By Angela Noel
March 27, 2018
Lying close to my son as he slowly drifts into sleep is the most cost-effective therapy I know. But I know it can’t last.
Most nights, at least lately, after we snuggle and he reads a few pages from a chapter book, I say goodnight and exit his room. Then he reads a few pages of a comic book (Garfield or Calvin and Hobbs) on his own before flipping off his reading light and heading to snooze-town. But one night recently, we turned off the lights and I stayed a bit longer. He flung his arm around my neck and nuzzled a little closer. “Tonight,” he said, “you’re my stuffy.”
When he was little we didn’t co-sleep regularly. Though occasionally we both needed a few extra cuddles, or circumstances simply made the arrangement not just convenient but necessary. For example, soon after I separated from his dad, we went on a family trip to Disneyworld complete with a Disney Cruise. Jackson was a few months shy of five years old. We snuggled up in the big double bed in our stateroom each evening. I loved those nights.
However, I didn’t want to make bed sharing a habit because I didn’t want his sleep to be dependent on his proximity to me. And yet I valued the bonding. I loved watching the rise and fall of his warm chest and the way his eyelids fluttered in sleep. Or how he’d scoot his little self as close to me as possible, as if we still shared the same skin.
I recall sleeping in my parent’s bed as a child. On those nights when I had a bad dream, I’d knock on my parent’s door and they’d always let me in. My mom would curl her body around me. I remember the soft nylon of her nightgown and how she’d sleepily say, “I love you. Go to sleep now.” I’ve never felt as safe as I did falling asleep next to the person who I knew loved me most in the world.
So I think of that now with my son. The upwelling of motherly love I feel as I sense his body relaxing into sleep is evanescent. But it’s different for him. For him, I’m the most, the best, the sun, and the stars. I’m his everything. To the rest of the world I’m one of the many. To my child I am the one.
In the long hours of the day though, mom is easily forgotten. Friends, school, stepdad, dad, dog, video games, piano lessons, secret hankerings for a McDonalds Happy Meal, books, Legos, bad jokes, weird dance moves . . . these things fill his mind. But in the quiet, mom is queen.
The Time is Short
Nowadays, camping out in mom’s bed is a rarity, a treat. He’s getting older. The wingspan of his once-little arms makes it so I barricade him on one side of the king-sized bed to avoid a punch in the face. I know the time is short when he’ll even want to be close to me. I’m not entirely ready to let it go.
Less rare, but still infrequent are the nights, when we lie forehead to forehead after the bookmark has been set and the lights turned out. I know he’s willing himself to sleep before I leave the room–I know because he’s told me so. I stay until his breath deepens, then wait a moment or two more. Sneaking out, the door closing behind me, I know one more day in his childhood has ended.
Soon, the crowds will clamor. Friends will dominate his world. The secrets of boyhood are multiplying even now. But we still have this. I’m still the queen in the quiet.
These moments, poignant and powerful in part because they have an expiration date, will end. But the memories live on–perhaps even in the very cells of our skin.
Your turn: What are your memories of bonding with your parents or your children?