It's been a long day. My eyes are tired as I crawl into bed. I situate my pillows carefully and gently pull the covers to my chest. As I roll onto my stomach I feel the tiny hand of Hannah come to rest on my back.
I know she is asleep. The motion caused by me climbing into bed signals her to unconsciously connect with me. After I read to her a few hours earlier, we cuddled while she drifted off to sleep. I had reassured her that I would join her when it was my bed time. Feeling my back is her way registering that I kept my promise.
I pause one or two minutes to make sure she doesn't wake up. Her quiet, consistent breathing tells me that I made it in without disturbing her enough to fully awaken her, but just enough for her to know she has daddy next to her.
I lift my arm and slowly feel around for Abram.
He is a heavier sleeper. He sleeps in the twin bed pushed up against the queen bed. That is, he starts there. Sometimes he migrates over to my empty spot after falling asleep. However, most of the time he doesn't get past "the crack" that the two beds create when pushed together. It is stuffed with blankets and a special connector to make a smoother transition, but his little body naturally deposits itself there, and fits quite nicely, I might add. (Better than mine. I know, I have spent many nights in "the crack.")
I hear his heavier, slightly louder breathing so I know it is safe to put my hand on him and connect the chain.
As I cuddle him I whisper softly, "I love you Abram." He takes a deep breath, smacks his lips, grabs up his blanky, and repositions himself as he answers during the unconscious exhale, "I wuv you to daddy."
He doesn't seem to need to know that I am there like Hannah does. But, nonetheless, I need to let him know that I am there.
With the chain connected, I fall deeply asleep.
There is no telling how I will awake. Sometimes it is to Hannah or Abram informing me that they need to potty. Other times it is when they decide to tell me about a dream they had or they are excited about doing something in particular during the coming day. Often it is just because I am uncomfortable because there are legs or arms draped over my neck, face, or stomach with a pair of feet under my back. (Of course this is their most comfortable position because they are always sound asleep when I wake up like this.)
However, the best is waking up exactly at the same time. To catch the slowly opening eyes of my child only to be followed by the very first smile of a new day! To be greeted with a good morning twinkle of the eyes that are fully rested and ready for adventure. Those are the moments that I especially treasure. There is no better way to be reminded that, "This is the day the Lord hath made. I will be glad and rejoice in it."
Co-sleeping can be a very enjoyable tool to help build a strong relationship with your kids. Nursing mothers can give a better testimony than I regarding the many advantages of this very natural sleeping arrangement. From a fathers perspective though, I have been amazed at what has happened since we decided to go this route. I wouldn't trade it for all the chocolate chip cookies in the world.
Now, I understand that co-sleeping is just not possible for everyone. Every family is unique and will adapt differently during their own parenting journey. For us, co-sleeping was a necessity that turned into a luxury, and I would highly encourage everyone to give it a shot or at least look at some alternatives.
Nursing mothers can "side car" the crib.
If schedules don't allow co-sleeping, take advantage of family naps on the weekends.
Read to your kids at night and cuddle them while they fall asleep. This only adds 15 minutes or so to your bedtime routine, and I find that it's a great time to catch up on reading with a Kindle or I-pod.
Cuddle them in a Lazy-boy when they are tired. Even if they don't fall asleep the rest and bonding will do you both good.
You can always rock them to sleep after reading, and then transfer them to the bed.
My favorite is just to gather all the beds in the house, and push them together to make a giant family bed. Jump in together, give everyone their own covers, and see how it goes for a month or two. But then, that wouldn't be an alternative. That would be the real thing!