Sleeping with the Frenemies

Erin Britt essays

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It’s 1:00 a.m. I stumble groggily to up to my room and attempt to crawl into my bed. After trying for two hours to stay awake and finish some work, I’m anxious to sink deep into the covers and succumb to sleep at last.

Only—someone is already there. It’s not Hubby. He is all the way over on his side, breathing deeply.

I shine the light from my alarm clock onto the bed. A sweep of the area reveals a small pillow with a fish-themed pillow case, a grungy toy scorpion, and a life-sized stuffed shark. I know who is in my spot before the light reaches him.

It is my ten-year-old, Slim.

The poor child has always had trouble sleeping. I remember the heartbreaking night he was eleven months old when, in desperation, we finally made him “cry-it-out.” I remember the night he acquired the scorpion—his sleep study at the local children’s hospital after which we learned he had sleep apnea. 

He’s been on a variety of medications for ADHD—some that have made him sleepy, some that have kept him awake far into the night. Some nights he is awake at 3 a.m. and unable to fall back to sleep. Many mornings he is up before the sun and enjoys the run of the house.

He has been crawling into our bed for years. When he was thin with hollow legs and arms, moving him back to his own bed was easy; but now he is big and solid. I can’t carry him anymore.

So I sigh, throw the stuffed animals onto the floor, and shove him over as far as I can to make room for my tired body. The only advantage to his being there is that my spot is already warm. I cuddle in and am asleep in minutes.

Sometime later—maybe an hour, maybe a mere minutes—I feel someone crawl in the bed and snuggle against my back. The brush of a velvety blanket touches my cheek, and I know immediately it is the six-year-old, Lil’ C. Sometimes he gets scared all the way down the hall by himself. I know if I carry him to his room, he’ll be back before dawn.

I’m barely done contemplating this when I drift off again.

Time has passed. Ten minutes? Two hours? I’m hot and wedged between two sweaty little bodies. I try to move and stretch, but my legs kick something at the end of the bed. It’s the toddler, it has to be. Besides my only one GOOD sleeper, the eight-year-old, the toddler is the only possible choice.

Separately, I love cuddling with them all. Sitting on my huge bed, reading their favorite books ranging from trucks to sea life to Wimpy Kids, they are all my little buddies.

But right now, in MY bed in the middle of MY night, they are frenemies; and I have no choice but to sleep with them.

If I move them, I know they will be back. If I want some sleep, it has to be with the frenemies.

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Erin Britt

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