It started innocently enough.

None of the places we rented before owning our own home had central air. Being a big fat guy at the time, sleeping at night during the dog days of summer – especially on evenings where the humidity is actually visible and oppressing – was darn near impossible. Fans did nothing more than push the hot air around. So we bought a small window unit and installed it in our bedroom, making our love nest the most comfortable spot in the house.

And on really stifling nights, the kids ended up sleeping in our room. They were all so cute, snuggled in their blankies and hugging their teddies and not sweating. Those were the days of jumping-on-the-bed parties and reading aloud or singing along to the radio until they all passed out. It wasn’t an every night deal, so these campouts were special.

Now we have wonderful, chilly air circulating around the confines. No more kicking off the blankets or flipping the pillow a hundred times before the cool side does its job and ushers us away to dreamland. And the kiddos are older. And bigger. The bed can’t handle too many more jumping parties. And they actually like hanging in their own rooms, surrounded by their stuff, and sleeping through the night.

Except for Aryn.

She’s almost eleven and still likes sleeping on the floor on dad’s side of the bed, buried in her comforter and reading a book as she drifts off to sleep with a smile on her face. She comes to me if she’s having trouble sleeping and gives me that look – and a hug, which doesn’t hurt – and asks ever-so-sweetly, “Can I sleep in your room?” Not every night, but more than may seem normal, and She Who Must Be Obeyed has started giving me that look, the one that says, “You are such a pushover!”

Maybe it’s guilt. I work the evening shift, so I’m not around to tuck the kids in anymore. Gone are the days of the Squeeze Smoosh. Simply finding the time to connect with them is a minute-by-precious-minute effort that often falls short of my own elevated expectations. I want to talk to them and play games like we used to and read with them and just hang with them in my vicinity.

So I say yes.

Just to have her close. Within arm’s reach. Where I can tell her I love her a zillion times and hear her mumble it back to me as she slips into pleasant dreamy sleep.

I’m no psychologist, can’t quite put my finger on it, but I’m sure I’m doing something wrong. Am I messing her up? Scarring her for life? Am I an enabler? Will she grow to be overly dependent on the men in her life?

Or will she look back on all this one day, in an instant of sober-minded clarity, and realize that daddy just loved her too much to say no? Will she hate me for being such a pushover?

[photo credit]


24 thoughts on “Pushover

  1. I’m not a big one for timetables of when kids are “supposed” to be doing or not doing stuff. That being said, I’m divided on this. There’s a part of me that completely understands why you give in, and okay, so maybe some of it is absentee dad guilt, but obviously your little girl misses you too, and what’s the big deal – in another year or so, she’s going to be way too cool and adult for hanging out.
    But Mom has good instincts too, and she’s not motivated by guilt, nor, I suspect, is she the jealous type. If Mom thinks maybe it’s time to wean off the sleepovers she probably has a good reason.
    In the immortal words of Linda Richmond (Mike Myers): “Talk among yourselves. Discuss.”
    (I left out the part “the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman” – I figured it was off-subject.)

    PS- Have you been smelling Mexican food lately? That was me on the telepathy line, twin man!)

  2. Yeah. My hubby leaves for work at an ungoldy hour, so it’s rare for me to wake up alone–I usually have the almost-5 manchild stumble in at a quarter past Daddy’s departure and jump into bed.

    I let him stay, though. He’s like a blast furnace. Since living in the Pacific NW for almost 6 years, it’s nice to not have to turn on the heat–just throw a preschooler in bed and the sheets are warm and snuggly.

  3. I think my wife is more worried about the way she manipulates me, the “Oh, please Daddy!” look, the pouting, whatnot, and feels that I’m rewarding that behavior by giving in. It’s innocent enough now, but it could develop into something less stable later in life.

    I don’t think she’s being manipulative on purpose, but she knows asking daddy is the way to get what she wants.

