Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Perspective and "The Nest"

Having babies close together creates unusual situations in families. When Benjamin was born, we lived at Trinity in a two-bedroom residence director apartment. Surrounded by college students on nearly every side, sleep came hard to my sweet boys. Only 19 months apart, we had two babies in that small room and while they learned well to sleep in the chaos of college, it was the chatter and play they shared with one another that interrupted sleep the most.

Whether Noah was teaching Benjamin to talk or Benjamin was playing peek-a-boo over the side of the crib, sleep was not always timely for my boys. Mark and I intentionally made some space for this raucous-relationship-building, but the time came when bedtime was bedtime and nap time was nap time and the time for brotherly banter had passed.

Looking for a creative way to separate the boys for sleep, Mark and I decided to lure Noah out of his own room with a treat. Keep in mind, he was less than two and easily swayed. Using our bed to nap him in a location further than arm's reach from his sweet baby brother seemed the perfect solution. We put pillows in a circle in the middle of our queen sized bed, draped a blanket over the circle and told Noah he could take a nap in "the nest", if he would like.

The draw of sleeping like a baby bird in the softest of circles worked like a charm. Off he would toddle into our room and happily climb into our bed, drifting quickly to sleep surrounded on all sides. Benjamin being less likely to sleep at all waited years before "the nest" offer came his way, too.

We did not plan on renaming our bed and we did not know what a privilege it would become but somewhere along the way, the name stuck. To have a chance to sleep "in the nest" was the greatest of opportunities and one that all four kids came to understand as something nearly sacred in our home. Before long, it was not just the bed that was called "the nest", but the whole room itself.

Because language we use often is rarely listened to deeply, we really didn't know that the name had become permanent or that we had come to use it with the same regularity as "stove" or "bathtub" until we accidentally mentioned it outside of family ties. We we were asked, "What's the nest?". And then, we heard it differently and realized that something that once had a function became a word that was a part of us... a reminder to us of an earlier time that kept a foot-hold in today.

In having a bed that holds warm memories for our children, our reality is that on occasion it is shared. We were told, as young parents, to never allow a child to sleep with you in your bed. We were told, as young parents, that a child who is allowed to sleep with their parents will never, ever sleep alone. But, Mark and I long ago decided that we would not parent out of fear. Our decisions will not be based in what we are afraid might come someday. No, our decisions, our choices as parents will be based instead on what we feel is right for our children. So, when we brought our babies home, they came to bed with us. When they were very young, we gently transitioned them to their cribs over time. When they woke up frightened or lonely or sad, we welcomed them happily back. They know where we are and we know they will come our way if they feel the need.

Most nights, Mark and I have the bed to ourselves but when someone wanders in, I seek some perspective on our over-crowded bed. A few nights ago, one of the boys came to sleep with us in the middle of the night. I woke to find his head inches from my face. Laying in the dark, I could remember when the length of him reached from my shoulders to my waist. I remembered nursing him to sleep one early morning and looking at all his baby hair... seeing white blond everywhere except one or two brown hairs on the very top of his sweet head. I remembered sleeping with him on my chest, nearly upright, as he struggled with an ear infection. It was night and in the darkness, the whole of his life circled around me. Soft and warm, cozy and whole, I was cradled in a nest of memories of my boy.

These moments, even in the night, offer me a perspective that can be lost in the shuffle from day to day. These moments, yes even in the night, help me to see the big picture. And in that picture, I know that I will have years and years of uninterrupted sleep. I know that someday the bed will seem too big and the children will be all gone. I know that someday, lanky legs and humongous shoes will make the sweetness of a baby who fits himself to me an impossible memory, faded and dim. So, for tonight I will take what I can. I will embrace the minutes I have, crowded as they may be, and use them to see the whole of it. My babies are growing up.

So c'mon kiddos! The nest is open and you are welcome. Years of deep sleep lay before me. But, tonight, I will take a crowded bed and a view of you that makes me thankful for where we are--and where we've been.

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