This past weekend, Kelly and I were out late at a fund-raiser. Ian had been long in bed by the time we returned home, so we crept upstairs to kiss him goodnight.
We’ve had a rough few weeks with Ian; especially me. Lately he and I just seem to rub each other the wrong way, him infinitely defiant, my patience very much finite. Things have been improving, but for a while I was terribly frustrated and depressed. Ian and I have been best buds for so long, that I didn’t quite know how to handle his anger toward me. Actually, anger I can handle. It was the disdain and dislike that was tearing at my heart.
All of that vanishes when Ian’s asleep. With his eyes closed, and breathing deeply, Ian is once again the little boy who loves me. I forget that he’s about to start school and that his 3T jeans are too short, or that his bed seems cramped. More importantly, I forget his flashes of anger and tiny, pummeling fists.
It’s even better when he’s only half-asleep. He likes to read before bed, and he usually falls asleep cradling a book, its corner digging into his face. We try to be quiet as we slip into the room, but sometimes Ian’s eyelids flutter, and he lifts his head.
‘You turn off my light?’
‘Yes, honey. Shhh. Go back to sleep.’ I kiss his cheek and bring the covers to his chin. ‘I love you, kiddo.’
‘I’la you too, Daddy.’ By this point he’s on autopilot, and only we can decipher his sleepy mumbling.
There is a balm in Gilead.
When we walked into Ian’s room on Saturday night, his light was on but he was off. Way off. People talk about sleeping like the dead, but these people never had children. As I knelt to adjust his blankets, I thought of Kelly’s grandmother.
Nearly three years ago, she knelt to see her newborn great-grandson who was, as I recall, blissfully and finally asleep. Her eager hands were quick to rearrange his blanket, because ‘he looks like he might be cold.’ Ian woke, screaming, and his great-grandmother just happened to be there, to soothe and coddle and coo.
My eager hands tugged on Ian’s blanket. It was wrapped around his legs, so I had to pull fairly hard. Then, of course, I had to make sure he was entirely covered. There’s nothing worse than cold feet. And I couldn’t just tug the blanket this way and that – I might have woken him. No, the best thing is to pull back the blankets completely, and cover him all at once.
Two or three tries later, and Ian was finally covered. Then I noticed that he was sleeping a little crookedly. I didn’t want him to wake with a sore neck, so I carefully shifted his body. That, of course, also shifted the blanket. I didn’t exactly see an exposed toe, but you can never be too careful.
Finally, assured that Ian was comfortable, warm, and sleeping soundly, I had no choice but to concede defeat, and kiss him goodnight. I certainly didn’t mean to slam his bedroom door.