I slept in my mom’s bed until I was in junior high. Not every night. Just sometimes. I guess I needed the closeness. Some kids do.
Even when I came home to visit from college, I crawled into her bed once or twice, and fell asleep, because she was there.
But there was a last time.
My daughter, Ava, will be fifteen in November. I remember bringing her home. I was a baby with a baby. She texts me now. We Snapchat. Actually, she Snapchats and I try to respond. I make her laugh with my ineptitude.
There was a day she set down her doll. There was a day she didn’t pick it up again.
We don’t remember, you know, the day it happens. The inconsequential last.
Yesterday, my ten-year-old said, “You know when you tell me I can’t sleep in your room now, I don’t care so much anymore.” He was proud. He said it without warning.
We were driving, and I looked over at my husband in the passenger seat, saw tears in his eyes. He looked back at me like See. I fucking told you.
He whacked my leg playfully to process the searing pain of words you expected and welcomed and denied for years. In his eyes, I see years of us watching kids grow. I feel the day we look around at a quiet home, once overflowing with kids.
Our son always wants to be on our floor. Since he was three, he’s had a little spot on our floor. Posted up there. A pile of blankets. A teddy bear. A stuffed cat. His sweaty little blond head. Lately, he’s not allowed there on the weekends. On the weekends, only daddy and mama sleep in the room. Well, except for the baby.
Sometimes there were tears about it. Sometimes he would not sleep. Sometimes he would whine from the other room and we would tell him, “Hey. You get to be there almost all the time. Now knock it off.”
I’d get mad. I’d get madder than Mac (he’s always calmer). Maybe I would even yell.
I’d get mad about the blankets. The mess. The chaos. WILL MY ROOM EVER BE MINE WILL IT EVER BE CLEAN I’M SICK OF THIS SHIT.
I’d clean them all up and enjoy the blanketless floor. Look around, satisfied.
“Someday Janelle, he won’t ask to be with us anymore, and when that day comes we will miss him. Someday we’ll have no kids in our bed or on our floor and I don’t want to miss a single chance.”
I knew he was right. Thank god he said it.
Sometimes, all six of us are in one room. It’s hot. I can hear the breathing of four children, feel the toes of a toddler in my back. I want out. I want to scream.
I wake to a tiny baby palm on my chest and smell his warm neck.
I want to live there forever.
I don’t really care anymore when I can’t sleep in your room.
He wanted to impress me, my son. I felt a thousand nights disappear in his pride. In the lilt of his voice pushing the edge of little boy, in the lingering gray of pre-teen. He’ll join our oldest soon.
I told him, “That’s great.” I meant it. It burned.
I told him, “You are always welcome with us, son.”
And in my voice now there was maybe a begging, a tiny request, a nudge, for one two or three more years of a thing I wasn’t sure I even wanted a week ago. The old familiar wonderment at my own lack of perspective creeps in. My stomach flips in sharp regret.
I know not to go there. I know this is motherhood. I know sometimes the shit gets old. I know I’m tired. I know I want space. I know I want my body to be my own. I know sometimes I don’t want to see children let alone have them in my bedroom.
And I get it, on the weekends, sort of. I know it’s not always enough.
I know it feels fucking heavy and endless.
Until it ends, and you wonder with a broken open heart what the fuss was all about all those years, and unfold the blanket that very night on the carpet, watch a four-year-old boy fall asleep with curls around his face, a stuffed cat, shaking your head at the hallucination, because he’s ten now, and doesn’t mind being on his own.
Tonight, the blankets are on the floor. I’ll watch for the last.
Hey, join me for my last online writing workshop of 2016, beginning in October.
I’m super deep in other projects and will only run one more “Write Anyway” this year.
If you’ve been curious, now is the time.
I’d love to write with you.
ChantalThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 10:25
I,m crying now. You did it again, you read my mind. Since almost 4 years, I’m swimming out of a PDD. Two kids, 3 and almost 5. For 4 years, my feelings were :” I will be happy when they will go to school, finally a little more free.” But, a few days ago, I realised that feeling was gone. She grows too fast, my 4 years old daughter, my beautiful and charming and stubborn and funny and serious and shy and extravert little girl. And they play, and they sleep as long as they need in the morning, and they run naked. It will all be over soon. Too soon. And I’m happy because that sad feeling mean I’m almost cured, free from that stupid and destructive sickness that almost destroyed my family, my beautiful family, the only thing I really need in this fucked up life.
Tiffani JonesThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 21:47
That was beautiful. Than you for sharing. <3
RoseThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 10:32
we always write down/keep track of/remember the firsts. I wish someone had told me to remember the lasts I once spent an entire day trying to remember the last book i read to each of my kids. did it up till they were in middle school, but i wish I could remember which was the last <3
Lauren WellbankThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 10:41
I am sitting here rocking my sleeping baby (well, she’s a few months shy of 2) crying and thinking about how one day she won’t sleep in ny arms anymore.
JenThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 11:27
I’m doing the same thing, Lauren. My son will be two in October and I still hold him for all of his naps. People often ask me if I’m crazy. They say, “Don’t you need a break!” There have been times when I would have loved to lay him in his crib to take a break but most of the time I just want to hold him and snuggle him. He’s so active now. This is my only chance to have these peaceful, quiet moments with him. I treasure them. During the thousands of hours I’ve spent rocking him I have had time to reflect and think about our life, our family and motherhood. After years of fertility issues he will be our one and only. I will never regret this time I’ve spent holding my baby. I will be excited about his independence but I will be sad the last time I rock him during his nap.
christina ihloffThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 11:28
Damn it! You’re right! And like you, I vacillate between loving and breathing in every sleepless moment between two beauties while the older two are cuddling contentedly in another room, and feeling like, I am almost there fuck this bullshit! Some sweet day I really will sleep alone, maybe with my husband. And now I already miss it.
OlevaThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 11:39
Tears…. This is exactly my story. Love it.
LaraThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 11:42
Beautiful! I have written about this contradiction, too. For me, the answer is that now that my kids are big, I get to enjoy other people’s cute babies and toddlers, sometimes more than they can themselves, while they’re in the thick of it. That’s pretty sweet, too. https://larafreidenfelds.com/2015/04/07/cherish-every-moment-of-parenting/
ChenayThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 11:56
Oh man, this makes me feel like we’ve made the right decision in keeping our two year old in bed with us (although, it wasn’t really our choice and was more so her decision, of course). I feel the need to get her out of bed due to all of these outside pressures and people questioning and judging. Eff em! Thank you!
Mark GoodsonThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 11:56
I was a mama’s boy. When my step-dad moved in I was like (swallow…) 10 maybe? He would ask my mom, “when is that boy going to sleep in his own bed?”
Funny, now my boy is the same way. I went camping with my little guy last night. I always feel like I’m in such a rush to watch him grow up. Maybe I should just sit back and enjoy his utter dependency on me while it lasts.
WendyThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 12:09
I totally get this. It is so complicated to love watching them grow up at the same time that you are wishing they wouldn’t get a day older. I am excited about them gaining independence while I wish they would never stop wanting to see me and talk to me everyday. I am glad my husband is like yours and he understands the wonderful awfulness of it all.
DanielleThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 12:25
Tears and a grateful heart. Thank you for your words. <3
LizThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 13:03
Excuse me while I go bawl my eyes out and tell my husband we need a third baby. Right Now.
JessicaThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 13:14
You speak my heart. Every time. You speak my heart.
CambriaThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 13:17
You know what you do really well? You grasp and express the pull of the contradictions, and that is why you make everyone cry every time you write anything. In your grasping and expressing, there is an acceptance, and so we know it’s all OK, and that’s when we/I cry. You’re great.
LauraThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 13:51
I love this, as I love everything you write. Thanks, just thanks for getting the incongruencies of parenting, of mothering, so deeply and articulating them so effing perfectly.
EmilyThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 15:12
Oh my god, last night I was so freakin furious with my 2.5 year old because he just won’t sleep in his own damn room, and he wakes a million times a night, and I will never ever sleep again.
But then I read this, and I remember everything everyone has told me about kids growing up and figuring things out, and suddenly I’m kind of sort of okay with that little boy being there for now. Because when he’s 16 and a sassy shit, I’m going to miss these days when he just can’t get enough of mama.
Thanks for writing things that remind us, as moms, to keep our sanity.
DianeThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 15:18
I was just changing his diaper and I looked up and ……..now he is fifty -five!
Shannon BeeThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 15:34
My own mom has warned me and warned me and warned me about the “lasts.” They are a slow heartbreak because you don’t see them till they’re gone and then you’re left with the wanting. Thank you for sharing this reminder; it was definitely worth two posts. Now, I’m going to go snuggle the absolute shit out of my 18 month old and try to memorize her little sleeping bod. Ugh. Remember when they were just little snoozing bundles of baby smell? Ugh. The wanting…
Rachel @ The Mama FilesThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 15:41
I’m at the chemist waiting for a prescription. Note to self, stop reading Janelle’s posts in public where there’s a very real chance you’ll bawl your eyes out.
KrisThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 17:09
A couple of weeks ago I woke to the feeling of the covers being pulled off the end of the bed to the floor. I thought for sure it was the dog, though she usually only does that in the winter. So I jumped up in a panic when I saw her on my side – no covers. I peeked over the end of the bed imagining Pennywise the clown but there was our son, wrapped in our comforter sleeping like a baby. He turned 21 on July 11th. Yes, 21. I don’t know what possessed him to sleep on our floor that night. He was back in his room before our alarm went off. He doesn’t have a significant other and my heart broke when I started thinking how lonely he might be. While our kids are older, 16 & 21, it’s still hard, but in a different way.
FionaThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 17:55
Wow, gulping hard at this one as I nurse my 4week old and my partner lays down with our 3 year old. Just today I tried to bribe the 3yo to put herself to sleep for her nap. She said, “will you stay with me?” I stayed with her (and the baby) till they both fell asleep. This time is so intense and I sometimes want to escape, but being reminded of the future helps. Thanks!
JenniferThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 18:28
My house is that quiet now. I write often about having my daughter leave for college. Her bed never gets messy anymore. My 16 year old likes to be alone. It breaks my heart open when our conversations last only 60
Seconds. I remember the days of bodies squirming around and feeling like id never be alone. I’m alone a lot now. It kind of sucks.
CatlinThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 18:53
THIS is spot on!! I have a 10, 8, and 2 year old and an 11 month old. The 2 youngest are still in our room and my husband and I bicker about it occasionally but in all reality I am continuously telling myself it wont last forever and I soak up as many snuggles as I can handle.
Anna HaynesThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 23:16
I carried my oldest daughter everywhere. Every fucking where. I was a young mom with no patience for strollers, she liked the contact and so did I. People talked shit and I didn’t care. Up till the age of eight she’d jump in my arms when she was tired or felt like it and I’d walk around with her head on my shoulder. I absolutely loved it, I remember feeling so in love my heart hurt, like we were tied together. And even with that, with how much I treasure those moments I can’t remember the last time I carried her. It makes me crazy that I didn’t take the time to really remember because I just didn’t think about it ending. I put down my daughter one day and didn’t pick her up again. She’s brilliant and beautiful but sometimes I wish she was little again just for a moment so that I could carry her.
CourtFriday, 5 August, 2016 at 10:08
Ugh, this made me cry. I feel the same about my daughter, who is 18 months. She wants to be held everywhere, sleep with me, nurse forever. I’m so sad thinking some day it will end, because my heart feels so full now…
Sam PereiraThursday, 21 July, 2016 at 23:50
Sometimes, when the blog post breaks your heart a little bit, reading the comments just tears your heart right open. You all kill me. In a good way. X
CasseyFriday, 22 July, 2016 at 5:49
Love this post so much. It’s been my entire motherhood experience so far – one and done – and you just put it so well lady.
Anjali Mitter DuvaFriday, 22 July, 2016 at 10:30
Yup. One day when my oldest (now almost 12) was four and we were walking down the street together we ran into a friend’s 10 year old who was walking in the opposite direction, alone. My daughter asked where the girl’s parents were. I told her the girl was going somewhere on her own. “Without holding anyone’s hand?” my daughter asked, incredulous. I nodded. She looked up at me and said “When I’m ten, will I unhold your hand, too?” Now my youngest is six and already she tries to unhold my hand. I grip it as we cross streets, telling her it’s for safety, but of course it’s just as much because I don’t want the unholding to start.
CarlyFriday, 22 July, 2016 at 11:28
You made me cry. Thanks for this. I needed it.
Julie GermainSunday, 24 July, 2016 at 8:06
So beautiful, so spot on. Heartbreaking in a necessary way. Can’t wait to read your future book. Thank you.
Debbie in the UKTuesday, 26 July, 2016 at 2:21
My son slept in our bed so often that eventually I bought a put you up bed for him to sleep in and put it at the bottom of our bed. He would slip his hands under the covers and hold my feet for comfort at night. I remember my husband saying ‘how long will this last?’ and me saying ‘it will pass’. It did when he was about 12 and as soon as he stopped we missed him so much. He is now a strapping 28 year old married man and when I think of that time tears well in my eyes.
Cheryl S.Tuesday, 26 July, 2016 at 13:09
I have to stay in my daughter’s room every night until she falls asleep. When she was small, I was in her bed, then near it on the floor, now, across the room on a couch, but I have to be there or she cannot sleep. Once she falls asleep, I tiptoe out (if I haven’t fallen asleep myself).
She’s 11. I plan to continue until she tells me to stop. And when she does, I’ll be happy, because I’ll be able to get some stuff done at night, but mostly, I’ll be sad. I want to be near her. I want her to need me, even though I know my ultimate job is to raise her to take care of herself.
Nancy ClarkSaturday, 30 July, 2016 at 22:40
I read this aloud to my husband. We had to get tissues. I love you!!!
QuinMonday, 8 August, 2016 at 13:13
I had to sleep in my mother’s adult double bed until 15. I’d surround myself with stuffed animals as a protection wall. Her body smelled like rotten spices. Still makes me gag today. A drawer in my bedside table had all my posessions. She always went through it. Sometimes I’d leave letters for her to find in which I would tell her how miserable I was. I never got an answer, yet the woman was sleeping next to me every night. I’m over 40, but when I close my eyes I’m back in that room with the stiff red silk curtains, hearing her breathing and wishing myself a thousand miles away. Childhood ends and eventually we get our own rooms and our own lives and our own children to fuck up, but that first room with its first experience of what love and closeness feel like, that stays with us.
JeannetteSunday, 21 August, 2016 at 18:51
this read was much needed. our first went through a myriad of sleep training methods just to be cosleeping with my husband again once my second got here. now i’m cosleeping and giving all kinds of sleep crutches to the second because we’re always in survival mode. this beautiful time when they both need us so much has an end.
BrittanyThursday, 1 September, 2016 at 20:08
Omg. I just found your blog and it is absolutely amazing. I feel like you went in my heart and my brain and wrote all the feelings of being a mother fucking perfectly. Seriously, awesome.