    And Mexican? A couple nights ago, I had a sudden craving to drive thru Taco Bell. Does that count . . . ?

  4. I think it’s sweet. There is something in her that needs reassurance, and it might be worse to have a big fight with her. Let it go on a little longer, and then have a talk with her about her being a big girl now and needing to sleep on her own. See if you can figure out what’s bothering her and causing this need to regress.

    I think you’re a great dad….Peace – D

  5. I think it’s sweet. Eventually the snoring or smell or whatever it is that upsets the delicate tween balance will have her staying in her own bed.

    On the other hand, my oldest has taken to sleeping at the end of our bed every.single.night, so I’m probably not exactly the most objective adviser.

  6. I think it’s something that will pass in the near future. She’s nearly grown, but not quite. A very sweet age.

  7. Sounds like it’s not every night. And it sounds like an appropriately loving scenario.

    I’m no psychologist either, but I would cherish these times. My hunch is, it touches your wife’s heart too. Aryn won’t “hate” you for being a “pushover”. Silly. 🙂

  8. She will adore you, how could she not?

  9. so sweet! I was the kid begging to sleep on the floor. It wasn’t allowed every night but it was like winning the lottery when I could. I turned out fine…except for the back problems 🙂

  10. Aww. She is a very lucky girl to have such a dad as you.

  11. she’ll outgrow it soon enough, I wouldn’t worry. is that her in the photo? she looks younger than 11. lovely image

  12. “I’m no psychologist, can’t quite put my finger on it, but I’m sure I’m doing something wrong.”

    Funny, but it seems to me you already know the answer. Intuition is usually bang on, the only problem is when we dont listen to it.

  13. I am of the opinion (I have lots of these, you will find) that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. It sounds like she needs a little extra dad time. Maybe because you are gone more, maybe because she’s at that age where her first male role model (dad) really starts to come into play in terms of self esteem. I don’t have kids, so I can’t pull from my experience as a parent, but I was a 12 year old girl once ( if memory serves), and knowing my father was there for me unconditionally would have been a much needed boost. She’ll let you know when she needs her space.

    By the way, I love your descriptions of trying to sleep in a hot, unairconditioned house. “flipping the pillow a hundred times before the cool side does its job and ushers us away to dreamland” – brought me right back to my own days of southern summer sleep survival.

  14. I have to say that my memories of getting to sleep in my parents room when I had a bad dream are very happy memories. I’m totally a daddy’s girl and the fact that I got to go there where it was “safe” made all the difference for me, and I imagine for her as well. Just a chance to be near dad for a while without having to compete for attention or talk much. And as everyone else said, she will probably grow out of it all too soon because she’ll be a teenager soon and they have their own strange set of rules.

  15. No one EVER hates their daddy for being a pushover! That’s what daddies are supposed to be.

  16. She will love you that much more when she is older, and has sweet memories of it!

  17. OK, this is something that I have VERY strong opinions about…..so I am telling you upfront that I am NOT UNBIASED.

    My opinion?

    The guilt you feel- like you are doing something wrong IS NOT AN INNER VOICE but the shame this society places on us for intimacy….it is a problem in America that is dysfunctional! We are a touch starved nation; freaked out by too many hangups that have little meaning.

    I slept with my son- and I was a single parent- and people told me about their opinions….

    but it was a sociology professor that had planted the idea in my head to begin with.

    He talked about a time in America when there was only one bedroom to sleep in and the “family” bed was a bed that had little sides pull out that the kids slept in. He said that unwanted pregnancy; and alot of teen problems that we have today did not exist then. Children slept as parents made love, gave birth and died….

    Now I am NOT saying that I have sex while my children are sleeping with me that makes me uncomptfortable.

    BUT I do so believe in co-sleeping. Google Dr. sears and co-sleeping….some interesting research about how ATTACHED children are who sleep with their parents; how BONDED they are when they can be physically near….and these kids are less likely to seek that need through ways like drug use; and sex too young.

    girls who bond with their dads are less likely to be battered….or marry dysfunctional men.

    boys who bond with their mothers have healthier relationships with women as well.

