This is the first part of a ‘Who do you think you are…?’ type set of blogs intended to show my 3 boys just where their origins are from my side of the family. Is it important to know where you come from? I think yes. I’m not descended from Kings or Queens or even the middle class. I’m from the lower class, the working class and in only 2 generations I am living a totally different life to that of my grandparents. It’s important for me to share where I [they] come from with my children so they know that life as it is now is not how it’s always been…
In this day and age there are lots of parental fashions that we are all encouraged or discouraged to follow. There’s the baby led weaning, the dummy or not to dummy debate, there’s the carrying them around all the time idea and there’s the co-sleeping trend that’s become more prevalent of late. We co-slept with one of our three children (ironically he’s the one who keeps coming back to our bed!) to get sleep. We’d had a rough time after having son no 1 and were determined that we would fare better with son no 2. We did. He breast fed so easily and came in with us. I slept, he slept and all was very happy but I am aware that I had the luxury of choosing to have him in with us; he could easily have gone into another room for the night. We had that choice.
Not everyone gets that choice. Not everyone has a room of their own that they can go and get some bloomin’ good sleep or a place where the baby can learn to sleep by themselves. When I look in my family going back nearly 100 years, I can see the development of having a room of your own. My brothers shared, I never did being the only girl. My mother shared being one of 3 girls with 1 boy and my father never did as he was an only child and could have said to have had not only his room but also the room in the attic for his mates to come and knock about in. Sharing a room during my parents’ generation was entirely normal. No-one batted an eyelid and no worried about it. This was still true when I was little as my brothers shared and so did a lot of our friends. There was a family down the road who had a 3 bedroomed house and when the last baby arrived 5 (with another elder one living out) children and 2 adults sleeping in it. The 2 elder girls shared one room, the 2 younger the tiny box room and the baby was in with his parents and this was the way it would stay. We all felt their house was a chaotic but it kind of worked for them.
Still, if you back a further generation to my Grandmother’s early years she didn’t even have a bed to herself. She shared a big brass bed with her brother. They didn’t have proper bed linen and sometimes just had old coats piled on to keep them warm. My Nan told me that she didn’t particularly like sharing the bed and she remembers being cold a lot of the time as he would steal the ‘covers’. This was also very common at the time with sometimes many children sharing their bed.
I want our boys to know about their history and that doesn’t always just come in the form of where people lived and where they moved too. Family history can come in many forms and the luckiness they don’t even know they have in being able to go their bedrooms, shut the door and get into their own bed is a luxury they no know different from. Our family has developed in so many ways and each member having their own bed is just one illustration of this. My grandmother didn’t have bedclothes even on the bed that she shared. I didn’t have a duvet until I was 5 (I remember still unwrapping it and it having a pink piping all the way round. I thought I was a Princess going to bed in that snugness that first night) and this duvet I had until I left home at the age of 18. So our family have gone from sharing a bed, to sharing a room, to having a room on your own to having a bed, bedclothes and a room and I want them to know just how lucky they are.
2 of them did share a room for 5 days during this Christmas holiday. We had 10 people to find space to sleep for and we managed it just about. Ollie and Tobes shared for those nights and although it was a bit tricky at first; Tobes got a bit too excited and thought it was all just amazing that his elder brother was in his bedroom – they both enjoyed it. Ollie was on a camp bed and Tobes was in his single bed and there was absolutely no room for anything or anyone else in the room. Tobes loved waking up next to his (idolised) big brother and when the guests left one by one as they do it came the time for Ollie to go back into his room Tobes was desolate at the thought of being without Ollie. Ollie did his best reading him a goodnight story and Tobes’ teddies helped a bit but he really and truly loved having Ollie in his room and still asks now if he’s going to share again. But we managed it and everyone had fresh bed linen, blankets and a pillow to call theirs.
So when we are next woken up by Henry throwing open our bedroom door, his body in silhouette against the night light of the hallway and he says ‘is it morning time yet?’ I may just stop and pause a little before I say ‘No! It’s still night time go back to bed!!!’ and chuckle a little to myself that at least I don’t have my 2 eldest sharing a bed as none of us would ever get any sleep. And when, one by one, they come in sleepily in the morning for their morning cuddle with legs and arms being stepped on to get to the warm middle, where moans of ‘get off!’ and ‘Move out the way!!!’ as they try to get to cuddle either Mummy or Daddy for those final 5 mins before the alarm goes off, I’ll look at my bed with the pile of boys and husband and smile. We are lucky, we’ve come a long way from grandparents sharing their beds with siblings with no bedclothes to my boys having a room of their own and my boys do need to know this. I also wonder how on earth we’ll all fit in in months, years to come as 3 sons are going to get very big! But I might still sing the song that I do that gets them all moving out and up and ready for the morning; ‘There were 5 in the bed and the little one said ‘roll over, roll over….’