May 31, 2003

a bedtime apart

It has been a busy busy week here. So many times I blogged in my head, pushed publish, and sent posts to the back of my brain, where they're lost with thousands of swimming memories. But I wanted to remember to write about the sleeping children.

Jenna's friendship with one of the girls in her dance class has blossomed over the last week. This has involved spending time at each other's houses. I marvel at their neighborhood, not too far from my own, maybe 4 miles, but a world apart. Our houses are similar, same style, same age; our trees are similar, our yards too. But they have the kind of neighborhood built for kids. The kind that bustles with playing children instead of adults worried about work and lawns and shopping. It seems like everyone is always at home and outside on their street. It seems like no one is ever at home or outside on our street. Unless you count the paramedics, who should be pulling up any time now for our alcoholic suicidal neighbor. Anyway, that's for another post. Trauma central.

Back to the children.


One night last week Jenna's new best friend came to spend the night here. It was supposed to be reversed--Jenna was over there until 10 and was going to try to spend the night, but wanted to come home. So I went over to get her and their sad eyes got to me--please can she come too? PLEASE? Okay, let's switch. You come stay at our house. A good first experience for Jenna.

And so it was, although they were up until 2 a.m., until finally, I completely gave up and let them come sleep with me in our big king-size bed.

There we were. Girl, girl, woman. Jenna in the middle. Me and this beautiful little creature with straight thin blonde hair so unfamiliar to me in every way, like bookends for my daughter. I woke up a lot in the six hours we slept. Kept looking over at this little stranger, curled tight so close to the edge of the bed I kept waiting for a thump. In her sleep she'd roll some, wipe away wisps of hair, smile, pout. All of the things I've seen in my own daughter's dreaming, but never in someone else's child so close, so near, so vulnerable in her sleeping and dream state.

Jenna sat bolt upright at 8:00. I wasn't surprised. She's awoken that way since she was very little. Because she could talk long before she should have been able to, she'd sit straight up in her crib, look to the blinds shining in sunlight, and announce to the world in a voice I can only described as suprise and wonder: "I WAKE UP!" Every morning amazed her that way. She was astounded by the miracle of morning, the concept of waking after sleep.

This morning her friend was right behind her: "We're not tired anymore!" So the two five year olds bounded downstairs and left me to stumble out of bed, still tired, but in an odd way refreshed. As if I absorbed some of their energy while we slept.

My next thought was of Michael Jackson. Yes, a leap. I know. But it occurred to me that maybe, although he's neurotic and likely psychotic, there is truth in what he says of the innocence in sleeping with children. There was something incredibly moving and vulnerable about having these girl children so close, one of them not my own, in such a relaxed and unguarded state as sleep, and something so marvelous about waking and looking at their faces, them looking at one another, and then me. We wake up! It was like that.

I'd like to believe that's all it is for MJ too. That maybe just because he wakes up, a man in a bed with a couple of boys, it's just as genuine and innocent as a women waking up in bed with a couple of girls. And it doesn't matter how many. There could have been five of her little friends piled in that bed and it would have been the same relaxed sleep, the same wonder at waking.

But men don't get that opportunity. Men are immediately suspect. Because this partriarchial culture and heavy western mores say that men don't lie in bed with boys, or even girls. Men need to be men, Alpha Males, and all they should ever think about is sex and work. That men can't be trusted, except to produce and procreate, and that they should never, not ever, be vulnerable. Not for a minute.

Maybe something is wrong with Michael Jackson having children sleep in his bed. I kind of think they would have already hung him if something criminal were going on, since he's been a marked man for a long time in the business. And maybe there is something wrong with the man himself, albeit his particular neuroses are predictable based on childhood.

But maybe something is wrong with us too.

Those were my thoughts, as I made toast and pizza squares and pop tarts for breakfast. As the girls giggled and danced around the living room. And they're still my thoughts today.

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