“Hug, Mommy,” she says in her thick, sleepy voice. Her arms reach up to me, and she smiles with her eyes closed. We hug. “Yay,” she whispers as she falls back onto the pillow and into easy, untroubled sleep. Girl has migrated from her room and into bed with me while I’m still awake, and I’m too tired to send her back to her own room. I make space for her warm, snuggled shape more often than I like to admit.
Most nights, she stays asleep in her own bed for much of the night and wanders into mine only in the very wee hours of the morning (the rule is that everyone goes to sleep in his/her own bed). But often, I wake up to find her there, in a burrow of covers on the other side of the bed. If she were an animal, she would be a rabbit, or a fox.
And sometimes, like this night, she has my blessing.
I try to put the day to bed. It’s usually right then that the concerns of the day, of the life, make a playground of my thoughts. The games are familiar.
There’s tug of war. I didn’t handle that situation the right way. But what else could I do? Did I say enough? Too much?
And keep away. If I could just reach high enough to to pull that dream off the shelf.
And the old stand-by, hide and seek. Where’s the waist I had 10 years ago? Where was my children’s good sense this afternoon when nothing I said or did could stop their bickering? Where’s that form for school? Still can’t find those pants from the dry cleaners. What was the name of that book I wanted to read? Did I pay the electric bill?
And the one answer that’s best of all at hiding: what happened to the person I used to be?
39, 40. Come out, come out, wherever you are.
Finally, after however long it takes, I turn over onto my stomach and pull the covers up over my shoulders. It’s what I do every night when I’m ready to fall asleep.
I know what will happen next. Girl drifts over from the other side of the bed and finds her favorite spot, the small of my back. She nestles her head right there, on top of the covers. The first time she did it, I laughed into my pillow. The next time, I fell asleep within minutes.
I’ve had to own up to myself how much I like it that she still wants to sleep with me. I know those days are numbered and close to spent. Maybe I should try harder to steer her back to her own room. But in those hours, whether I know she’s there or not, there is only peace between us. No rules to set, no complicated negotiations. Just the pared down humanness of slumber.
I can’t help but look at my children’s faces when they’re slack with sleep, the edges of their moods sanded away by dreams, long lashes against their cheeks. I can see the baby-ness of them, still. They are old enough now that I never see it at any other time. It’s nectar for us parents, the way our children look as they sleep, the stuff that sweetens the rest of the work we do and the tantrums we survive (both theirs and ours).
In this moment, everything is simple. I am her mother, and she is my daughter. There’s no game in it, just something human and basic and true. Worries give way to the comfort of blessings.
We sleep, and it is sweet.
Kimberly at The Gav Menagerie happened to write about this same thing on the same day as I did. She hears her own daughter’s feet padding down the hall toward her room in the middle of the night to take up a spot in their bed. Her dreams of a king-sized bed take on a whole new shape by the end of her post. I love what she wrote (as I always do), so take a moment to read this: Seeking a comfortable closeness.