I’ve always been a tightly wound parent. With anxiety as my constant companion, it’s difficult to stop seeing past a single action and worrying about the long-term effects. One of the things I have the hardest time relaxing about is sleep. My kids are great sleepers, but we miss out on many evening activities, and travel can be tricky. They are dependent on white noise and a great deal of consistency and routine, which can be difficult anywhere but home. When we were a family of three, it wasn’t too bad to limit our exploring to destinations where we could have two sleep spaces and bring our trusty white noise machine; there were even times I slept in a chair in a living room, so my first daughter could sleep in the bedroom alone lest I wake her trying to enter later in the evening. I never expected bed-sharing on vacation to be something I could handle, much less enjoy. Thankfully, as our family has grown, I’ve been able to relax my standards for where I can take everyone. My kids have smoothly adjusted to sharing a room with a parent on trips, and my oldest two love sharing a room at grandma’s.
This summer, though, I met a new hurdle. On our annual extended family trip to northern Michigan, there were now 10 people trying to find a place to rest, and I obviously couldn’t get a separate bed for everyone in my little circus. This may sound absolutely crazy, but for the very first time, as a mom of three kids who are four and under, I would be bed-sharing on vacation with one of my kids.
In my holy quest for peaceful nights in my house, I had never allowed myself to crawl into bed with one of the kids, although often tempted, fearing it would lead to a dependency that would never end. Even when they did wake at night, I never brought them back to my bed, even as infants, out of an excess of anxiety about so many factors. This past July, though, I opted to share a twin bed with my two-year-old son. I was so nervous about it! Would he want to talk to me all night? Would he stay awake staring at me? Cry? And what would happen when we got home? Because of covid stopping travel plans, I hadn’t even shared a room with him since he was an infant.
When I fretfully slipped into the tiny bed that night a few hours after they fell asleep, I was convinced the best I could hope for was that he wouldn’t notice me for a few hours and I might get some sleep until he did. What ended up happening was the most glorious of pleasant surprises.
It. Was. Wonderful.
Sometimes he did continue sleeping, but there were also lots of times he snuggled me. He even got in the habit of holding my hand in his sleep, and I never minded the nightly ritual of moving his precious body before joining him when he would inevitably end up sideways across the bed. I could wonder at his boyish perfection in the glow of the nightlight to my heart’s content, something I had never allowed myself to do, too wrapped up in worry about how, when, and where he should be sleeping. Bed-sharing on vacation helped me break free of my fear for a bit.
When we got home, I was still more than happy to deposit him back in his own bed and shut the door. We still sleep best that way, but that memory will remain a favorite. We may never bed-share at home, but in the mad rush of a family of five, I sometimes think back to his sweet face touching mine in the dark. As my newly middle child and only boy, he is often pushed to make room, quiet down, or hurry up. This trip gave me such a precious gift of connection with him. Being two in the middle of a pandemic has sometimes been hard for him as he struggles to learn social skills and feels the emotional weight carried by the grown-ups around him. Then we upped the ante and made him a big brother. He is so much more than he gets credit for. I’m so grateful for the gentle reminder of that.