I’ve spoken before about how I often feel like an afterthought in my son’s eyes. How his Dad can do no wrong and I’m a pain in his ass. Sean’s the playmate. I’m the teacher. He’s the joy. I’m the heavy. My illness makes me weak and Sean seems like the most capable man in the world. His Dad shapes breakfast into starships and his Mom insists he put on shoes before we leave the house (the injustice!). I’ve come to accept that, for the most part, I’m lame and Sean’s cool. I don’t like it but, I’ve come to terms with it. He may love us both the same but, I can’t compete. I’m his rock but his Dad’s his Hero and a Hero throws a pretty large shadow.
The other night however, Lochlan was sick. Not crazy sick, just bad cold sick and it had been a long day so, after I put him to bed, I went to sleep myself. Sean was out and, when he got home, Loch woke up and started calling for me. Apparently, no matter what he did, Loch was still asking for me so, eventually, Sean came to wake me up. He apologized, saying he’d tried everything but, Loch just “really needed his Mommy.”
Here’s the thing, I’m an insomniac. Sleep is a struggle for me. When I’m already asleep, I REALLY hate getting up because once I’m up, I’m often up for hours. I’ve spent way too many nights just staring into the darkness worrying, writing notes, breaking down and trolling Facebook, counting the ever shrinking hours until I have to be out of bed again and, just waiting for the sleep that doesn’t come. It’s incredibly frustrating and I really do my best to avoid it at all costs.
I didn’t want to get out of bed that night. I didn’t want to be awake until 3am exhausted at home the next day with a sick child but, my baby was calling for me so, it didn’t matter what I wanted, I was going. I understood. Sometimes you just need your Mom.
He blew his nose and I gave him more cold medicine to break up the phlegm. I refluffed his pillows, straighten his sheets and flipped his blankets and, when he was finally settled, I sang. I sang the lullaby I’ve been singing to him since the first day he was born. I sang it soft and low while I patted his back and scratched his arm. He lay on his side, his little hand resting on my knee and I could feel his tiny shoulder blades through his t-shirt, the little hairs on his forearm, the impossibly soft skin on the top of his hand. I sang and sang and, finally, I just sat. I listened to him breathe. I listened to the sound of his stuffiness, to his little, muffled girggles and, then I made the disastrous mistake of asking if he wanted to blow his nose.
“Mom! You woke me up!!” (I didn’t). “You’re going to have to do it all over again but, this time when you’re done, don’t talk to me after ok?”
“Ok, babe. Sorry about that.” (He’s sick, I’ll give him a break on the tone he’s using.) “DO you want to blow your nose though?”
I started again. The singing, the back patting, the arm tickles but, this time, I became aware of how amazing the moment was. I’d passed the fresh out of bed, trying to get back to it phase. I was there now, awake, in it, and the intimacy of the moment, the warmth of being there in the dark with him, the satisfaction of being able to give him the affection he needed, it all overwhelmed me. I was struck by the fact that my love for him had become a tangible thing. A security blanket he craved. Something he needed to hold on to. My very presence was like a xynax for his soul. Despite all the hero worship, in this moment, it was me who made a difference. Me who was required.
The thing is, being diagnosed when Loch was 5 months old, I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to experience that feeling. It didn’t seem as if I’d be around long enough to ever really matter to him. To be remembered or, make any lasting impression on his life but, sitting there quietly on the side of his bed just allowing the song to settle, I recognized I’d made it. I’d lived long enough, and put in enough effort, to register as essential and, it felt amazing.
Eventually I took his hand off my knee, stood up, walked to his doorway and…
Tripped on his door stop.
“Sorry! Sorry Lochie! I didn’t see it.” (Ow. My toe.)
“Can you sing it again?” (It’s my own fault. Damn you rock.)
“Of course baby.”
I crossed back to his bed and sat down. I felt his little hand searching for my knee in the dark.
“When you’re done will you tuck me in too?”
“Do you want your arms under the blankets?”
“No, just my shoulder.”
“Ok, babe. I’ll do that.”
I wasn’t annoyed. I wasn’t tired. I wasn’t rushing to get back to bed. I knew I would be there for as long as he needed me. His little, pudgy fingers softly moved against the flannel of my pants as I started the song again and, this time, I found myself getting choked up. For all it’s efforts, being a parent is an incredible blessing. What an honor it is to be the person who can calm and improve a situation simply with your presence. How extraordinary to be the one looked to for help and guidance, the one who offers security and, in this case, how touching to be the one chosen. The one required above all others.
I sang the song two more times, even after I knew he was asleep, not wanting the moment to end and, every time I sang, the importance of my role grew on me. The repetition was a gift that allowed me to see the wonder.
I am Lochlan’s Mom and, no matter what ends up happening to me, I can say with all certainty that I mattered. That I made an impression on this small, wonderful boy’s life. To him I was irreplaceable.
Thank you Sean. Thank you Lochlan’s cold. Thank you stupid door stop. Thank you beautiful son. Thank you lovely and haunting “Bye Oh By Baby”.
I went right to sleep that night, a completely happy girl and, a totally fulfilled mother.
Blessings to you all.