Friday, January 14, 2011


For whatever reason, my kids are needing me a bit more right now.

Is it because I've been feeling just a little low and a little overwhelmed? Caught up with the sorrow in Queensland, full of the rain, feeling just a little (or a lot) overtaken by how much there is to do in our house…? Then there is the coming year. How will it go? Will I still run my Freedom Experiment? Will I trust enough, to truly embrace what that means? Will I manage running two writing workshops? When will we fit in music classes now my son is in a third band and there's going to be pottery classes, and the kids want to learn Italian? What about helping the Lego League team get to Europe? Will my boy be all right when the team goes off without him? Will I be all right?

So much, too much is in my head…It feels a bit tangled and some days my brain feels fuzzy. Not always, but enough that I think the kids might be feeling it. Perhaps they want me closer because of it.

Or, perhaps it's got nothing to do with me and everything to do with the creepy shadow puppet show we saw in Sydney the other day. Where the dude thought it would be excellent kid entertainment for the shadow scientist to do a lobotomy with a big serrated shadow knife, and transfer his shadow brain to the open shadow head of someone else. Woohoo! Yay! Perfect entertainment for kids 5 and up. My kids have each told me about the nightmares they are having, and they are 8 and 10 years old.

ANYWAY. This post is not about all that.

(Really? Don't we all want to go down the path of "Oh, the world is so difficult!" today?

Well, I'm not sure about you, but I know I don't!)

This post is about something else.

It's about what to do when both your kids say, two, or three, or four nights in a row:

"Mum, I wish I could sleep with you tonight," and, "I always sleep better when I sleep with you and Dad," and "Why can't I sleep with you?"

I reply with all the things I think I'm supposed to say.

"You'll sleep better in your own bed. There's not enough room for both of you in our bed. I want to have my own space—you're too big! And I can't sleep in your bed with you because I'm too big and none of us will get any rest."

(And underneath there's that feeling of, "I mustn't let them sleep with me; they're too old! And what a slippery slope that'll be, what if they get used to it, and both want to sleep with us for years? What if they're 3000 years old and still here?!"
…Ah, such helpful what ifs…always so reassuring…)

Then I pause. And I think, and I ask myself:

What if I just said, Yes?

Why can't I say, Yes? Why can't they both sleep with us when they want to?

Oh…my inner voice is saying: There's not enough room!

Well then, why don't I turn the big bed sideways and put in a spare bed? Easy.

Oh…now my inner voice is saying: One family shouldn't sleep in the one room! That's crazy talk!!

Well, why not? When the kids want and you can and you are so privileged it's actually an option not a necessity and it makes so many people sleep better and feel so happy, then why not? 

Who made these rules we think we need to live by, anyway?

I know I didn't, but I still feel the need to adhere to them. 

So, okay. This is what I'm saying to myself now:

Our kids want to sleep with us, sometimes. When they have had a rattled day, when the dark is too big, when what they want is to hear another person breathing in the same room. When they can reach out and feel my hand, just. there. and know everything is going to be all right.

Doesn't everyone want that, some days, and sometimes?

It's a human instinct, something we've tried to logic out of ourselves, but it's always there. A need for closeness, a need for contact, connection. It's a beautiful thing.

Am I listening to me? Hello?

Well, actually, yes I am.

Which means,

I'm thinking now that I will say, Okay.

I'm thinking that instead of, or as well as, cleaning one bathroom…

I will turn one big bed around. I will get our spare bed from the study and put it next to our bed. I will say, "Hotel Us is open for visitors, if you want, when you want!"

Who knows what that will mean?

Well, I might think it's crazy tomorrow!

The kids might say, "Mum it's too bright! Too dark! Too hot! Too noisy 'cos Dad's snoring like a Wildebeast!" The kids might wriggle. They might kick me in the back. They might steal all the available space and my husband and I might end up dangling off the edges. We might be usurped and end up, each of us, in the kids' beds, in their rooms.

Oh, all these things and more MIGHT happen.

And they might not.

I say, Let's see!

Because tomorrow and the next second and the great big possible future are, all of them, different times from now. And I haven't lived any of them yet!

(oh, I donated to the Queensland Flood Relief Appeal today. It wasn't so hard to do…and it felt right all the way through to my bones.)


  1. You rock, Helena.

    There is something about cuddling that tiny, warm body in the middle of the night that is pure bliss. I remember pressing my babies against me, trying desperately to memorize the way they felt because they were growing up so fast...

    Until the kicking and thrashing started up, anyway. I bought two sleeping bags and get them out whenever someone wants to be in our room. I dangle my hand over the edge and rub their foreheads.

    I love your Freedom Experiment. I have found that once I completely let go of my preconceived ideas about "school" and learning, that I started to question EVERYTHING. I can't believe it took me almost 20 years of making Christmas dinner to realize I didn't HAVE to make it! We can choose something else! How freeing!

    How many other boxes am I in, without even realizing it?

  2. Helena,

    I just read of the 13 year old boy who sacrificed his own life to save his brothers. I have tears in my eyes just writing it now. Our of such tragedy there comes stories that will stay with us forever. Even now, years later listening to Katrina survivors tell their tales of human kindness is touching. Your country is in my thoughts and prayers.

    The freedom experiment is awesome. I had Grace in bed with me last night. I let them climb in when they are scared, lonely or sick. My girls chose to share a room for togetherness. What amazes me is how one choice - just one - leads to a whole new world of possibility.

