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Stories, observations, and reflections from a life of raising boys

The Invasion

Jenifer DeMattia

 the shiner

the shiner

I can’t tell you how many warnings I was given about allowing our son to sleep in our bed at night. “It’s a hard habit to break”, they’d say. But no, I knew best. He is just so adorable, always saying the sweetest things to get himself in the middle of us all comfy cozy. And sometimes, to put the cherry on top, he would wake me up with a kiss and run his tiny hand across my face.

It happened when we made the transition from his crib to his new big boy car bed. His brother was on the way and basically we evicted him from his apartment. He loved that crib, but he found a new nest in our bed. My husband was not as keen on the idea as to be expected. “If we don’t stop this now it’s going to get bad”, he told me. “Do you want a twelve year old spooning with you one day?”

“Oh God no”, I said. But it was too late. One time and he was hooked. We would take turns carrying him back into his bed after he fell asleep. But somehow, he just kept re-appearing. He said he was scared, and I’m a sucker for his tears. He also began to elbow us, kick us in the face, and poke us in the eyes in his sleep. Our queen size bed was not made for this. I was his main target however; like I was made of metal, and he was the magnet. Allowing our 2 year old in our bed quickly lost its cuteness. We started to get upset with him. In the middle of the night after he would somehow turn himself completely around and give me a swift kick in the face, I found myself begging him to go to his room. I was half asleep and negotiating with him. Who knows what I said. “I told you this was a bad thing from the beginning”, my husband told me. Gee, that’s helpful. 

So I did what I always do when my husband tells me I told you so. I further encouraged the behavior. I would actually allow our son to go directly to bed in our room because it would avoid me getting woken up in the middle of the night when he crawled across my body. So basically, the only person completely happy with the situation was our son. Bed-sharing has become more popular within the last few years it seems. 

It used to be a common practice long ago when parents actually needed to sleep with their children to keep them warm. They say it promotes bonding and togetherness as a family for this generation. Hmm. Well, not in our house. My husband would usually end up in the guest room and my son would always end up in tears because I was constantly moving him over. He talks in his sleep, which is adorable, but the problem was it kept going. He would literally tell us the never-ending story. The whole thing was pretty ridiculous. When my husband and I wanted some “sexy time”, it became more like “quicky time” before you could hear the faint turn of a doorknob, followed by the hurried footsteps of our tiptoe walker.

Well I found that indeed I do have a limit to my stubbornness. There actually did come a day when I said to my husband, “you were right”. Our son was having a bad night. He was scared, he was resisting going to sleep, and he was antsy. “Alright, come in mama’s bed. I’ll lay down with you”, I told my little angel. I laid my head down on the pillow next to him and found myself drifting off to sleep. Until I quickly awoke from being hit in the head with a metal baseball bat.

Or so I thought.

“AHHHH! Holy sh*t! AHHHH!!” I jumped out of bed and tried to walk but fell to the floor. My son was screaming. I was screaming. My husband ran up the stairs and into our bedroom. I think he turned on the lights immediately but I couldn’t see. What I thought was a metal bat was actually my son’s head. He had somehow head-butted me in the face.

“What the hell is going on?” He yelled.

“A bat hit me!” After he took a second to contemplate how insane I was, he ran over to console our son. It’s a good thing that our boy was preoccupied with his own injury because I believe all the fun words were flying out of my mouth. “My face is caved in”, I insisted. It wasn’t, but for some reason I had convinced myself. The blow had literally knocked the sense out of me. The end result was that my son had a bump on the top of his head and I had a black eye. It was my first. I’ve had many “firsts” in parenting, but this one really stands out. Me and my son ended up staying up together until 3 in the morning because I was afraid for either one of us to go to bed, and because we were both a little shaken.

The next day I conceded. I walked up to my husband with a smile and a nice shiner, “The invader must go. You were right”. Then I walked away to find my Advil. Surprisingly, our son did not fight too hard that evening when we told him no more sleeping in our bed. “We don’t want any more boo-boos”, I said as I pointed to my eye. But it did prove to be tricky. We still found ourselves carrying him back into his room and sometimes my husband found himself waking up in a car bed alone, because our son had gotten into bed with me during the night. We have gotten to the point now where our son mostly sleeps through the night in his bed, but watches a cartoon with us in the morning before we start “the new day” as he calls it.

When we had to move our son into his new room, a huge part of me felt guilty. I knew there would be a baby brother in the house soon and things were going to change. It would soon become impossible for me to give the same amount of attention; I didn’t know how it was going to affect him. He was scared to sleep in a new room, and to be honest I was scared too. I think its like going through a grieving process, perhaps I felt like I was saying goodbye to my first baby. He’s a big boy, in a big boy bed now. I think this is just the start of me screwing him up, but I liked him sleeping next to me. Despite the elbow to the ribs and head trauma, I realize now how right all those people were who told me they grow up fast. It used to annoy me, but now I totally get it. Before I know it his voice will be different and his cute little feet will turn into Hobbit feet. He will be all grown-up. No more sleeping in a plastic red car bed in dinosaur pajamas. But that’s the beauty of life. For us all to grow and flourish in this world. And besides, no matter how big he gets, he will always be my baby boy in my dreams.

The crib

New room

Pretending to like the car bed

Sleep my little baby-oh
Sleep until you waken
When you wake you'll see the world
If I'm not mistaken...

Kiss a lover
Dance a measure,
Find your name
And buried treasure...

Face your life
Its pain, 
Its pleasure,
Leave no path untaken.

--Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book