Autism asks challenging questions, begs us to think outside the box and then...Autism Answers! Musings, shared family stories, book reviews, and short fiction. My posts are rarely specifically about autism or parenting. They are, however, almost always stories grown from the fertile and organic thinking soil that can be found where the two come together.
Autism Answer: A Mother And Her Sons - A Tale Of Co-Sleeping
Snuggling my youngest son.
A while back I saw this question online: Do Many Mothers Co-Sleep With Their Sons?
As a mother of four sons who is a fan of co-sleeping I was happily compelled to answer. I thought it might be fun to share that answer here with you.
Well, I don’t know about “many” but I’m happy to share about “me."
I have four sons and they all slept with me.
I had no worries about co-sleeping except this: How will I know when it's time to no longer allow it?
It turns out that while I wondered, they answered. As they got older they themselves pushed away and all I had to do was allow it. So there wasn’t a time when I found myself pushing them to sleep alone. Sure, I encouraged and guided and nudged, but it wasn't much of a challenge. As they got older, they wanted it.
However, with all four of my sons this age came at a different time.
Now, my situation was certainly unique in that I was a single mother of three, and then a married mother of four, but my husband and I lived in two separate (but close) homes. So sleeping arrangements could easily and organically follow this rhythm.
We didn’t snuggle in the same bed every night - though some of my sons did more than others - and sometimes I slept with them in their beds. Also, we travel a lot and when sleeping together in cars, hotels, people’s homes, it was easy for us because we were already comfortable with sharing space.
My sons are mostly adults now - ranging in age from 17 to 23 - and they are healthy sleepers.
Admittedly, my 21 year old son complained to me the other day about one thing that might have been caused by all of this co-sleeping and snuggling. “You’ve turned me into a cuddle addict. It’s driving me and my girlfriend crazy! It’s like I’m begging her for a cuddle-hit all the time.” And though we laughed, it is actually true. He loves physical contact. However, he is also an easy sleeper with a lovely life and a healthy confidence. So, maybe it also gave him some of that. :D
The truth is, my four sons are all healthy young men who sleep well and are largely emotionally confident - though they are all definitely drastically different from each other! I don’t think any of that is because of the co-sleeping but I do honestly believe much of that is because of the reason for our co-sleeping. We did it because we were comfortable, happy, and followed our instincts more than our desire to be seen as “normal” or “right."
Oh, I should add this - in terms of ages, they were older than you might expect when they stopped snuggling me for sleep. They were all different ages but it was between eight and twelve. The son who was twelve is also the son who is the most quirky and unique. “A little bit autistic,” he calls himself.
And, indeed, my two youngest sons (one of whom is the gentleman referring to himself as, "A little bit autistic") do have symptoms of autism, though they've never been diagnosed. One of my younger sons doesn't sleep at night. Sleeping at night has never been natural for him but in his younger years, as a student of public school, he had no other choice. Having me snuggle and sing and chat and tell stories helped him find a way to get some sleep. And my very youngest son found comfort and good dreams with the sensory delight he discovered in playing his fingers through my hair. So we would snuggle, I would sing, he would wrap his hungry fingers through my hair, slowly getting less and less needy, first as the evening went on and then, over the course of years, as days and weeks went on. Eventually, he no longer felt compelled to play with my hair in order to destress and find comfort. Though he still sometimes touches it out of curiosity and nostalgia. I like it!
I am absolutely certain that if I was living with my husband for those years our sleeping arrangements would have been different. But even my hudnsnf is willing to follow what works in our family more than traditional norms. In fact, we live together now (with only two of our sons) and our bed is in the living-room. That way the boys have their own room and we are in the center of our small house where we can feel among everyone without being annoyingly close.
So, ya. That’s how we did it. I think it’s important for moms and dads to allow their children to push them away if they do choose to co-sleep, and I think it’s important not to do it at all if it feels overly uncomfortable or just wrong.
I think parenting is a lot about following instincts and working together with a willingness to be different and allowing the environment to play a role.