First, our son slept in a cot. It served us well for obvious reasons - he couldn’t get out.
Then, in a bed, with a long wooden boat anchored to the side as a rail.
He wouldn't sleep and kept calling out for us, so we’d go to him, try and settle him there, with his menagerie of stuffed animals and other favoured toys, and a curated selection of books, and his beautiful sheets that had a higher thread count than ours, and his special water bottle within easy reach. But, it just wouldn’t do - he’d wail and flail and persist in his wakefulness and discontent until we gave up, and brought him back to our bed.
In the ‘big bed’, he would luxuriate as only a three-year-old princeling can, spreading out across the sheet, secure in the knowledge that he would not be returned to his quarters, because we were weak and hungry for sleep, even fractured sleep. He was mighty, and grew stronger on our suffering.
Adorable fascist, his father called him, as he contorted his body into the sliver of mattress available to him.
The little egg beater between us whirred on.
Soon, we stopped trying to re-settle him in his own bed. When he summoned us, one of us would go to him, pick him up, and bring him back to our bed. Not long after, he decided against even starting the night off in his own bed. Sometimes, he’d offer half-hearted excuses for why it was an intolerable proposition, but mostly he didn’t bother. With propeller arms and scissoring legs, he’d rest his head upon my head and work his little toes into his father’s spine as he slumbered. He awoke in the mornings refreshed.
So then, we did what anybody who is insane with fatigue would do - we moved his bed into our bedroom. We now have an island of mattress, a room that consists almost entirely of bed.
He watched us arrange the beds, entertained. We’d made him a jumping castle. What fun.
Sometimes, he sleeps in that bed next to ours.
But, more often than not, he still comes into the big bed and wedges himself between us, tranquil and smug. He is satisfied and we are sunk; defeated. With his plump little fingers, he has reeled us in and there is no line left. We are his loyal subjects.
Pinned to our strips of mattress at either side of our starfished child, we watch him sleep, peaceful and perfect.
‘At least he’s asleep,’ one of us says.
There is nobody else I would be at the mercy of in this way.