The Way Children Help a Parent

I’m almost embarrassed to admit it: jet-lagged from the return home, exhausted from a day of grocery-shopping, laundry-washing, children-caring and more, I just couldn’t sleep last night.

Oh and the final basketball game of course on the TV.

And all the thoughts in my head racing around like Tom chasing Jerry.

Every night, at some point in the very darkness, Shaya comes quietly into my room, wakened by I don’t know what, hugging his giraffe and his horse and two blankies close, and wordlessly, soundlessly, climbs into bed beside me.

Some nights I rouse when I hear him enter the room. Some nights I don’t and only awaken later to find his little hot body beside mine.

There are nights when, once discovered, I cannot sleep – rigid as a board and with only inches to myself in between him and Dan. Other nights, I curl beside him, comforted by my little boy’s need to reach out to me in the night.

We all know that will end some day, that eventually he won’t need my comforting to feel secure, to feel home.

And so I allow it. I’ve always embraced the concept of family bed and attachment parenting. I won’t have that argument now. I’ve been a mother long enough to feel confident in my tendencies and not care what others think.

But last night, as I tossed and turned, wide awake, read my book, watched The Mindy Project, agonized and analyzed, as the entire house slept, I couldn’t help but yearn for the comfort of Shaya needing me, of his little body beside me in bed, the comfort of my child reaching out for me in the night.

Yes, I’m ashamed to admit it.

I crept out of bed, Dan snoring quietly beside me, the kids all long asleep. I walked into Shaya’s room just to gaze at my littlest child, splayed across the bed, his stuffed animals flung to either side, the blankets he routinely swaddles them in balled up beside them.

I kissed his soft cheek. I smoothed back his hair. He didn’t stir.

And I went back to bed.

But in my head, I willed him to rise at that very moment and wander in to find me, hoping that this last midnight yearning might help cure me of wakefulness.

It was something like 20 minutes later when somehow, he found his way to me. He climbed inside the blankets. I’m sure he did it all eyes-closed or maybe not focusing.

He nestled in, the giraffe and the horse and the blankies all there. I pulled the covers over us both. I breathed that inescapable sigh of calm, of reassurance, of knowing that my kids still need me and that, surprisingly, I actually need them.

Parents aren’t supposed to need their kids, are they? Isn’t it that we have them and love them selflessly and famously and way too much so that it’s our hearts that are broken when they leave for their own lives? 

Of course we don’t want to raise kids who never leave the nest. Of course we want them to fly free, to attain new heights.

And yes, I want all that, for all of them.

But last night, I didn’t release into sweet sleep until my little guy was nestled up against me, and I him, comforted by the presence of that indescribable, unextinguishable love.

It’s not the worst thing in the world, is it?

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