Saturday, June 19, 2010
Although he loves his daddy dearly, there is no denying the excitement Sam feels when daddy is out of town and he becomes mama’s little boy again. When daddy is in town (which is most of the time) Sam loves doing all the things nine year old boys do with their male parent. They wrestle and play rock band. They watch Star Wars cartoons and tell fart jokes. All of the things that this mommy has no desire to do.
But something happens to my boy when daddy leaves town. He becomes my buddy and clings a bit more tightly to the things that make our relationship special. One of his favorites is getting to sleep in daddy’s spot. The minute he catches wind of a daddy departure, the first words out of his mouth are, “I call Dad’s spot!”
Only one of his siblings has a desire to fight him on this point. The other two are long past thinking it’s a treat to sleep in mom’s bed. In fact, it’s more like torture to share a bed when hotel nights require it. But my two youngest still feel the magic and on the rare occasions that the spot’s up for grabs, we either do endless rounds of rock, scissors, paper or just give up and all three of us pile in together.
This weekend Sam got lucky. Dad was leaving town and taking Isaac with him. There would be no battles about bedtime spots. The left side of that king sized bed was all his.
The travelers left early in the afternoon, then teen siblings went off to do what teens do, so Sam and I had the afternoon and evening all to ourselves. He played Legos for a bit while I finished some writing. Then we met on the couch to watch a movie together. He’d seen it before, when it first came out, but I’d never had the chance to watch the Disney movie, “Up”. It was a sweet story about what’s really important in life and making the people in your life feel special. Perfect for snuggle time on the couch on this Friday night.
I have to say, I’m craving and relishing in these rare intimate times with my quickly growing last child. He’s always been my cuddler and I have not fully come to grips with the fact he will grow up and out of my arms some day. Someday soon, actually. He’s four months away from turning ten and just a few years away from being as tall as I am. He joined our nest when our oldest was ten, our youngest almost five, so he’s always enjoyed that baby spot in our family.
But I’m beginning to see how even the baby eventually grows up, no matter how much I fight it.
On this same afternoon that Dad and brother left town I had a glimpse into the pulling away. Sam and I had gone to Target to get a birthday present for a friend. We used to run errands together every day, when he was a toddler and preschooler. I desperately miss those days. By force of habit I reached out to grab his hand as we walked up the parking lot toward the store. His hand met mine, then pulled away. I turned to him, and with a playful smile, said ”Awww Sam, you’re not gonna hold my hand? Are you afraid someone might see you?”
He sheepishly looked back at me and whispered his reply. “Wait till we get to the back aisles…” I clearly see that our hand holding days are over. But fortunately, my snuggling at home days are not.
So we decided to go to bed early last night. Just so Sam could truly soak in his special spot before the sandman arrived. I got out a book, he got out a book, and we read for almost an hour, side by side. Then he quietly closed his book, placed it on dad’s night stand, and scooched over to my side. With his body splayed out, taking up almost half the bed, he gently placed his head on my shoulder and let out a deep sigh. My boy was tired but not yet ready for sleep.
“Is this what dad does?” he asked. It was a question I’d heard three other times already. Instead of being a little boy, wanting to snuggle with his mom, he had decided he was acting in dad’s place that night, being the man of the family. As he straightened the covers and climbed into bed, he asked the same question - “Is this what dad does?” Then as he fluffed his pillows to get set up for reading, he asked the question again. Now, head perched on my shoulder, he was validating his actions, an excuse to get just a bit closer to mom.
“Yeah,” I assured him, “That’s exactly what dad does.”
Within minutes he was asleep. His head grew heavy on my shoulder and eventually dropped off as his body instinctively rolled over to get more comfortable. He settled into a deep sleep and seemed to be contentedly tucked into dreamland.
Then, just as I was reaching over to put my own book away and turn out the light, he rolled over. It was a move that a body makes with no forethought, just moving to where it wants most to be, with no reservations about judgments that might be made. His whole body came my way and folded into the crook of my arm. Just like so many nights when he was a toddler and fell asleep tucked up next to my body, before daddy carried him off to his big boy bed, he found the old familiar spot.
I wrapped my arm around him and pulled him closer. With my other hand I smoothed the sweaty hair across his forehead. A deep sigh escaped his lips and he settled in deeper, sinking back into my embrace.
Ahh, my sweet baby boy. How desperately you claw and fight to grow up and be a man, just like your big strong daddy. And how equally forceful I become, trying to pull you back to my arms. These moments will not last forever. I will cherish them, while you are asleep and so unaware of my nurturing. I will remember this moment for years to come.
But this you should understand, my last child - you’ll never really take daddy’s spot in my life. But don’t be sad, my precious boy. You don’t need daddy’s spot.
You’ll always, forever and always, have your own spot. Sam’s spot.
And that will always be a pretty great spot to be.