Last night I didn’t sleep well; when I went to bed there was a small person there, already.
I’ve always been pretty firm about kids sleeping in their own beds, but I’m happy to make room if someone is sick or has a nightmare. Finding a boy in my bed is unusual, but the boys had been with their Dad all weekend and maybe Matt was just lonely.
Matt is not easy to sleep with. He vacillates between squirming and cover-grabbing, throwing himself spread-eagle across the bed, and wrapping himself around me like a rhesus monkey. I love him. I got into bed and curled up next to him, and my heart just broke when I smelled his little-boy shampoo smell. And that’s why I had trouble sleeping. I’ve become used to his tossing and flailing after nine years of experience with it, but last night it occurred to me that there won’t be many more nights like this, and I was treasuring his closeness too much to sleep. How many more nights will he crawl into my bed because it smells like me? How many more times will I get to fall asleep with my nose buried in his neck, and with his hand seeking out mine in his sleep? He’s still a little boy, but he’s right on the cusp of tipping into big kid land. I spent the night looking at his profile in the moonlight, and wondering how it will change, wondering how those big eyes and freckles will morph into a grown-up man face, and thinking about how, when he was tiny, he would fall asleep half-sprawled across me.
I don’t think I’ve ever been sentimental in my loss of sleep. I would sell my own grandmother for a good nap, and sleep deprivation was a huge hurdle when the boys were tiny. But it’s been hitting me lately that the hard part is coming to an end, and that’s good, right? But the hard part is also swirled with the most tender part, the gentle part, and so its passing is bittersweet.
Mike, the boys’ Dad, has always talked about how this day would come. In my phone calls to him in New York, when I’m overwhelmed at being the only parent on site, when I’m exhausted emotionally and feeling so alone in my single parenting; in my life that’s focused on getting my boys to where they need to be to face their lives’s horizons with strength and self-assurance, Mike will always say, “soon they’ll need you less, and then you can take care of you.” I thought that day would never arrive, and yet here I am, in tears because I see it coming.