The ‘Krismis’ Bed
In a big country inhabited mostly by people with small houses – like South Africa (where we are from) – Christmas and Easter time often means a long journey home to be with your family and no spare bed for you to sleep in when you get there. I heard an Afrikaans person once talk about a ‘Krismis Bed’ (as in Christmas bed) when having a whole bunch of visitors over, conjuring up the feeling of holiday-fun, midnight feasts and pillow fights. The word comes from when everyone bunks down together on the floor of the largest room with an assortment of mattresses, blankets and pillows because when they come home, there is no room at the inn for spare beds let-alone spare bedrooms.
Here in Ireland, we still do not have the luxury of a big beautiful spare room with a large pretty double bed, as we have four children. However, we do have a small room that doubles as a study cum spare room downstairs where I am now sitting to type this. Sadly, next week when we have a visitor I will need to find another nook to write in. (The hardships of a writers life!!) One day my kids will grow up and leave home, possibly, and I’ll have spare rooms then, but it’s common enough in Ireland now for young adults to be living with their parents as rental accommodation is over priced and scarce.
One Easter, when family and friends came to stay from the far corners of the globe there were twelve people sleeping under this roof. There was a family of five in one room, one chap in the kitchen and Krismis, or rather Easter, beds in a couple of the bedrooms for leftover children. Afterwards when we returned to ‘normal’ our house felt simply huge and empty and a bit too quiet with just the six of us.
That’s our Krismis bed pictured above but so named for a slightly different reason. About 8 years ago, just before Christmas time, my husband and I came to a decision about the nocturnal habits of our children. Either we keep taking them back to their own beds when they appear at our bedside after midnight complaining of illness/nightmares etc. Or we let them into ours. I know there are parents who have boundless energy and discipline in the middle of the night and are capable of calmly accompanying their children back to their own bedrooms uttering soothing platitudes. On the other end of the spectrum sadly, there are also parents who are not bothered at night what their children may be suffering and so ignore them altogether.
Most of the time all I can manage is a drooly mumble into my pillow and a bracing of myself for the clambering body that squeezes in between the two of us. Sometimes I am able to say something along the lines of ‘If you’re feeling sick, please don’t get in my bed BEFORE you’ve visited the bathroom’. Cleaning up diced carrots off the bedroom floor is no picnic late at night but it’s absolutely preferable to cleaning it off your pillow, duvet cover, duvet, mattress, clothes and hair.
So it being Christmas and all we thought what could a parent wish for more than the gift of sleep? We went off and bought ourselves a large bed, the biggest size they have here. It looks small in the picture above with six of us on it but it’s a SUPER king. (King sized in South Africa – they have a Queen size there which is equivalent to the Irish king size). We agreed that it makes sense when there’s an extra person in our bed, that the space left is slightly more spacious. “Hang on”, I hear you cry, “surely you don’t all sleep in that bed?” No we don’t, the teenagers wouldn’t be caught dead. But our youngest two are eleven and nine and still pop through on occasion.
Last night was one of those occasions. Co-sleeping with one’s children is certainly not without its challenges. Our youngest has been struggling with nightmares lately and so has been sleeping with us once or twice a week for the past few months. Now I know that sounds like a breeze to parents of younger children so I really shouldn’t complain. I am only a bit tired today from being kept awake by a little girl tortoise-shelled to my back and the accompanying sweet log sawing sounds relaying between her and my hubby. I eventually got up and clambered up into her unoccupied top bunk. Fortunately, in the dark, I didn’t step on the scissors and other craft supplies strewn about the girls’ bedroom floor (apparently they are making secret things for me for Mother’s day).
Apart from the tortoise shell sleeping position, I think there must be a yoga position called ‘starfish’- it’s the one children adopt when sleeping in your bed. The other one is ‘Rugby Cross Bar’ – that’s the one when you and he are the uprights, one has your kid’s feet in their back and the other has their head. I have also come up with my very own American Indian name (remember ‘Wind in His Hair’ from Dances with Wolves?) mine is ‘Fist in my Face’ and I don’t love it. I wonder whether I would feel more rested if I had got up in the night and taken her back to her own bed and sat with her til she fell asleep?
Figuring out how best to cope with our children’s nocturnal habits is no easy game. The one thing I have learned though after almost 16 years is to be patient, as with time I have realised these are not true ‘habits’ in that they are not set in stone, but rather they come to pass. I don’t read bedtime stories anymore as they all read themselves, I don’t bath my kids anymore as it’s not really appropriate. My almost 16 year old and 13 year old don’t sleep in our bed any more, in fact some evenings they come to tuck us in.
All I have is today, tomorrow will be different, so I am constantly reminding myself to continue to love the snuggly warmth of a little body curled up next to mine. It’s good to feel that physical proximity as eventually every aspect of them, their emotions, feelings and bodies will distance themselves from me, and although I know that’s good and normal, I still know I’m going to miss it when it ends.