We often hear about animals being agitated and fretting when their young are in danger, or even when they aren’t close by.
The mother duck squawks and quacks away if her ducklings aren’t in a row. The poor tiger whose babies did not survive was consoled when motherless piglets were wrapped in tiger skins and brought to her to nurture.
Don’t get between a mother bear and her cubs. In fact, don’t mess with any parents’ kids. The laws of nature will take over quickly.
Michelle and I were pretty hardcore when it came to bedtime, and we have always been a little snooty and judgmental when we hear parents talk about having their kids in their bed every night. But yes, I must admit that when we relaxed our rules and let a sickness or bad dream gain access to our bed, I slept a little better knowing everyone was near. Well, most nights anyway.
It was always fun to have everyone at arm’s length. If we had a “camp out” on the living room floor or a real camp out in our family tent, it was comforting to have all my little ducklings close by.
Our first house was a story and-a-half, which meant our upstairs was two rooms, side-by-side. Our first son was just a few steps away from us, and it was great to be able to scoop him up for feeding or any sort of discomfort when the crying began. Everything felt pretty safe and sound. Later, when we moved downstairs and our family expanded to three kids, they were all a little too far away, even though the floor squeaked as a sort of alarm when anyone was out of bed.
I really felt we had moved up in the world a bit when we moved to our current home. There was a bathroom in the hallway next to the kid rooms, and Michelle and I had our own. And everyone was right across the hall.
As usual, things change as kids get older. Our more independent younger son decided to make a corner of the basement storage room into his own sleeping space, a little larger than a closet. Eventually, the entire storage side of the basement was taken over by both boys and we actually finished the storage area, making it into a real sleeping space with walls and closets.
As I write, all of the oldest kids have rooms in the basement and our youngest is upstairs near us. We even have a guest room; a little larger than a closet. Now the kids downstairs can hear the floor squeak and they know if we creep to the kitchen at night or how early we get up in the morning. The tables have turned. The teenagers can escape to their rooms when they need their quiet time.
My oldest is in college and came home over Thanksgiving for a bit. That first evening, I felt a little like I used to long ago when one of them crawled into bed with us. I knew where they all were. Everyone retired for the evening, the last light was turned out. We weren’t just a few steps away from one another like we once were, but we were all under the same roof.
It won’t last long, but it’s a good feeling when it happens.