He puts his little arm around me. I snuggle in. He sighs. He smiles. Then…laughs. A manic laugh that only a little boy dreaming about whatever little boys dream about can laugh. He recites his favorite TV show. He laughs again–staccato. Loud. My heart skips a bit in that moment where I was about to resume a good dream. My mind returns to the darkness and checks. All is well. Relax.
Every night since we’ve been in this house–precisely fifteen months–I feel it coming. Step, step, step, door opening. Silence as he ninjas on the rug. Then, boing, boing, hop. Like a gymnast on the vault. Perfect ten in the middle of the bed. I get whacked in the face with Fluffy–the grey-once-white-sheep with the pink bow that is “definitely a boy.” Contradict and risk the wrath of God. Next…silence. Until the laughter and sleep talk begin.
I never allowed such things in the old house. Kids have their own beds. I read parenting books. I took advice. I got up every time and put him back into his bed from the beginning when I’d pick him up to feed him and tuck him back in with all his “buddies” in the days before Fluffy emerged as The One Not to Lose.
“You cannot sleep in Mommy’s bed,” I’d say, “Sleep in Declan’s big boy bed.” He stayed. I told him it was magic. It had special jumping powers.
I’m the best parent in the world. Couldn’t help but high-five myself. We escaped the pacifier and co-sleeping. My kid was going to be amazing.
Amazing–it’s not quite the word. He sneaks dog biscuits and licks the dog’s face. He does “science” experiments while we dare to rest for a moment. Yesterday, he mixed chemistry kit chemicals in a corner of the farthest room. Fake snow and giant silicone balls poured from beakers and vials. I saved my computer. To hell with the ski slope in the house–maybe we can market it and make some cash.
Night falls. Just when I think it’s safe, boing boing boing, hop. He’s in my bed again. His room isn’t close for the quick toss-and-return. And I’m sleeping sounder these days for the twenty minutes anyone lets a mother sleep. He can stay. For now. At least that way, for an hour or two of my life, I know that no one is lighting the house on fire or using all the soap products in the house to make bubbles or “clean the dog.” And I can rest. Until the giggling turns to maniacal laughing again. He quotes Dickens. He argues with Alvin and the Chipmunks. Then, all’s quiet. Briefly.
I’m awake. I smile. I pick up his little hand. I hold it.
“Yes, buddy…go to sleep. It’s the middle of the night.”
“I snuck in your bed.”
“Mommy…” He takes his hand back and puts his whole arm around me. “I love you.” In the dark I can see that he’s smiling. The world stops…for a minute.
“Enjoy these moments. They’ll be gone before you know it,” say all the empty nesters. They’re right. It’s hard to appreciate when I’m getting shot with a homemade dart gun constructed from pom poms and wrapping paper tubes. Can’t I spread the “enjoy” over a longer period instead of cramming it into one?
“Hahahahahaha, I GOTTCHA, Mommy!” I’m trying to write for a moment. Must I be ready to defend myself at all times? The answer–an unequivocal “yes.”
But now it’s dark. Silent. Peaceful.
“I love you, Mommy.” The kind of I love you that has no agenda, wants no candy, isn’t asking to stay up later. It just is. I give him a kiss on the nose–it’s what I find in the dark.
“I love you, too, Declan. Be a good boy. Get some sleep.”
He rustles. He sighs. In two more breaths, he’s fast asleep.
I look at the clock. I get up to write while the world is still quiet…because even the little devil gives a moment of peace sometimes. Coffee on my desk, sun rising–I take advantage of every second I can.
That’s what moms do.