When your sister was small, I dreaded the night. It was dark, lonely, unknown. Despite loving her fiercely with every fiber of my being, I’d bounce and jiggle and pace repeating to myself “Morning always comes” as my tired brain tried to calculate exactly how much sleep I might get and in how many chunks.
This time I’m wiser, and sappier. I know you won’t always need me in the night. Sure, there will be teething and sickness and sleep regressions. Potty training, bad dreams. Maybe worry over a test, a friend, a job. But not like this.
In the night, I get to know things no one else knows. I’m the keeper of the secrets and the sweetness.
Only I know your sleepy, slightly mischievous smile that greets me when I shuffle in groggily. How you gently wrap your hand around mine as you eat, trying so hard to keep your eyes open and inevitably losing the battle. The rhythmic sounds of your slurping, your breathing.
I know your preferred cadence of the glider. Your desired tightness of the swaddle. With exactly how much pressure you like my hand to rest on your chest.
I know the steps you go through as you fall into deep sleep: your body stiffens, then relaxes, you smile, your eyes open just a crack, then you sigh and you’re gone.
I know the exact spots where your bedroom floor creaks. Where moonlight sneaks in the cracks around your shade. How the heat sounds the second before it comes on.
I know how lonely nighttime is. And how not at all lonely it is.
I know how much I miss in those really lonely times when I mindlessly scroll my phone instead of breathing you in.
I know how the night makes everything seem bigger — shadows, lights, sounds, thoughts, frustrations, worries, love.
But our world? It feels smaller. It’s just you and me, bud, I tell you.
I know the moment it’s finally OK for me to back slowly away from your crib.
Mostly, I know this time is ours, and I know it’s oh-so-fleeting. When I wake up now, sometimes even after a full night of glorious sleep, I can’t help but feel the tiniest pang in my heart when I realize what I missed.
So at bedtime, I rock you a little longer than I have to. When I finally lie you down in your crib, I let my hand linger on your chest for an extra minute. And before I go, I smile and whisper, “I love you, sweet boy,” into the darkness, for only you to hear.