I am lying on my son’s bed, waiting for his breathing to become regular and his ever longer body to relax back to sleep. He is seven and only in sleep do his features smoothen and soften enough for me to find the baby he was not more than two days ago. Right now his thin body is taut with frustration, as he hates having his sleep disrupted, especially by something he despises as much as going to the bathroom. He awoke crying, and as he made his way to the bathroom he insisted over and over that he did not have “to go”. Yet, clearly his body had other ideas, and for this betrayal he is angry.
I rub his back and kiss his bristly head, shushing and whispering endearments to the sweet man child next to me. My exhausted brain wishes desperately to be in my bed, fast asleep, and it begs me to kiss him and tell him that I love him, and then slip out of the room to bed. But my heart keeps me here for just a little longer. In seven years he has grown from a small, pudgy cuddlebug into a wiry, long cuddlebug, and I know that seven years hence I will have a young man, who will likely be taller than me, and will more than likely no longer cry out for me in the night, no longer crave my closeness as a comfort. And so I stay.
In the morning, my head will ache, and I will get ready for work in a daze, as I remember to give my daughter her antibiotics for a flaming ear infection, and my son will fight me, dragging his feet and not remembering why he feels so tired. I will kiss my kids as I leave them in the care of another woman who will ensure that they breakfast, and pack them off to school. And I will sit quietly on the train, drinking my home brewed cup of tepid coffee, feeling tired and achy from my night of angling myself around this small, nearly sleeping form, but I will not regret the extra 20 minutes that I spent here. Because here is now, and now he will be grown, and then I shall miss the son that lies here right now, just as I miss his kindergarten, preschool, toddler, baby iterations. People talk of cutting into their sleep to get things done, and so that is what I am doing. I am gathering these moments and imprinting them on my memory, hoping that they will stay here, so that 35 years from now I will be lying in my bed and will be able to pull this out, dust it off and be with the seven year old who needed his Mama in the middle of the night.