    Enjoy your togetherness.

  3. Ah, thank you, Deb! Yes, I'm finding the more I choose Yes the more the whole world just breaks open, in all its kaleidoscope colours, in all its wonder. It's just beautiful. (And I KNOW what you mean about those boxes)

    And, thank you, Jessica. The story of the 13 year old is hard, hard, hard. And the stories of the Katrina survivors must be incredible. I think the more we are open to hearing these stories, the more our compassion grows, as does our ability to give. But you know that already! And you inspire me.

    My kids have slept with us, on and off, for years, since they were babies. My boy didn't sleep through the night 'til he was 5 years old, so there was a lot of reassuring during the night!! My girl had to sleep with us for ages while she was healing from her school experience. She still sleeps over now and then. But they've gotten SO SO big that to have them BOTH in the bed seemed impossible! I couldn't picture it; now, I can.

    It's lovely, choosing Yes, more and more and more. I feel like I'm emerging from a cocoon.

  4. I think there are times when kids want to sleep with parents and that's just fine. It seems that when they are feeling comfortable, they sleep in their own beds happily. But I can understand completely why they want and need to be by parents.

    I remember lying in bed at night as a child with a horrible longing. I think if I'd been allowed to sleep with my parents for awhile, that horrible longing would have been relieved.

    One of my favorite quotes regarding people is from Dr. Sears - "Meet the need and it will go away." (Not that the need can't arise again, but withholding relief doesn't get rid of the need.)

  5. My kids are a little younger than yours, but I recently posted about cosleeping with 3 kids in my bed (most nights). I know they won't always want to do this and I want to enjoy it while I can. My 7 yo thanked me today (out of the blue)for letting her sleep in my bed whenever she wants to...
    here's the post if you're interested :)

  6. Sorry Helena,
    I just realized that you commented on that post. I didn't connect the blogger and the commenter as being the same person :P
    I'd love to know more about your "freedom experiment" I'm intrigued.

  7. When I feel rattled, I still want to go curl up in my mums bed. And when I visit her she lets me. I am 29 :)

  8. Hi, Hi Kooky! (that's funny! And I'm probably not the first to make that joke…ah well, I'm never first)—yes, I agree completely. Thank you so much for coming by and for commenting! That Dr. Sears quote is awesome. Meet the need…that's what I think I did when I pulled my girl out of school. Many people said, Oh, you won't teach her resilience! I said, Blah to you all! No, actually I thought, If she knows she is safe and that I will be there for her, she will become stronger. It will happen.

    Same, I think for sleeping. If my kids need it, then there's a reason, and it's important for them to feel heard and responded to. Yeah, to what you said!

    Verdemama, I was going to say, I loved that post! Already responded! But you beat me to it :) Thank you for sharing that link. I'll have to write more about the Freedom Experiment; I have so much I want to say!

    And that's beautiful, Mrs Mc. I love that your mum lets you curl up. When I was 20 something I used to visit my grandmother all the time, in her little one room place. We'd play scrabble, have lunch, then I'd say, Can I nap on your bed? She'd always say, Yes. I loved how safe I felt then, with her reading and the clock ticking and the soft pillow that smelled of her…

  9. ALL my kids slept in our bed when they were little. ALL had their own beds but hopped in with us when they needed to. We often had an extra bed shoved next to ours as they were growing. Having one who had night terrors for years, we got more sleep that way. It is harder when they get bigger (we got a bigger bed LOL). They rarely request it now unless they are sick, then we will drag a mattress next to our bed or I will sleep in their rooms with them. Mine are too big to fit in our bed all night now but they still all will climb in for cuddles even the 22 year old. Its quite funny if they all pile in at once.

    As you have probably guessed by now HUGS are very prevalent in our lives!

    Hugs and smoochies xoxoxox

  10. Shoot, I just turn the kids sideways and we all curl up on top of each other. Seriously. Though my eldest is now on the floor. We're always sharing our room. It's a bit crowded but it won't last forever. I know I'll miss it someday. And they do have beds! It's just more fun to have sleepovers in mom and dad's room!

  11. Well Kei has never NOT slept with me. Unless she has spend the night company. I know it is different for us because it is just us, but I love her little body snuggled up to mine in the dark. My favorite is listening to her talk in her sleep sometimes and say "I love you Mommy" in her sleepy little voice. You go Helena!! I love your attitude about everything.


  12. Karisma, I LOVE hugs too—kind of need them to breathe, I think! I love the idea of your 22 year old climbing in for cuddles. That's really beautiful. I think being affectionate and giving hugs is one of the kindest things humans can do for each other.

    Thanks for stopping by, Tracey! Loved your opening sentence :) And it IS more fun to have sleepovers. I just wasn't sure how we'd all FIT! Then I thought, I'll make it work. Opening myself up to that was wonderful.

    Yum, Karen. Thank you for your comment. How gorgeous that Kei says she loves you in her sleep. You guys are beautiful. Ditto right back, on your attitude about everything!

    Thank you all!

  13. Count us in the family bed group.
    Maddie sometimes sleeps separately (on a little bed on the floor), and tried her room for a few nights, but it's usually us.
    Trev isn't going anywhere, I don't think. Some people just need someone to love while they're sleeping, and that's that. :)


I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.