I’m writing this on my smartphone, one handed, in the dark in my babies cot, trapped underneath him. The storm that I had anticipated finally came and he woke up terrified at the way the rumbling made our house tremble. He’s not yet 7 months old and after he fell asleep his little hands grasped at my clothes, so here I lay.
There’s a lot of unusual experiences as a parent, but the thing that interests me is the way that parents are victims of peer pressure. And to my mind the worst of all is the attitude towards sleep. I co-sleep with my little one, as indeed I did with all the other 3 as well. But to hear others responses to me telling that, you’d think I was sending my kids to work as chimney sweeps or something. Co-sleeping is weak parenting, is indulgent, it’s spoiling them. It breeds bad sleep habits, it ruins intimacy between partners. These are all judgements I’ve faced, usually in the form of concerned questions.
But I am not terribly concerned about what others think. I’ve caught other parents in too many untruths about their own kids: what they eat, how they sleep. I don’t feel like they are being malicious, but rather that they want to confirm to an ideal that they have been pressured into thinking is ‘correct’.
And in return I could quote statistics about how only a handful of societies all of them Western) tend away from co-sleep, about the way that Victorian ideals and later the rise of the two income family shifted the way we engage in sleep. I could divulge secrets about how to maintain a comfortable sex life with a baby in your room, or your bed. But I’m not here to prove a point, or claim that my way of sleep is better than the alternatives. I’m just here to say that it’s best for me.
Because I have a sense of the way that time is passing. At 20 my eldest is now the age I was when his sister was born, who is now a woman of 18. I am living a life of grief too, the loss of the Old Man has made me a lot softer than I ever thought I would be. I can feel forever in a way that is new to me. And every day is a gift, because there is an end coming to all of this.
The fact is that one day will be the last time my child will climb into my lap, one day they will be to big to carry, or to hold my hand unselfconsciously ever again is one thing that means that a small snuffling baby in my bed is a joy, rather than a hardship. And ever more poignant is that these final acts will happen and I won’t know that it is for the last time.
So I’m lying here enjoying it this time.