Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Family History and the Big Girl Bed

Growing up is tough. Growing up as a parent is tougher.

The various tests and troubles of parenting start the moment your kid comes home. They have a pattern of some kind, but they can’t explain it to you, because they haven’t learned to talk yet.

So your life turns into a science experiment of eating, and sleeping, and diapers, and cuddling, and eventually you get to a point where everything works.

At which point: Boom. Over. On to the next phase.

And you get to learn a whole new set of eating/sleeping/running rules.

Then you adjust, and then, BOOM, over.

In the midst of it all? The big girl bed.

As an adult with no children, you spend very little time thinking about the many beds of childhood. Your brain understands the whole baby/crib, older child/bed thing, and that’s about it.

But as you start raising actual human beings, you learn that there are many itinerations of the big-girl bed.

First, you’ve got the crib. NO blankets allowed. Maybe one, if it’s really tucked in. Because if you don’t tuck it in, the kid will kick it on their face, and then IT’S ALL OVER.

At least, that’s what the parenting books tell you.

Then they get a little older, and maybe you put a blanket in there.

If they’re little when they come home, you leave the bar on the crib down. The kid gets bigger? You raise the bar.

Then comes the day when your child moves to a “toddler” bed. Which means you take the bars off the side.

It’s like a small miracle. First it was a crib, and now, with a little tugging, it’s a bed. A small one, granted, but a bed all the same.

Finally, it’s time to move your kid to an actual, you know, bed-type-bed. Maybe a full. Or a twin.

In our case it was a twin, though I didn’t realize it at first.

You see, Kara and I were PREPARED for this moment. We bought an awesome crib, which is designed to turn into a toddler bed, and then into a bed-type-bed. Even better, when I told my parents that I thought it was time to move the kid to a regular bed, they said they had one.

There’s a story I’ll come to there. In a moment.

So our plan was set. They’d come over, they’d bring the bed, and we’d arrange the little one’s room to accommodate her brand-new, big girl bed.

Only, as it turns out, I know nothing about beds.

To start with, I didn’t take into account that my daughter’s bed-to-be would have to be a full-sized bed, in order to accommodate the head-and-foot-boards previously known as “crib parts.”

So, instead, I tore apart her crib, and my dad and I (mostly my dad) hauled the parts of the bed upstairs and started assembling them.

Which is when I learned something – the bed used to belong to my dad.

For weeks, my parents had referred to the bed in question as belonging to my grandparents. But I didn’t realize they were talking about the Patterson side. I had assumed they were speaking of the Dorows, who both passed away this year.

I was sort of right and sort of wrong.

According to my father, the bed that now sits in my daughter’s room was his – or possibly his brother’s. My dad was one of seven kids, and the bed in question was, essentially, a cheapie from Sears. Back when my dad was young. Which would have been back in 1950-something.

The bed resided at the Patterson household for years, until the Dorows had to move into assisted living, and needed beds that would fit in their tiny apartment. So this little bed, and its brother, left the Patterson household for the first time in their long history, and became part of the Dorow household.

Then my grandfather passed away, and the bed returned to my parents.

The bed itself is in great shape. There’s a scuff here and there, but my Grandma Patterson recovered the headboard years ago in fake brown leather that almost perfectly matches my daughter’s bedroom set.

You might notice that the color is a little off from the other furniture, but it would take you a while.

In a lot of ways, the bed is perfectly at home in my daughter’s room, a collection of books and toys from her childhood, my childhood, and my wife’s childhood. Adding a bed that my father, my grandfather, and almost certainly I, have slept in at one time or another feels right.

I’ve already said that growing up as a parent is tough. Three generations of parents have slept in that same bed, and with any luck, one day Mihret will present a big-kid bed to her son or daughter with the words, “This used to belong to your great-grandfather. And your great-great grandfather, for a while.”

And if we’re all very lucky, the bed will pass along four generations of parenting wisdom.

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