I lay in the dark holding my kindle, reading my newest book though it was well past my bedtime. I should have gone to sleep an hour ago, but the story drew me in and held me captive. When I was tuned in like that it was hard to put the story down, no matter the sleepy consequences that awaited me in the morning.
The bedroom door opened quietly. A slice of light from the hall shined in. The light was from the office where the night owls of the house still held court. The early birds and the young had long since turned in. The light that spilled in now highlighted the short silhouette of a boy, his hand holding the doorknob. “I’m just coming in here now” he said quietly. “Okay, come on!” I told him, folding the blankets back to make a space for him.
I hastily took my glasses off and set them on the nightstand with my now closed kindle. The little guy didn’t come sneaking in as often as he used to. I wasn’t in the least bit sad he decided to join me.
In the dark, he climbed up on the bed and slid his little legs under the covers cuddling right up next to me. “Goodnight, Beanie-boo!” I said to him. “Goodnight, Mom” he said. I couldn’t help but notice how long his legs were as he lay them right across the top of mine.
Earlier in the day I had measured him against the wall in the hallway where we keep track of the growing boys. He had grown an inch since November when I last measured him, and he was a full 3 inches taller than his brother when he was the same age.
As he snuggled up next to me I gave him a kiss on his head and smiled in the dark. He smelled like little boy from his shampoo and also like a man. He found his big brother’s body spray before bed and curiosity got the best of him. Now he smelled strongly of both boy and man. I snuggled him tighter.
One day he too, would head out of this nest like the others and try to fly. The parenting wouldn’t stop, I knew that now. It would be different though. I’d spent so much time with the older ones wondering how high they’d soar. Now I understood it was never about how high they soared but how well they took to the air again after they fell. That was where the real success would lie.
Knowing that changed the way I looked at being a mom. It was all in the growth, and that growth was often painful and uncomfortable. Certainly the baby of the family experienced a different mother altogether than the oldest child. We accused parents of this inconsistency for years and now I knew it was true.
It had never been an intentional shift. It was just that I realized something. I was still learning how to get back in the air after I fell out of the sky. It was hard to teach what you were still figuring out for yourself. By the time I got to the baby of six, I understood that better. With that understanding came patience.
“What time is it?” he whispered to me sleepily in the dark. “It’s 12:04” I said. “AM or PM?” he questioned me further. Chuckling, I answered him “It’s AM”. “So it’s morning?” He asked. “It’s morning but it’s also still middle of the night. We need to sleep” I said. He threw his arm over me, half asleep already and said “Okay.”
I kissed his head again and closed my eyes with a smile, smelling the sweet scents of both boy and man.