Pitter, patter, pitter patter, little footsteps make their way across the hall and into our bedroom. Our youngest child, age five, crawls into bed with my husband and me.
Thump, thud, thump, big kid feet noisily follow suit, and soon our oldest, nearly 8, squeezes himself between the covers.
Four of us, in a king-sized bed, which once seemed so vast and endless, now filled with our family.
All of us struggling to find our space, yet not wanting to leave. Snuggling close in a sea of arms and legs.
Our bed has always been open to our children.
From the birth of my first child, I ignored the “experts” and brought my babies to sleep with me to ease night nursing and get as much rest as possible. For months, years even, our beautiful crib sat empty in the nursery, a reminder of a dream to help our kids sleep on their own that never seemed like it would come true.
A bigger house and more bedrooms meant the promise of better sleep and a space for everyone.
We encouraged our children to sleep on their own in all ways we could think of, eventually settling on the idea of them sharing a room. We purchased beautiful bunk beds, and imagined evenings of brothers staying up late whispering about whatever brothers whisper about as night sets in.
But, brothers fight and annoy one another, and eventually one or both would still end up in our bed.
Children do grow up, though, and seek out there own space, even at night. And, so when my son got older, maybe older than what society expected, he asked for his own bed in his own room.
Our family went to the furniture store and watched our son mull over the options before he settled on a sleek, dark wood bed frame with storage.
For many nights to follow, our eldest went to bed and saw us in the morning.
He was growing up, finding his independence and following the path we expect for our children.
With him now sleeping in his own space, we were free to focus on our then four-year-old, who had been better about staying in his bed, but had regressed in recent years.
Our kids were getting older, no longer in need of our nightly comforting. Our bed could once again feel vast and free.
Then COVID happened. The world shut down, and the panic seeped into my children.
My oldest worried more and more about his own mortality. Death and disease were prominent on the news, he couldn’t see his friends or family, and school was behind a computer. Fear favors the lonely, and the earliest days were the loneliest of all.
Nothing made sense and everything was frightening.
One night, he crept into our bed. Perhaps not fully conscious, but his feet remembered the familiar path.
One night became two, than three, than four. Sometimes one of us would nudge his body off the bed, forgetting in the moment how heavy he had become and carry him back to his room. Other nights, more nights, lately, we would just let him sleep with us.
Our youngest was not content to be excluded from the nightly snuggles.
He saw his older brother breach the boundaries of his bedroom and wanted the same. He would fight for his spot on the bed, his chance for security.
Our bed has become more crowded over the past year plus since COVID-19 took over our lives.
A year of fear and uncertainty.
A year of shut downs and anxiety.
A year of masks and sanitizing.
A year of sickness and death.
A year of childhood upturned and destroyed.
Through it all, our bed remains a constant source of comfort and stability; a place of protection and love.
Other guardians will scoff at our choices. They will question our ability to stand up to our children, wondering why we have permitted such a violation of adult space to go on for so long.
Children belong in their own beds, they will shout at us from the corners of the internet, judging us for hindering our kids’ independence and ruining our own relationship in the process.
Maybe they’re right.
Finding time to be with your partner is made more difficult with tiny humans wanting to be with you all night. And, nobody likes waking up with their child’s tush in their face.
Yet, as much as my husband and I love to sleep on our own, and as much as we need our time to connect, especially in these times, we know our kids need us at night.
So, we keep the hallway light on and the bedroom door open.
We put extra pillows and blankets in our bed to keep everyone comfortable.
We sleep on edges in contorted positions and constantly move hands and feet from our faces.
We complain, yet we love this, in some small way, deep in the part of our hearts that know this pandemic has helped us hang on to their innocence just a bit longer.
We will get through this. Our children will get through this. They will find ways to cope with the aftermath of a global pandemic and will make their way back to their own beds.
Until then, our door is open.