I slept in my mom’s bed until I was in junior high. Not every night. Just sometimes. I guess I needed the closeness. Some kids do.
Even when I came home to visit from college, I crawled into her bed once or twice, and fell asleep, because she was there.
But there was a last time.
My daughter, Ava, will be fifteen in November. I remember bringing her home. I was a baby with a baby. She texts me now. We Snapchat. Actually, she Snapchats and I try to respond. I make her laugh with my ineptitude.
There was a day she set down her doll. There was a day she didn’t pick it up again.
We don’t remember, you know, the day it happens. The inconsequential last.
Yesterday, my ten-year-old said, “You know when you tell me I can’t sleep in your room now, I don’t care so much anymore.” He was proud. He said it without warning.
We were driving, and I looked over at my husband in the passenger seat, saw tears in his eyes. He looked back at me like See. I fucking told you.
He whacked my leg playfully to process the searing pain of words you expected and welcomed and denied for years. In his eyes, I see years of us watching kids grow. I feel the day we look around at a quiet home, once overflowing with kids.
Our son always wants to be on our floor. Since he was three, he’s had a little spot on our floor. Posted up there. A pile of blankets. A teddy bear. A stuffed cat. His sweaty little blond head. Lately, he’s not allowed there on the weekends. On the weekends, only daddy and mama sleep in the room. Well, except for the baby.
Sometimes there were tears about it. Sometimes he would not sleep. Sometimes he would whine from the other room and we would tell him, “Hey. You get to be there almost all the time. Now knock it off.”
I’d get mad. I’d get madder than Mac (he’s always calmer). Maybe I would even yell.
I’d get mad about the blankets. The mess. The chaos. WILL MY ROOM EVER BE MINE WILL IT EVER BE CLEAN I’M SICK OF THIS SHIT.
I’d clean them all up and enjoy the blanketless floor. Look around, satisfied.
“Someday Janelle, he won’t ask to be with us anymore, and when that day comes we will miss him. Someday we’ll have no kids in our bed or on our floor and I don’t want to miss a single chance.”
I knew he was right. Thank god he said it.
Sometimes, all six of us are in one room. It’s hot. I can hear the breathing of four children, feel the toes of a toddler in my back. I want out. I want to scream.
I wake to a tiny baby palm on my chest and smell his warm neck.
I want to live there forever.
I don’t really care anymore when I can’t sleep in your room.
He wanted to impress me, my son. I felt a thousand nights disappear in his pride. In the lilt of his voice pushing the edge of little boy, in the lingering gray of pre-teen. He’ll join our oldest soon.
I told him, “That’s great.” I meant it. It burned.
I told him, “You are always welcome with us, son.”
And in my voice now there was maybe a begging, a tiny request, a nudge, for one two or three more years of a thing I wasn’t sure I even wanted a week ago. The old familiar wonderment at my own lack of perspective creeps in. My stomach flips in sharp regret.
I know not to go there. I know this is motherhood. I know sometimes the shit gets old. I know I’m tired. I know I want space. I know I want my body to be my own. I know sometimes I don’t want to see children let alone have them in my bedroom.
And I get it, on the weekends, sort of. I know it’s not always enough.
I know it feels fucking heavy and endless.
Until it ends, and you wonder with a broken open heart what the fuss was all about all those years, and unfold the blanket that very night on the carpet, watch a four-year-old boy fall asleep with curls around his face, a stuffed cat, shaking your head at the hallucination, because he’s ten now, and doesn’t mind being on his own.
Tonight, the blankets are on the floor. I’ll watch for the last.
Hey, join me for my last online writing workshop of 2016, beginning in October.
I’m super deep in other projects and will only run one more “Write Anyway” this year.
If you’ve been curious, now is the time.
I’d love to write with you.