Too much togetherness

Elise T. Chisolm

October 08, 1991|By Elise T. Chisolm

I'M AMAZED. Some parents are sharing their bed with their kids.

This may be the pits in sleeping arrangements for some of us, but apparently others love it.

The habit dates back to the cave men -- the parents sharing the bearskin rug and the duck-feather mats with the babies, and everyone cuddling up for warmth. What I hear now is of modern families who go to bed at the same time. We're talking togetherness. Wow!

I never would have succumbed to this rite.

I have to have my own bed area and crawl space.

Sure, when one of our four kids had an all-night earache, she or he slept next to me in our double bed -- on my side because the dog slept on my husband's side. That was before the advent of the queen- or king-size bed, of course. It was a tight ship.

We're talking big people at our house. My husband and I are tall, and we have big kids -- it never would have worked for any length of time. For one thing we had a child who talked in his sleep, one who frequently wet the bed and one who emitted other noises that small humans do during a night's sleep.

I can remember one bad night when I'd given a sick 5-year-old his antibiotic and cough medicine, and after a few hours of his feet being in my rib cage and his thumb in my ear, I begged my husband to shift the baby to the middle, between us.

He said, ''You gotta be kidding. I have to go to work at 6. Besides, his thumb-sucking sounds like a whale whistling underwater."

Maybe we all could have slept together in our bed if we'd had those bundling boards that early New Englanders used -- a board that was used to separate bodies in beds.

Anyway, we got to arguing about whether or not babies should sleep with their parents when we watched television's "20/20" recently. The show's guests discussed the pros and cons of small children sleeping in their parents' beds.

I guess you know by now which team we were on.

They showed us a sad little video clip of a 3-year-old who screamed every night when the parents put him to bed in his own crib in his own room. The parents, who hadn't slept well in nights, were exhausted and on the verge of collapse. (I know the feeling. Many a night I contemplated getting in the crib with a crying baby.)

Then we heard from the doctor who showed the parents that they should let the child cry -- in his own crib. Via the hidden camera, the parents saw that the child eventually will make his nest and go to sleep on his own. The parents were exuberant.

But a doctor on the other side of the issue advocated letting your baby or small child sleep in the bed with you, making for better bonding, better self-esteem and general coziness.

We were shown some contemporary families who applauded the sleep-together style, and they looked so healthy and happy, I almost capitulated.

But I can't imagine our life or our bed if we'd given in.

Well, it wouldn't have been our own life if all four of our kids had slept next to us.

Remember, those were the days of the leaking diaper and the ineffective rubber pants.

We had a child who had to have a ''blanky'' with her, a child who had to have a stuffed monkey with her, and a child who slept with a toy road grader for four months.

So I would give the restless kids a bevy of stuffed bears, a kitten or a small dog that doesn't grow and say ''nitey-nite, darling,'' and close the door.

And they'd sleep. In their own beds. In their own rooms.

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