He came bounding into my room, his mouth all foamy at its edges. A million light-years from sleep if I were to gauge drift-off by the thrust of his energy.
“I brushed my teeth. I changed into PJs. I'm ready for bed,” he said with rapid-fire excitement. “Come tuck me in.”
It melts my heart that he still needs me to shoo away the monsters, as well as remove all the litter and laundry that pile up in his room.
On any other night, he'd be taking his time, dragging his feet. Pleading with me for just a few minutes more with whatever he was doing.
But when he wakes up tomorrow he will be ten. He knows sleep cuts through the lag between now and then.
“I don't want you to grow any older,” I tell the boy as I sit by his bed, carefully ducking my chin so as not to hit my head on the top bunk.
He smiled at me as if I were kidding.
I was dead serious.
Scratch that. “Dead” is not the word I wanted to land on for this sentiment.
*Searches for a term that doesn't joke about mortality but imparts all the anxiety of a mother in an uncertain world, who worries that we are all just pinballs in some elevated tin-can of an arcade game. …
Anxiety is a terrible thing. It's a frenetic heartbeat that races around in our minds causing all kinds of havoc. Many mothers aptly describe the feeling as if these babies entered the world and dragged our hearts out with them.
My thoughts race and collide as he drags the covers up to his chin, and finds his most comfortable position in which to rest:
I want him to grow up.
And willingly get in the shower without me having to ask a dozen times.
I want him to clean his own room.
And do his own laundry.
And finish high school.
And not be drafted.
Or killed in a war we can't win.
I want him to know real love. I want him to find it everywhere. Especially inside himself.
I want him to know he has choices and that others do, too.
I want him to grow old with someone he admires.
I don't care if he's a doctor as long as he can see one when he's sick, even if just for reassurance.
I hope he's not a hypochondriac like me.
But I want him to be sensitive. To remember he's not alone among strangers.
I want him to care about whether his neighbors are hungry, or cold, or hurting.
I want him to mow a little more than his lawn, just to help out.
I want whatever he has to be more than enough.
I want his heart to live outside of his body, too.
But I can't say any of that to him. I can only give my son a hug, which he gives me right back.
And then he thanked me for changing his sheets, which -- I'll be honest – had accumulated at least a cup-full of playground sand and who-knows-what-all-else since the last time I'd risked a traumatic head injury to strip them from his bunk bed.