The family bed was conceived of as a way to make sleeping a togetherness experience with the parents. There was no age barrier to sharing, young and old alike. Usually, the older ones start wanting their own bed before the younger although they are always able to share if desired. The parents sometimes get a feeling of ”enough” when their kids are in the 6th grade and beginning to want to have their own bed. However, usually high school kids, so conscious of what their peers are doing and wanting to fit in, are more than ready for a bed and if possible, a room of their own!
The family bed becomes a creator of disturbance, sometimes lasting when it is allowed or prohibited as a reward or punishment, inevitably when one or more of the children is singled out. Then the “chosen one” learns some kind of inevitably destructive lesson whether it is as a reward or as a punishment. It becomes part of one’s self-labelling. You are the unloved excluded or the special included. On what basis? Who knows? It teaches distorted lessons about how to get loved or how to live without it.
Take the example of a mother who was unable to conceive after years of trying so adopted two dark-skinned babies from a less-developed southern country. The older one, a girl, was favored for her beauty, but in some ways was expected to restrain her emotions and speech, her likes and dislikes, and needs. She had an adopted a negative label. The younger adopted child turned out to have a learning disability and was slow to speak, think, and adapt. His parents did not respond to this with humor and acceptance, a simplification of tasks followed by a “You did it.” He was more actively rejected, put-down, ignored. Neither parent was aware of playing favorites. Parents play out the rejection they experienced as infants, this time as doer rather than victim.
The older children sometimes slept with Mom and Dad but more readily moved away from them. The bed without the parent’s conscious knowing was not a welcoming place.
But as they say, S__ hits the fan when Mom suddenly conceived. This child was born white skinned and blond. She was very clever as younger children are in picking up language, partly because they listen to their siblings, but also because the parents endlessly crooned, held, and talked to this child. She too had access to the Family Bed.
With all her favoritism, it would seem surprising that she was given to throwing tantrums, not an easy sleeper, needing to be held and coddled; out of infancy, she still was prone to ready tears, cries of helplessness and need. One would wonder where this came from since favor was heaped upon her. It came from her baby privilege.
And now that she is about twelve, she still has to start sleeping with Mom (Dad has departed to a more loving partner) and only in the early morning departs for her bed. She still stages helpless tantrums, acting like a far younger child. She does this even though she is quite accurate in her understanding and descriptions of other people. Her intelligence is not running the show. It is her view of herself as a special baby. Exhibiting the behavior to which Mom favorably responded. She has seen older Sister and Brother rejected, scuttled to a demanding adulthood. Part of her clinging to babyhood is her being overweight. Brother is slim. Sister is very small and exquisitely formed but not an extra ounce of fat upon her. She lives with emotional rations.
But the third child is plump she has a baby figure, no waist, no early breasts, like the pawn on a chess piece. She is uncomfortable with her ungainliness but the child within accepts it as a necessity to remain Mom’s favorite. Early training, what gains love if nothing replaces it, remains with us for life.
It’s not true she can’t lose the weight. She has sometimes dieted down only to regain it. It is the connection her inner child has with a Mother who only loves her as a baby, the one endlessly welcomed to the family bed which keeps her a fat child. It is only after seeing the baby love addiction and deciding that a shaky childhood should not run us for life, that one can make up one’s mind to move on, lose the weight, act like a real adult.