman
I spent most of last night convincing my son that our house wasn’t going to burn down, that there was no need to be scared, and that if any monsters showed up or bed bugs started biting that I was just down the hallway. Not surprisingly, this conversation happened at bedtime in between another drink of water and just one more hug.
They say what goes around comes around. When I was a kid, I was the queen of bedtime postponement. I knew all of the tricks, the best ways to delay the inevitable, and none of them ever worked.
The same thing would happen every night. For years my day would end with my mom sitting on the edge of my bed reading me a book. She would turn off the light, kiss me goodnight, and tell me she loved me as she quickly headed for the door.
Just about the time she thought she was in the clear, I would ask her, “Mom? Um…what are we doing tomorrow?”
Her typically quick answer was always followed by, “Now go to sleep…” and in her best Scarlet O’Hara impression,”…tomorrow is another day.”
My mom might have been a huge Gone with the Wind fan, but I had no idea what she was talking about. Of course, tomorrow was another day, and I didn’t want to go to sleep until I had a detailed play-by-play of the day’s events that took at least a good hour and a half to explain.
I had good reason to delay bedtime. The witch from Sleeping Beauty was lurking behind my bedroom door, and according to my dad, our house had been built on top of an ancient Indian burial ground. Once my mom left the room, all I had left to defend myself was a few dozen stuffed animals and a scrawny little Sheltie named Chevis sleeping underneath my bed.
I’m lucky to still be alive.
I vaguely remember a period of time when I made my mother’s nightlife miserable. I would cry and whine every single night about how I needed—had to—sleep in her room. No matter what I said or how desperate I seemed, there was nothing I could do to convince her otherwise.
Back then, I couldn’t understand why she didn’t want me sleeping right next to her all night long. I was her child, the person that her days revolved around. Why wouldn’t want me snuggling up next to her and invading her space all night too?
And now that I have children of my own, I finally understand the parental need to sleep alone and feel compelled to apologize to my mom repeatedly.
My nighttime routine is still much the same as it has always been; only now I’m on the receiving end of the delay tactics. Books are read, nightlights and CD players turned on, and final trips to the bathroom are made. The difference is that my boys will usually fall fast asleep after a little coaxing and extra hugs. Then around 4 A.M., when I’m dreaming of spa days with a masseuse named Buck and childfree vacations in Tahiti, a little voice will creep over the edge of my bed.
“Mama, I wanna seep wif you.”
I’m not a fan of the family bed for lots of reasons, but mostly because my children are impossible to sleep with. I have one child who likes to try new yoga positions in his sleep, most of which involve a warrior pose right into the in the middle of my back, and another child who talks just as much in his sleep as he does during the day. My children might claim to sleep better when they’re in my bed, but when they’re in my bed they are the only ones doing any sleeping.
It makes me feel guilty shoving my children out into the hallway and back into their own rooms in the middle of the night, but it has to be done. My children claim not to understand. They cry all the way back to their own bed, escalating my parental guilt to a whole new level, but I know that I am a better mother for it.
If not a better mother, at least a well-rested one.