Each evening as I say goodnight to Son, I climb up to the top bunk like always and lay with him for a few minutes. It is a ritual that cannot be missed, no matter how late or early it happens to be. I cannot simply wish him a peaceful night’s sleep from the ground-no that will not do. For if I try to skip this step, it is met with his Super Power Stubbornness and I find myself in some sort of ridiculous argument and end up just climbing up the bunk and planting my goodnight kiss resentfully upon his forehead and this is not how I like to end the day. So I’ve learned to….just….climb the ladder.
No matter how long or how short the time, it is never enough. He begs me for one more minute without fail. Some nights I oblige happily and other nights I just really want some space and some sofa and some housewives. But last night as he begged for his last minute, I was feeling indulgent so I put my head on his back, my ear turned onto his shoulder blades, my arm loosely hung around him and we laid like that for a few minutes, just being and breathing, my head raising with each breath he took. I could feel his heartbeat; the same heart that used to beat inside my body. I closed my eyes and all I could see was eleven years of bedtimes past flash before me in an instant. I see Him all swaddled up, his newborn grunts and little fists finding comfort in the protective womb of those blankets. I see Him at 2 am, his legs pumping through his sleep sack, ready to greet his Mama. I see Him being rocked to sleep by a tired me with sore nipples and lazy eyelids. I hear Him talking himself to sleep in that sweet toddler voice. I see Him in his room asking for one more book; one more verse of Baby Mine. Him refusing to go to bed unless he has five grapes. Him refusing to go to bed unless the house was afire with light. Him battling his night terrors, trembling from head to toe, me scared not knowing it was just a dream he wouldn’t even remember in the morning. I see Him with piles of books we both knew by heart, each word ingrained. I see Him not ask me to read him books anymore. I see I am somewhat relieved, this freedom seemingly a victory yet a punch to the heart at the same time. Then He doesn’t ask me to sing again and I hate myself for every rushed verse, for each time I just wanted to close the door and be done. I hate myself for not knowing it would be the last time. We never know when it will be the last time.
But there I lay with Son last night, his heart beating against my ear. There I lay soaking in every second of this precious moment I know one day will also no longer be asked of me. I forgive myself of all the bedtimes I rushed, of all the bedtimes I cursed, of all the bedtimes I’ve missed….because I am here. I am still allowed in this bed. I am still allowed to give back scratches and make jokes and ask about his day. I am still allowed to be his Mama for at bedtime I am always Mama and never Mom. Soon everything will change again; it slips by unnoticed, these little habits fading bit by bit until you realize they are gone…and it is only then how your heart aches for that last verse of Baby Mine. I take in this moment and I am grateful to realize how special it is, no matter how ordinary it may seem to Him.
To Him, my Son and to Her, my Daughter: thank you for all the bedtimes, no matter how ugly or beautiful they have been. I cherish you both.
Now go the f*%k to sleep.