Like a lot of kids, if I woke up scared, I’d head to my parents’ bedroom. Like a lot of parents, they grew annoyed, and began to forbid it. I have memories of them carefully lifting their feet over me, as I lie across the threshold in the morning. Still I felt safe there, closer to them than I did in my own room, which was literally, across the hall.
After my parents divorced, if I woke up scared, I sometimes crept in to sleep with my father. There was plenty of space for me.
My mother remarried, and so, if I woke up scared, and the door wasn’t locked, I could sneak in and lie at the end of bed.
Even as an older kid, I can remember waking up scared and going to their closed door, listening to make sure my dad was snoring.
Because I knew, even then, if there was a man in the house, I was safe.
The years passed by. College took me to the fourth floor, with a nice heavy door and a deadbolt. If I screamed everyone could hear me, except maybe the thrash metal guy below me.
Still, even as a college kid, when my parents began snowbirding, I had trouble sleeping alone in our house. I’d turn on ESPN, and put a body pillow in the recliner with a blanket. This gave the illusion of a man in the house, and I swear, I fell asleep easier.
My first place was a large townhouse, and for the short time I didn’t have roommates, I’d call my not-then MIL when I arrived home late, and she’d stay on the phone with me while I searched the house for Boogey Men.
Eventually, I got a one-bedroom apartment, and it was so small, I slept just fine there. Initially, I worried about my walk-up deck and sliding doors. I had long been told if someone wants in your house, they’ll find a way. Still, I felt like the bar and the glass would at least give me time to jump out the window.
Since The Mister and I got married I’ve always had trouble sleeping while he’s away. Honest to God, I never liked sharing a bed. I need space, air, to breathe. But I got used to him, so the first business trip he took almost killed me. Yes, I missed him, but mostly I thought, omg come home so i can sleep!
We bought our first house, and gave the towhead twins their own room. Sissy couldn’t sleep for about two weeks, because she’d never slept in a room without her brother.
I’d open our bedroom door in the morning, and there she’d be, sleeping at the threshold. She wouldn’t go upstairs or downstairs without me.
As for the boy, well, he suddenly needed a nightlight. Or two. One in his room and one in the hallway and “Leave the bathroom light on!”
Bubba would play alone in his room, but Sissy wouldn’t. Some other kid had to be with her or she wouldn’t go upstairs.
When The Mister reenlisted, he went away in November and came back in June, and I tell you, I’ve never had more insomnia than I did that winter. The winter I tried Ambien. The way the household was set up about drove me crazy. Things that didn’t matter before suddenly did, because there was no man at the house.
I wanted to have the babies in bed with me and the kids on the floor. I wanted them all around me, so I could watch over them and know they were safe. But I’d spent a long time training all the girls to sleep alone…
This is when I let worry and fear take over my life. Sleeplessness and The Baby Daze invited anxiety.
Any noise was surely just a cat. (Or a raccoon.)
I did put a pair of his boots on the front porch, I ain’t even ashamed.
We moved again, and the girls all slept in the same room for a while. As in, Sissy had her own room, but she’d go in and sleep with Sassy instead. It took her a long time to adjust to a new room in a new place.
While we were in Georgia, on a military installation, there were times when men were rare in our neighborhood. It seemed like nobody had a daddy. It was during this time when Sassy would tell me she didn’t feel safe.
“If they’re all gone, who’s here to protect us?”
Under threat of hurricanes, a tornado nearby, if the power went out, when our neighbors were robbed — anything small children are scared of — she’d wish her daddy was home to keep her safe. She felt better when Bubba was home, she’d say.
I’d tell her we had Homeland Security, MP’s, and well, I could be vicious if needed. Mother Bear and all that.
Before we left Georgia, once we had all the stuff in Moo’s room packed, she slept on Sassy’s floor until we all slept together in the living room.
Moo had trouble sleeping in her room when we first got here, too.
Moo still sleeps in Sassy’s room a lot. If she wakes up scared, she goes there, or to us, in the middle of the night.
In the winter, when it’s dark early, they both ask when Daddy will be home, and will beg to stay up, so they don’t go to bed without him in the house.
Last fall, our nephew Simon went away to college, and his little brother didn’t feel safe anymore. Suddenly darkness was an issue. Since Simon wasn’t upstairs ignoring Ace, he couldn’t go up there. Alone. Drew might be beautiful and demure, but she’s a good shot.
You can guess who’s happiest that his brother is home for the summer.
Almost as happy as I am that my husband won’t be deployed again.
Still, through my back door window, there’s a visible alarm, dog dishes, a baseball bat, what looks like a rifle, a golf club, and Army and Marine Corps photos. If The Mister goes away overnight, you can bet there’ll be a pair of combat boots next to the dog dishes, too.
Do you feel safer with a man in the house? If you’re the man in the house, do you just swell with pride?
(I just know there’s gonna be someone on this thread goin on about how cruel my parents were, or how they always let their four kids sleep with them, or how women can protect just as well as men…They obviously don’t know I’m a bad feminist and a wonderful mother!)