Back in ’09, when our kid was just a kid-to-be, Elana and I watched this scene from Away We Go, the Dave Eggers/Vendela Vida-scripted meditation on impending parenthood, and we laaaaaaughed. Here is Maggie Gyllenhaal’s L.N. describing her “continuum” philosophy of child-rearing:
The Continuum movement recognizes that the world will give your baby plenty of alienation and despair in good time, so while we can, we should hold them close. So, it’s “the 3 S’s”: no separation, no sugar, no strollers.
Ha-ha. So silly.
But it turns out that, uh, through a weird combination of laziness, medical conditions, and the peculiar way we began life as a family, we have become EXACTLY THOSE PEOPLE. Minus, I hope, the douchey smugness.
But you have to understand that this just sort of flows out of our origin story — we were caught completely off-guard by our son’s early birth. We had left Los Angeles and gone to stay with my parents for a time, trying to save money and find me a new career on the East Coast. The plan was to move to New York, job search for two months, and hopefully know where we were going next by the time he was born. That did not work out, because of the eclampsia and so on, and instead we ended up bouncing back and forth from the futon in my parents’ office to various hotel rooms around the country for over half a year as I strung together a bunch of short gigs with the Army Reserve. Our family became a light, rapid-response force, deployable anywhere around the world in less than 48 hours.
So we had to do what worked for us and enabled us to get through the day. In the beginning, that meant getting enough sleep that we didn’t kill the kid. I know that’s the challenge for everybody, but I think that challenge is somewhat easier to deal with when one parent hasn’t just been nearly killed by a mystery disease and when you’re living in, you know, your own home, where you planned to be having a baby. What I am saying is, we were stressed, we were under the gun, and we were not going to fight with a newborn about where and how and when he slept and ate. So, after a brief and failed attempt to get him to sleep in a crib, he slept with us, and he ate whenever he wanted.
And this was both cozy and convenient. Really, if you’re a new family under the gun, co-sleeping and breastfeeding are THE BEST. And I’m not just saying that because I don’t have to do the breastfeeding; I’m pretty sure Elana would agree.
Of course, what’s weird is how long that can go on. Like if you had asked me at the beginning of this, well, will he be sleeping alone when he’s two? I would have told you oh, yes, for sure — how could he not be? But it turns out it’s perfectly easy for him not to be. Because it’s always, at any given point in our stressful, high-speed lives, easier to keep doing things the way we’ve been doing them.
This is not to say we have not made attempts. He has a little bed of his own next to the big bed, and frequently I put him in it when we go to bed for the night. But at some point in the night or the early morning, he rises up at our bedside, like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now, and clambers over me to find his spot between us.
It’s pretty creepy. Especially his little hand on your arm when you’re dead asleep. So goddamn creepy.
Anyway, this, I think, is the weird lesson of life with a kid: you do what works, and then if you feel an obsessive need for such things, you construct a philosophy around it afterward. Hence the “continuum concept,” which I’m pretty sure was just some hippie’s way of coping with the fact that THIS KID HAD COLONIZED THE BED AND REFUSED TO LEAVE, OH GOD THE COLD LITTLE HANDS MAKE IT STOP!!!
Here is a chart that perfectly captures what it’s like to have a toddler take over your bed in the middle of the night:
We got into “no strollers” in exactly the same way. When he was little, we were broke and didn’t know where we’d be from one month to the next and it was just easier to wear him all the time than to deal with another piece of equipment. (Plus, strollers seemed hard — you had to maneuver them over obstacles, they took up space wherever you went, and they always seemed to accumulate crap. Have I mentioned how lazy we are?) Plus it made cute family photos a lot more convenient:
“No sugar” we got into for other reasons, discussed here. Again, we did not come to this with some philosophical predisposition to dislike sugar. Not by a long shot. We just had to do what worked for us.
So now, after making a series of very practical, non-ideology-driven decisions, we are L.N. and Roderick The Seahorse Guy. I don’t know how I feel about this. We really had no intention of being anything other than fairly boring, middle-of-the-road parents, but somehow we’ve become people who only buy wooden toys. Also, our kid has, I think, never seen a commercial. Again, none of this was planned.
I started this post off thinking that I would come to a point. I haven’t. Maybe more will reveal itself when we start talking a little about The Search For Preschools, which I hope will be soon. ‘Till then, sleep well, alone in your beds. You bastards.
If it is any comfort, he would come get in bed with you if he slept at the other end of the house. You all slept in cribs, though I did bring you and Amy into bed to nurse in the early morning in hope of getting a bit more sleep myself. But J got up, came quietly in the room and lay down on the floor beside me. I nearly stepped on her until I convinced her she could get on the bed. Then she crawled onto the foot of the bed and shyly waited to be invited to come snuggle.
You know, you do what works, as long as it isn’t abusive, it will be fine. And almost all co-sleeping kids decide they want their own space. Really.
Love the sleep diagrams, they’re so accurate. We used to call this particular mode of bed travel ‘gym-posting’.