    Seriously. look up the research.

    You know when my son was too big to fit in the bed with myself and his step father- he found his own bed.

    To this day, I know when something is really wrong, because on the weekends he’ll come up, jump in the bed and start talking.

    My son will be 21 next month.

    Throughout highschool, he would climb in bed and talk about the kids who smoked pot- the ones who were his friends since he was little….and the confusion it caused him to see them getting high……..

    He graduated with an honors cord- and is a wonderful, well balanced young man.

    Was it the co-sleeping? not soley- communication; unconditional love; somewhat consistency; and other things but I believe that co-sleeping develops a trust between a child and their parent.

    now if the child didn’t want to be there….well, that is a different story.

    Do what is right for your family. They are only children for such a short time…what you cultivate during their childhood is the foundation of their adult relationship with you.

  18. She probably does feel safer being near you. I’m pretty sure she will grow out of it on her own. Sometimes it is ME wanting to be nearer my kids. As they get older I cherish the moments they want to be with me because I know that they are going to be gone all too soon.

  19. Ahhh … memories … my kids way to big to share our bed – our youngest son 6 foot 4 but we now have a Grandson and sleepover nights the bed is full of books and leggo and stuff … seasons come and go but the weather remains the same.

  20. debbeblue in Wakefield, MA October 17, 2008 — 6:49 am

    You go Jane. Lovely story. Thank you. I like the image of your son jumping in bed at 21!

    I’m of the opinion of so many others here. At what cost does her security come? To be 11, on the cusp of teen, and still want to be a girl – that’s a testament to her feeling secure with you both. I adore the sounds of my family breathing around me, in fact, I confess, I’ve snuck out of our bed, ostensibly to give my husband a better sleep, and slept in my daughters room – just because.

    Treasure this because it IS fleeting.

    As far as your possible predilection for “giving in”…. You are giving in to her sleeping on the floor. Im sure, if approached for the car keys, a flametorch or check cashing privledges, you’d have the wherewithal to be more circumspect. It’s only an issue if you’ve declared “No more sleeping on the floor” then you backtrack.

    And thanks for the wayback machine. We grew up in public housing. I remember 5 of us sleeping in one living room with our very first, size of a bathtub, window ac. It was huge. We lived in that room at night. Were summers hotter then?

  21. I’m with Jane on the cosleeping. We coslept with our 3 year old until he was about 2. He still sleeps with us when he wakes up and cries, I just can’t leave him crying in bed and neither can his dad. And if he’s sick, he sleeps with us until he’s better.

    They do grow up and don’t care to sleep with us anymore. I don’t see anything wrong with providing night time comfort to our kids, whatever age they are. They’re going to be out in the big bad world soon enough without us to comfort them.

    I wish my dad had loved me enough to even be around to sleep with me sometimes. I have fond memories of crawling in bed with my mom at night.

  22. I say enjoy it for the time being. She will, most likely, get over it in a year or so, maybe less. Then you’ll be wishing she was still your little pouty-faced little girl, sleeping next to you on the floor. They grow up way too soon.

    My youngest is now 18. It has been a while since she wanted to crawl into bed with me but when she was 14 and we had just moved to a new town and a new house and it was just me and her at home, there were more than a few nights when she’d come to watch TV in bed with me or to ask me a question and then she’d fall asleep. She did it a couple of times in the past year, too. She’d come talk to me and snuggle up in my bed then fall asleep. She’d wake up a couple of hours later and go to her own room on her own.

    I’m all alone in the house now, hundreds of miles away from her, and I wish she were still here with me, crawling into my bed and falling asleep, even for just a few minutes.

  23. Harbour not doubt. It shrouds a good thing
    (from a happy, co-sleeping family)

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