Monday, September 17, 2012

Sleep Tight

So we slept with the baby, the first few months, but have been gradually transitioning him into his crib as he gradually transitions into waking up fewer than four times every night, and I was just thinking how odd the expectations are with regard to sleeping.

I mean, to the extent that being partnered is considered a natural state for adults (that is, to a pretty great extent), sharing a bed is considered the natural sleeping habit for adults.

And yet, for years and years before this, all through childhood, sleeping alone is considered to be the natural state. (In contemporary US culture, at least: obviously there's a lot of variation between cultures and time periods.) You spend years accustomed to having your own bed, and then you're supposed to just naturally make this big shift and spend years sharing your bed with someone else.

When you think about it, doesn't it seem more reasonable that children should be the ones who customarily sleep with someone? After all, they get anxious and scared of the dark (unless that was just me), and having someone to curl up next to makes it somewhat less alarming. (It's a known fact that monsters don't like to pounce if there's more than one person in the bed.)

Presumably as adults we're less likely to be scared of the dark, and yet that's when we're expected to be able to curl up next to someone as a matter of course.

Personally, I often shared a bed with one or more of my sisters as a child, because there were sometimes more of us than than there were mattresses, but a lot of people don't have this experience. Thanks for helping keep the monsters off, sisters!

Now I feel kind of bad about putting the baby in his crib all alone, although I think he's too young to be scared of the dark at the moment.

Also, I'm suddenly kind of worried about monsters again. Thanks for opening up old wounds, brain.


annajcook said...

Reading your post, it makes me realize I don't know -- historically speaking -- when single beds for children became the expected norm in the US. Into the 20th century, I'm pretty sure, since throughout the 19th you've got the expectation that brothers and sisters will share sleeping arrangements -- not only rooms, but beds as well. It's fascinating how quickly that expectation changed (was even pathologized?) -- within a generation or two!

I enjoyed my own bed for years, and when I partnered with my wife in my late twenties it was strange at first sharing a bed -- though now I wonder how I ever slept soundly without her warmth and presence to curl around in the night.

Good luck with the monsters! My advice is acquire a sonic screwdriver to keep by the bed - it should help ward off any evil that comes your way!

A'Llyn said...

Ah, the sonic screwdriver! Why didn't I think of that?

I don't know much about that history either, but I agree, it must have been pretty recent that we got this expectation of single beds for kids. Maybe the normalcy-defining yet actually anomalous 1950s?