It was a Saturday night and I couldn’t sleep.
The wind was howling at 40mph and the rain pounded as if it were giant hail. I wanted to snuggle with my little guy, sense his chest rising and falling, offer comfort from the storm that wasn’t impacting his sleep at all. My husband heard me leaving and asked why. I told him B didn’t like storms and I wanted to check on him. It was an excuse, for me, to be in his sleeping, quiet, innocent essence as a four-year old.
I thought, it’s been a long time since I’ve climbed into his bed to snuggle him for my own need.
And then I realized why this urge was so strong - to cuddle, to witness, to snuggle, to wake with him.
I had missed our past two family sleep overs due to the flu.
I had missed on the experience which so deeply meets my own desire to be with my children when they are in stillness.
Listening to the waves of their breaths.
Noticing the quality of their sleep.
Taking in the view of their health from this perspective.
Falling asleep to the pressure of their little feet against my own body.
Sharing in the joy and comfort of such an intimate family bonding experience.
Waking to children’s arms grappling into my own, with child’s breath coming from the wide-grin smile and twinkling eyes that says, “that was fun!”
As a recovering "you must do x, y, and z to be a good mom" who's only parenting rules now are those which feel authentic and loving within our family unit, I long ago accepted a family bed wasn’t going to work for our family.
Grieving the Family Bed that Didn’t Work Washed away were the dreams of mattresses everywhere and everyone waking refreshed. Family bed for us means someone is sleeping squished with barely enough room to breath or at the end of the bed like a dog and multiple wakings based on someone else’s farts, kicks, or dreams. I’m up more than asleep ensuring no one is being smothered by a blanket or kicked in the face from an upside down child or covered by one of the four pillows for the four of us.
Family bed-sharing for two and a half years gave me more than enough time to realize no one was benefiting from the family bed, and another year of no family bed gave me more than enough time to realize I was missing an experience I so deeply craved within.
It’s as if spending time in both end zones confirmed it was time to break the mold and make our own rules; living widely in the gray areas of life.
The Game-Changing Solution (That Works for Us) So we decided on our compromise - Friday Night Family Sleepover.
Everyone’s invited into the big bed for one giant sleepover, filled with storytelling and laughter, sandwiched on the flip side with a morning in bed and a show. It’s a like stay-cation we take every single week.
I wasn’t the only one excited. My oldest was over the moon, filled to the brim, giddy out the sides, super duper excited. From the time we first introduced this concept until today, he has remembered every single week and proudly starts announcing on Thursday that tomorrow is Friday and you know what that means…. mom barely sleeps but loves every moment of it.
It doesn’t just meet my needs, it so beautifully continues to create a sense of peace and safety around sleep for my littles.
Our four-year old said, when asked what his favorite part of Friday Family Sleepover is, “All of it!”
Just as I remember fondly Saturday morning cartoons or Pasta Wednesday, our children will remember Friday Night Family Sleepover.
Taking What Works for You (& Leaving the Rest) Christy Santoro, Certified Professional Midwife of Philadelphia, PA, had this to say of the experience using family sleepovers as a way to ease the transition of her just over two and a half year-old son from their bed to a sleeping space with his sister, “I was so grateful for the idea of the family sleepover night as it allowed us to look forward to the positive aspects of our family bedtime one night a week as we transitioned our children into primarily sleeping in their own bed. Sometimes all four of us pile into the same bed for the family sleepover, sometimes it is mom and daughter in one bed, father and son in the other or vice-versa. Having the family sleepover really helped not only my kids, but also me, as we made such big changes in our family's sleep routine and rituals."
For our family, we feel we get the best of both worlds - family bed snuggles and overall weekly restorative sleep. It’s what we like to call, living in the gray area of parenting. Ditching the rules and parenting in a way that works for us - even if others think we be cray.
It’s pretty much as simple as that.
Sanity is in tact and sleep is both fun and restorative.
I imagine on those Friday nights when I hear my son giggle in his sleep or I wake long enough to take in the picture of my children sound asleep next to me it fills my heart enough to make it until the next Friday. My hope is all these Fridays put together in one big memory will fill my heart enough so when my children no longer choose to participate or be excited for our special night, or gasp, grow up and move out, the memories will remain big and bright enough for a smile within that says, “that was fun!”
Stephanie Dodd, M.S. is a generational healing & family coach. She authored the International Best-Selling eBook, Good Baby, Bad Sleeper.