“I want to sleep alone,” he said. “Please leave.” I remember hoping for similar words in the past, but on this night, I was sad. Unprepared. “Don’t you want song tickles?” I’ve been tickling my son’s back while singing the same two songs to him since the day I brought him home and wondered whether he’d ever get what he needed from my body and from this life.
“I’m good,” he said. “I’m brave.” He patted my arm and rolled over. “Leave the door open though.”
When my son was three, four, five and then six, I read about moms whose kids wandered out of bed asking for another glass of water, a tissue, a pillow-flip.
“She said she had to pee again,” they said. “Can you believe it? It’s 9pm! What tricks do your children pull at bedtime?” I could hear the collective groans and giggled when they shared Samuel L Jackson reading “Go The F*ck to Sleep.”
I love hearing Samuel L sing-songing swear words in his that voice as much as the next human does but wondered instead at how that worked. Leaving a kid in his bed and walking away while he was awake?
I’d never done that. When my son was a baby, I didn’t believe in having him “cry it out.” “Babies cry because they need something,” I said to anybody who asked which wasn’t often anybody at all.
Today, I wonder whether kids with special needs want to sleep alone later than typical ones do. Whether that even matters.
Things were different in 1968. Women didn’t often keep babies without a husband to support them, and most moms were ashamed of pregnant teenaged daughters. Babies given up for adoption were in orphanages or in church-sponsored group homes. Birth mothers signed papers, sometimes found out the baby’s sex or touched a cheek while whispering goodbye.
I guess they took whatever medicine they had back then to quiet their screaming breasts and broken hearts.
I don’t know what my life was like from birth until I was eight days old and went home with my forever family. Did I scream for my mother’s milk or was I content with formula? Was I held? Did somebody sing to me? I’ll never likely have answers. It’s likely that wondering about them helped to form my beliefs about my son never crying for me.
The first thing I did when we brought our newborn home was to introduce him to my dog Chief who was my baby before I had a baby. I’d sent my husband home with our son’s newborn shirt the night before. I worried about Chief being jealous and possessive, although I shouldn’t have wasted time on those thoughts. That dog of mine welcomed my son as part of me from minute one.
Even before he was born.
The second thing I did was to carry my newborn around the house, Chief following closely behind. “This is where we eat,” I said. “It’s called a kitchen.”
“This is our couch, and when you’re bigger, you can play on this mat.” I took him upstairs, and showed him where he’d sleep for a few months, and where he’d sleep after that. “See your bedroom?” I said. “Daddy painted the monkey on the wall.”
I held him and sang to him until he slept at night, and when I failed at not waking him while settling him down, I repeated.
I got up when he cried.
After all, I didn’t know what happened to me for eight days. I’m sure it was nothing awful, but this was something I could be sure of. My baby would never cry alone wondering where I was.
“Mommy, stay with me forever,” he said, grabbing my hand and wrapping it more tightly around his tummy. He was six. There were nights I heard my keyboard calling and the voices from the bathroom wall laughing, and yet I stayed. I stayed because I want to remember this.
He’d be turning seven years old at almost 11pm the following night. It was his birthday eve, and we’d stayed up watching fireworks. The hotel room beds were small and I slept with him while my husband was an arm’s length away. It seemed fitting to sleep with my son kicking me from the outside rather than from the inside the way he’d done the same night seven years before.
Morning called, and the blinds grew thicker with sunlight.
“Mommy!” he whispered.
“Happy birthday, Baby,” I said, eyes still closed.
“No,” he said. “Because look. I didn’t get bigger,” showing me his foot.
“Hmmm,” I said, sniffly after the crappy air conditioning had been blowing up my nose all night. “Let me see your hand.”
He held up his hand, and I held up mine. Palm to palm. “I think your hands grew,” I said. He giggled, and agreed while sliding his fingers up further so that the place between our palms and wrists grew wider.
This summer, my forever-changing from baby to little-boy to bigger-boy turned seven. I recently promised to tell you all about his celebration, about gem mines on a hot summer’s day, and about the most epic Minecraft birthday cake ever. And I will.
Tonight though, I need to say that this summer has been the first with nights that don’t include lying in my son’s bed with his head on my stomach. I also know that summer is sometimes about eating a hotdog.
This summer is the one in which I hopefully learn to explain that not liking a behavior doesn’t mean not liking him. It’s already the first summer he’s forgotten to ask whether he can go downstairs before going downstairs at a too-early hour in the morning.
This summer feels big, and amazing, and while I jump for joy at milestones met by some peers years before, it also feels a little bit sad. After all, it wasn’t that many summers ago when I he was two, and I said “I think something’s wrong.”
Which also somehow means that it’s not that far in the future when I stand next to a boy who is taller than I. He will, I know, give me unseen wonders and magic that I’ll never be ready for but will always embrace. Because this summer, and every summer, is also always about Now. I want to remember the Now as much as the before.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. To link up, simply answer the sentence “This summer…”
It’s been a pretty heartbreaking couple of weeks for sure. This week’s Finish the Sentence Friday prompt is pretty open and will hopefully inspire you to do whatever it is that you need to with your words. Talk about something that makes you laugh or a great summer memory. Talk about why the events of this summer leave you hollow or inspired to do something. Talk about whatever you want to. We’re reading.
Your host: (moi) Kristi from Finding Ninee