This is what a six year old looks like sprawled across a queen sized bed.
I'm always impressed by how much room he can take up.
In truth, I didn't start my parenting journey with what I felt were radical ideas. I'd never heard of Peggy O'Mara or Dr. Sears. (Though later on I was glad to find them!) I just did what felt right to me. Breastfeeding, baby-wearing & co-sleeping were truly my natural instincts as a young mama. I carried my babies all the time, never let them cry if I could help it, and they all slept beside me…. usually nursing much of the night.
All of that is a lot more acceptable today than it was 16 years ago.
To be honest, there were even a few times I lied and said "Yes, of course they sleep in their crib." with my first two. I was worried about being judged. About fitting in. About messing up. I think these feelings are pretty synonymous with all new parents on some level.
But now I'm older. And I don't give a crap what people think anymore. It's a beautiful thing sometimes, this getting older. I'll take the crows feet with the moxie.
So now if you ask…
I'll laugh and tell you each of our four kids slept in our bed most nights until the next sibling arrived. The crib we had held more clean laundry that needed folding than it did babies. Though they did nap in it. Our youngest at the age of six starts out in his own bed every night, but more often than not he wanders into ours in the wee hours. Maybe he's cold, or scared, or having trouble sleeping. I don't usually remember because I wake up enough to pat his back, and then I fall back to sleep.
I love my sleep. I love my kids. I don't usually mind if all that intermingles. Even if our youngest one is sort of like snuggling with an octopus… and often times once he's fast asleep again we carry him back into his own bed to avoid a heel drop to the belly.
Our kids have robust active imaginations. They play well together and by themselves all day long. They imagine wonderful crazy beautiful things, create their own worlds. I don't expect them to turn this off from 10pm to 6am every night. If they get scared and need to feel safe… they come running down the hall with a blanket. We're okay with this.
And you know? They all grow up. They all become these fiercely independent young people who no longer need a mama to smooth their hair and pat their back to coax them to sleep. Or daddy to kiss their eyes and flip their pillow over to give them good dreams. This sweet bit of childhood is so fleeting… I don't want to look back and think I didn't soak up every bit of it that I could. Or that I didn't follow my gut instinct.
Even if it means snuggling with an octopus.
And because I share this with every new mama that asks me, I thought I would tell you too. In your own heart, you know what's right for you and your little ones. That is always the path to follow.
ps ~ I've been doing a weekly post over on the Natural Kids Team blog… come take a peek.