As I write this post, it’s Friday night, I’m in bed, in the dark, with about 5 inches of mattress to myself. There’s a buffalo snoring on the other side of me (although just for the record, he most definitely ‘does not snore’) and in-between us is my (almost) 5-year-old son. His legs and arms are flailing all over the place and I’m in danger of ending up on the floor.
When he’s not impersonating a star-fish in my bed (which to be fair, rarely happens), he is a boisterous, fun-loving, inquisitive little boy with a lust for life and a grin to match. He’s becoming fiercely determined and independent, and I hear the phrase, “I can do it myself” all the more frequently nowadays, especially since he started school.
So as I lay here in the dark feeling annoyed that I have enough bed-space to only just about accommodate Barbie, I zone out and listen to him breathing. And I’m suddenly struck by the realisation that in the not too-distant-future, he’ll probably stop wanting to snuggle up in my bed. Ouch! Not sure I like that idea. Before I know it, I’ll have trouble dragging him out of his own pit, and the days of his little limbs sprawling all over me in the night will just be a distant memory.
I’m suddenly all too aware that time is fleeting, especially at this age. We’re all so consumed with teaching them life-skills and independence that sometimes it’s hard to remember to stop and smell the roses. To actually be present, be in the moment, and enjoy your child for what they are – a child.
A perfect example of this occurred last week. I mentioned to a friend that I still lay with my son in his bed each night while he goes to sleep. I could see a look of disapproval flash across her face. It was fleeting, but I knew what she was thinking: ‘He’s nearly 5! He should be able to go to sleep by himself! You’ll psychologically damage him and he’ll probably end up as a social outcast, unable to sustain any emotional relationships!’ Ok, maybe not the last part, but there was definite judgemental look in her eyes.
So do I worry that he’ll turn into a 35-year-old man that still needs his 65-year-old-mother to help him get to sleep? (Dear god, I really hope not). No. He’s 5 and he just needs his mummy for a little bit of reassurance at night. Instead of worrying that I ruined him, I’ll be thankful that I got to spend that time with him every evening; time that he didn’t even realise was special. That twilight zone, just before sleep, when all the craziness of the day has subsided and his little body is twitching as he falls into a deep slumber; when I get to watch my son in that peaceful, vulnerable and beautiful transition between semi-consciousness and sleep. Because one day he’ll say, “it’s ok mummy, I can go to sleep by myself tonight” and just like that I won’t be needed any more.
Sometimes he wants help getting dressed. Of course, I know he can do it. And so does he. But just sometimes, he wants to relinquish responsibility to me and I let him. I manoeuvre his long legs into his trousers and thread him arms into his t-shirt. It’s like dressing a sack of potatoes as he lays on the floor and makes no effort whatsoever to help. But I’m aware that one day, unknowingly for us both, I’ll help him with his jumper for the very last time. One day, he won’t even want me in his room while he’s getting dressed.
My son jumps all over me and when he’s feeling really tired or particularly sorry for himself, he’ll ask me to carry him ‘like a baby’. Yes it looks ridiculous. We both know that and it’s our little joke. Yes, he’s really heavy and it’s getting harder and harder to scoop his whole body into my arms. But I’ll continue to indulge my son and carry him, until I can no longer lift his rapidly developing little body. Because at some point he’ll stop asking. And I probably won’t even notice at the time. Until one day I realise my first born baby is taller than me and I couldn’t pick him up even if I tried.
Back in the room, and the buffalo that doesn’t snore is still snoring. And the mini buffalo next to me has just started too. But strangely enough, it’s not annoying and I don’t seem to mind balancing on the edge of the bed anymore. I turn over, snuggle into his sprawling limbs and enjoy being next to my little boy, while he’s still my little boy.