Six years ago when our son was born we did the things you are supposed to do: we bought a crib. I remember the first time I brought my son home and he nursed with me in the rocking chair and then went to sleep. I placed him in the crib and stared at him. Something just seemed wrong with having held him inside me for nine months and then because of culture and American sociology abandoning him to sleep in a wood and pressboard cell. I went and got a book I was reading, picked him up and placed us both on my bed. And thus a practice that we’d not really paid much attention to, became standard in our household: The Family Bed.

And then like any modern mother, I began reading up on it. Choosing the family bed wasn’t that big of a deal. My husband grew up poor and didn’t have his own room or bed. I’d shared a room with my brother for many years of our childhood and had a cot when he had a crib. I’d spent time in Asia where such things as children getting entire rooms of the house as their domain and no one else’s was simply not done. It seemed simple enough to me--do you want your children to be healthy , happy, secure, and part of your life? Do you want them to see you and your room as approachable or off-limits? I don’t know if there’s any more secure feeling in the world than cuddling up to your son or daughter when they are deep in the zone of sleep and you look down at them and can’t imagine how they can be so still when more often than not you usually see them in a din of constant motion. I can stare at them for hours.

But my reading on the subject tripped me out. People apparently, have come to bed drunk and rolled over on their babies and killed them. People sleep so soundly that the children fall through the cracks by the wall and suffocate. But even these horrific examples seemed strange. Kind of like a statement of the obvious, violating common sense, as it were. Well of course, don’t roll over on a baby, geez. And of course make sure that your blankets aren’t too heavy and that the bed is against the wall so no one will slip through. That kind of feels like, ‘wear a helmet and a seat belt.’

A surprising number of mothers I know don’t sleep with their kids and that puts me in a minority of kid sleepers. I’m no hippie by any stretch (I let my subscription to Mothering Magazine lapse). But still it makes sense to me. Why wouldn’t you want to be near your children the one time of day they are still? When mothers I know find out that our six and four year old still sleep with us they look frightened. As if they’d just hit a deer, eyes wide and dumbfounded (maybe they are the deer). Often I’m given advice on how to better transition them to their own beds and own room. Often I’m looked at weirdly because they, god forbid, share a room as well. I’m not transitioning them unless they want to transition out and sleep somewhere else. Nothing feels more secure than making a lion’s den out of the bedroom. Everyone piled cozy on a winter’s night. It's much more natural than a room down the hall and a monitor.

Sometimes we get the questions, that go along with those blank stares ( where do you guys, you know...). Why does that always have to be in the bed anyhow? I often wish that we had ‘love hotels’ like they do in Japan. You could go have fun and then come back and cook dinner like nothing ever happened, except everyone’s more relaxed and happy. If my kids had their own beds there’d be nothing left of their tiny bedroom in the first place but bed. What it comes down to is this. My husband and I looked around at all the houses we’d been to where each kid had their own TV, computer, room, phone, etc. That’s great that some parents can provide such excess and I suppose if we tried we could do so as well. But any household I’d been to where the kids had their own rooms + technological excess they just seemed to be a little bored, wacky, and totally disconnected from the family. A good friend of mine used to insist that a bedroom was simply meant for sleeping, nothing else. It shouldn’t be cluttered with the technology and toys. I kind of agree. Family bed makes that philosophy easier to reach.

I want my kids to be comfortable with their bodies and I want them to know that we are here for them. I have to almost laugh when parents I know start admitting that the one child is jealous of the baby because the baby co-sleeps or that the kindergartner is having issues of clinginess because the parents are working all the time and the kid only sees them for dinner and bath at night. It’s really simple--didn't have waking hours to spend with them ? Spend the sleeping ones. Nothing beats waking up on a Sunday morning with two kids jumping up and down asking papa to make his weekly pancakes. This is the time when we all seem to look into each others’ eyes and give big hugs and I love yous. As my husband says, before you know it they’ll be so big they won’t want hugs, or beds with their parents, or anything to do with us---so why not be close and cuddly while you can?