Sleep is hard for our son. In a few months he will turn seven and we can count on one hand the number of times he’s slept through the night. I can count with no hands the number of times he’s been able to fall asleep without either myself or John next to him, reassuring him that we are there: zero.
The other night we were about halfway through our normal routine. Books had been read, medicine administered, songs sung, and we were laying in the dark quietly. Out of the blue M turned on his side and said something new…
“It’s okay, Mommy. You can go downstairs; I can go to sleep by myself now.”
I stared at him in shock. “Are you sure? You can’t get up and play or turn on the light, you know.” He reassured me and after a kiss and hug I left his room. This can’t be real, I thought. And it wasn’t. Because about three minutes later I heard foot steps and the bedroom door creak open. I met him as he was halfway down the stairs with a flashlight in his hand.
“I got scared.” He said. “What should I do if I’m scared?” He asked. “You come get me,” I said.
I want my children to know that they can always come get me. If they’re scared I want them to come to me, if they’re sad, if they’re lonely, if they’re uncertain, if they’re nervous, if they’re mad, and when they don’t know what to do… I want them to come to me.
I want them to know what to expect. I want them to expect that I will wrap my arms around them and pull them in tight for a big bear hug. I want them to know we will sit like that for as long as they need me. That I won’t be the one to let go first. That I’ll never get tired of holding them and comforting them.
I want them to expect me to listen to their fears, heartaches, disappointments, and worries. I want them to know I’ll talk to them about it all and share what nights were like when I was a little girl. I’ll smile at the wonder in their eyes – that they can’t believe I was small once, too, and I got scared lying alone in the dark, too.
I want them to be assured that I won’t ever roll my eyes, or make them feel small or stupid or ridiculous. Because the truth is this: I still get scared. Some of those little fears I had when I was five years old have shifted into the much bigger fears of a mid-thirties mother. I still lay afraid in the dark sometimes. And the truth is, that it brings me a lot of comfort when a little one pads down the steps late at night and climbs in next to me to be held for a little while.
The world is big and scary and often overwhelming. It’s also filled with beauty and light and joy and love. Together we can make it through the hard things by holding onto one another and pointing out the rainbows through the rain. Or making shadow animals on the wall with our flashlight. Or singing a song to the tune of their old baby mobile. Or just holding hands in the quiet. I want my children to know I won’t ever make them face hard things alone. We’ll still face the hard, yes, but we’ll do it together.
I want my children to know without a shadow of a doubt: If I am here, I will be with them. Whenever they want me, we’ll face the dark together. That’s how we’ll make it through hard nights. That’s what we’ll do when we’re scared.