There is a set list of things, as parents, we need to do for our kids. Feed them, clothe them, keep them healthy, and the list goes on like the tax code with Dora the Explorer transcripts and Fruit Roll Ups. They are to be expected. We do them out of love. We do them because they are our children. We do them out of a paternal instinct and because the dangers of eating Lego’s are one of those items our kids will need to know.
But apart from our normal duties as parents, there are those things we do above and beyond the call of our duties that will have our kids talking about them long after they have been done. Serving ice cream for breakfast, letting a 7 year old and 4 year old stay up late to watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve, having a water gun fight in the house (when their mother is at work). Things that put smiles on your kids’ face and make being a parent so much fun. These things, not an everyday occurrence or part of what parents need to provide to their children, are given as a treat or reward.
George Washington once said, “The value of liberty was thus enhanced in our estimation by the difficulty of its attainment.” George was on to something with this one.
One of the things my wife and I like to do as one of those treats or rewards is to let our kids sleep in bed with us. Early on as parents, we learned about the dangers of letting our kids sleep with us regularly. It started with my oldest in her bassinet at the foot of our bed as a newborn. For five months, she slept in the bassinet. For five months I had to remain silent in bed. No rustling of sheets, no moving, I had to hold in what had been dinner and my body broke down in to a gas. By the time number 2 came along, it was decided the bassinet would not be used for so long (think weeks instead of months). Since that time, unless the rare nightmare or night time sickness has softened me, our kids have their beds and my wife and I have ours.
But my kids are allowed, on special occasions, to sleep in my bed. The first image you might be conjuring in your mind is something out of the Norman Rockefeller collection. All four of us snuggled closely together, fitting like jigsaw pieces, sleeping soundly. Sweet isn’t it? Actually, it’s more like a car crash. Arms are everywhere. People are strewn in all directions on the bed and there’s the snoring. When it first hits your audial canal, it could very well be mistaken for someone in writhing pain. It is bad enough I am pitted in nighttime battle with my wife over bed territory and the blankets. When my kids are in bed, it’s like a group of lions all vying for the last piece of meat on a caribou carcass. So on those nights, when the kids are allowed to sleep in our bed, are the nights I hit the floor.
Why the floor when there are two unused beds in other rooms? My kids’ beds are made for kids or big horse jockeys. I’m 6’4”. I’d have to use their desk as an extender in a weird mix of sleeping and Planking. My kids’ beds also have mattresses with the same texture as an under cooked chocolate chip cookie. The sofa holds no better respite. Whoever made the mattresses also made the sofa. So on to the floor I go.
I fashion a makeshift bed out of the extra blankets buried in the bottom of the closet and smuggle a pillow out of my daughter’s room. The dog, excited someone else will be joining her, spends the next 10 minutes rubbing her head into my chest, wanting her belly scratched and trying to steal the pillow. By morning, I’ll have a separated shoulder, my lower back will feel like a mechanic tightened with an air gun, and more than likely my face will be near a puddle of dog drool.
A source close to me relays information about sleeping with the kids. Apparently it isn’t a whole lot better on the bed (easy for her to say, she’s in the bed).
I wake up, barely. Half paralyzed. But I wake up to my kids. Happy. Thankful. Excited to wake up and see their mom’s face first thing in the morning. I pretend to still be sleeping (half pretend half really asleep) so my kids will meet me down on the floor. I get “Morning Daddy!” by Hannah and I get a flying knee bomb into my back by Emma, who’s laughing. I ignore the pain (or I really am paralyzed and don’t know it). If this is how my kids react to being treated to a sleepover in my bed? Then I don’t mind serving ice cream for breakfast, or letting them stay up into the wee hours of the night, and I don’t mind sleeping on the floor. Because I’m a dad and its just another one of the things we do.