The first I know of his presence is a subtle shifting of the air.
I sense something is not quite right. My mothering radar flickers into action despite the fact that I’m fast asleep.
I open my eyes and I can just make out his little form in the dark; I can sense unease, discomfort, upset.
The digital clock tells me it’s 3am.
He reaches out and touches my shoulder, not sure if I am awake or not.
I touch his hand. “What’s the matter honey?”
“I’ve had a bad dream,” he whispers with a catch in his voice. “I’m too afraid to be alone.”
I shuffle over to the centre of the bed and pull back the edge of the duvet to invite him in.
“It’s OK my lovely. Come in and I’ll protect you.”
He slips under the covers quietly, he doesn’t want to wake his dad and incur his wrath. He makes such a fuss of getting his pillow just right and manoeuvring himself into a good sleeping position. Then he gropes for my hand and pulls it around his body so I’m hugging him as he sleeps.
“Night mum. Love you.” He slurs his words slightly as though he’s drifting back off to sleep already.
I struggle to return to the comfort of sleep.
It’s cold here and I’m disturbed.
I listen to him breathe; listen for signs that his fear will return; that he’ll need me again.
I lie there awakened by a 7 year old who’s now taking up far too much room in my bed. But I lie there on my side as still as I can so as not to disturb him or encroach on the space he needs.
He’s breathing heavily now. He’s slipped back into a comforting sleep while I lie there just relieved that he’s OK.
I feel like sleep will never come for me. I lie there between son and dad praying for sleep to come.
I watch the white digits on the clock. 3:10 . . . 3:11 . . . 3:12
Pleeeease let me sleep.
It must drop off at some point as the next thing I know I wake up to that beautiful little face looking at me, smiling, happy, content.
He’s had a good sleep and the fear left him. I hide the fact that it totally floored me.
Sigh. Rough night. Even worse when you’re not used to them and you’ve moved on from the waking in the night phase.
The whole of the following day I am affected by that disrupted night. I can’t concentrate, I’m forgetful, I’m lethargic.
But do you know what? I wouldn’t give those nights up for the world.
Cuddled up, mothering, watching over him, protecting.
If this is the only price I have to pay to feel that my grown up little man still needs me, then it’s worth it.