My mom was visiting recently, ostensibly for the graduations of two of her beloved grandchildren. The real reason she visits, of course, is because she so enjoys the fact that we have no guest room.
This limits Louise’s sleeping options to the sofa (which could give even a 12-year-old a back ache), Ophelia’s teenage version of a bed (a box spring and mattress lying directly on the floor), or the queen-sized bed in my room, which, sadly, no longer houses a husband, and is, therefore, open real estate. In fact, there could be a sign posted next to the empty half of my bed with the message, “Vacancy: rentable by the night or week.”
Indeed, my bed does not see a revolving line-up of men, but rather, a revolving line-up of relatives – and animals. For a goodly portion of the eight years since Drew’s death, I’ve never known who I’ll wake up with. My children? My mother? A rogue cat?
When I was first widowed, waking up with one, two, or sometimes all three children snuggled up next to me was not only comforting, but life saving. There is nothing like the warm snuggle of one of your sleeping offspring to make you feel that life is worth living.
(Unless, of, course, it’s hot sex with a 26-year-old professional windsurfer.)
The part that I hesitate to admit is this had been going on long before Drew’s funeral. When we had our first child, we read articles about “the family bed” with looks of great disdain on our faces, swearing that we would never allow our children to overtake our sanctuary – the one place where we could feel like uninhibited lovers again.
Of course, keeping your children out of your bed sounds like an easy feat, but believe me, it is not. Any of you who have raised children or are currently housing any offspring who have yet to reach puberty can testify to the fact that keeping kids in their own beds at night requires patience, disciplinary consistency – and sometimes a restraining device. Or two.
I remember when Ophelia had her first bed, and would toddle into our room, looking for a warm place to snuggle. I mean, how does one say “get out” to their first-born when they want an all-night hug, and have brought along all manner of adorable stuffed animals?
And then there was Harold. Ahh, yes. Harold. The child who did not even wait until he had an actual bed, but would scale the sides of his crib and sneak into our room at all ungodly hours of the night. He was not unlike a ninja, and I have nightmarish memories of waking at 3 a.m., my eyes popping open in the pitch dark to witness the outline of what appeared to be a midget burglar, standing in eerie silence at the foot of our bed – with plans to tie my husband and I up in the garage while he would steal our Apple products and, perhaps, my pearl earrings.
Of course, the diminutive figure was not an intruder at all; at least not one with ill intentions. It was Harold, attempting to send his already exhausted parents into cardiac arrest.
After nearing code red on several occasions, Drew and I came to grips with the fact that, unless we shackled him to his crib (or later, his bed), our second child was going to continue to torment us in this fashion.
When our third child, Charles, reached the age of mobility, he became a frequenter of our comfy “non-family” bed, as well. He still carries on this tradition. Only now that Drew is gone, and Charles is 12, I treasure the moments when he wants to snuggle up next to me and fall asleep. Because it’s not going to last much longer.
One day, perhaps there will be a man who will be a constant in my life – and my bed. But I imagine that when the kids are home from college, or back for a holiday visit, my new significant other may need to go sleep outside, in the playhouse.
I’d best put that in the contract.