Monday, December 04, 2006


We recently returned from a trip to Shanghai. Interesting: I can’t hit any blogger sites from there. Blocked? A problem with my Dad’s provider?

Observations of myself from this trip: you know you’ve been traveling too much when you no longer get excited or panicked about it. I used to start packing at least a week ahead of time -- not so much because of the clothes but because of all the bribes, toys, medicines, and just-in-case things needed for travel with small children. I would hide old toys away a month in advance so that I could magically produce them on the plane/restuarant/etc. and the little ones would be distracted for a little while. Now I have my systems in place: my stash of old toys, my Thomas the Tank Engine suitcase full of stickers, stamps, paper, crayons, matchbox cars, Yu-Gi-Oh cards, colored rocks, etc.; my ziplock of medicine and my first aid kit (which I carry every day anyway, complete with about 15 different types of band-aids). And my kids have been trained pretty well too; something I realized when I travelled with my in-laws recently. It was like having 2 extra kids, but kids who were not accustomed to traveling and didn’t know all the rules. KC and I have done trips together so many times that we work well as a team, communicating almost telepathically, each knowing our duties. I remember heading to the States last year; we were, as always, running late and rushing toward the gate with our friend Joe whom we happened to meet at Duty Free. No time to take off all of Max’s coats, no hands to carry them. So as soon as we got to the gate Max threw up all over himself and me (he is very sensorially sensitive, overheating makes him puke). Joe pulled back in horror and surprise as we wordlessly went to work, me quickly stripping off Max’s clothes and putting them into a plastic baggie, changing him into set of spare clothes and changing my shirt as well; KC going at it with the wet wipes, Aiden checking the status of the boarding. Five minutes later we were on the plane, leaving an impressed Joe to admire our particular version of parenting triage. (Tangentially, I brought 4 changes of clothes for Max and 1 for myself that trip, and we needed almost all of them: he vomited again on the plane and also in the car on the way to my mom’s house.)

Anyway, this was a short flight, and we go to Shanghai several times a year to visit my father who is living a truly cushy ex-pat life: nice serviced apartment, driver, the works. Basically we go to mooch and eat really wonderful food. We stuff ourselves silly, use the hotel pool, sit on a real SOFA (we only have a kid’s sofa) and CHAIRS (we sit on the floor at home). The kicker is figuring out how to fit the 4 of us on the queen-sized bed. We push one side against the wall and push a small sofa on the other side, then KC and I squeeze ourselves rather uncomfortably around the kids, trying not to move or get kicked, dealing with the small space and weird sleep effects of MSG and heavier Chinese cuisine.

One effect of moving to Korea was to “go native”: we have very little furniture. We sleep on the floor, we eat on the floor, we recline on the floor. Originally we wanted to avoid buying furniture because we only intended to live in the country for a year (we’re now 3.5 years into this adventure) and anyway our apartment is so small that it is a much better use of space to sleep/eat and then put away the “yo” (like a futon) or table and use that space for legos or train tracks. But we’ve gotten used to sleeping on the floor now and quite like it.
We are big co-sleeping people. The four of us all sleep together, kids talking in their sleep, rolling and kicking around, and occasionally peeing in the bed. On the floor we have more room to spread out (we put 2 “yo”s together), we don’t have to worry about them falling off, and movement doesn’t disturb the others as much as on a mattress. I know co-sleeping is still a matter of debate in the U.S. but I just have to jot down my thoughts on the matter.

1. It is not for everyone. I haven’t really had a good night of sleep since I had Aiden 6 years ago, but that also has to do with breastfeeding and with other work I was doing. My husband sleeps through it well though.
2. I find the arguments about co-sleeping somehow hampering the development of independence or damaging the child psychologically to be, well, bullshit. I agree with Dr. Sears on this: making the child feel safe and cared for will encourage independence. Aiden is incredibly independent, and part of that is his personality, but it is also because we make him feel safe enough to venture out and come back. KC slept with his parents and brother in one big room until he was quite old (9?) and still remembers waking up from nightmares, reaching out for his mother’s hand, and going right back to sleep. Co-sleeping is still pretty common here, for reasons of culture and space, and although I can see that there are different cultural understandings of “independence” I don’t see that they are so large that we should embrace a psychological theory that puts so much of this world into the category of deviant and psychologically doomed.
3. Personally I love sleeping with my children. We experimented with having Aiden sleep in his own room when he was young (because my pediatrician recommended it, he was anti-co-sleeping) and I got even less sleep because I was always going in to make sure he was still breathing, make sure he hadn’t been kidnapped, etc. I like having them next to me where I can see that they are safe and admire the beauty of their sleeping forms. I envy them for surrendering to sleep so completely and for being so ecstatic to wake in the morning.
4. As adults, don’t most of us prefer to sleep with someone else? Someone we love, with whom we feel comfortable and safe? Why wouldn’t that preference be stronger in children, and is preference something that needs to be weeded out from a young age?

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