Monday, June 14, 2010

Shhhh.... he's sleeping

I'm typing this as my 10-year-old sleeps next to me on the living room floor. To tell you the truth, I kind of wish I was him -- but my goal is to post to this blog every weekday... and seeing as it's now 11:11 p.m., I'm getting this one in just under the wire.

Christian had trouble falling asleep tonight. He had hockey camp this afternoon followed by an evening of pizza and kickball at a friends' house, so those endorphins were really pumping today. I've been there. So when he wandered out of his bedroom at 10:15, I told him to grab a pillow and blanket and settle in next to me so I could rub his back while I work. (Tonight, by the way, "work" equals considerable amounts of time surfing Facebook while printing a grant that's due tomorrow and putting off writing next week's column.)

So here Christian sleeps, on the floor next to where I sit. (My office is so yesterday.) He's in last year's Relay for Life T-shirt, a pair of shorts, and a mop of hair that I think is getting too long and he thinks isn't nearly long enough.

When he sleeps, Christian still looks like my little boy. His skin is creaseless and soft. His eyelashes curl above his pink cheeks. His nose is dotted with freckles. But sticking out from the blanket, his feet are as big as mine and his legs aren't far behind.

He has an e-mail account. Can edit his own videos. Knows yo-yo tricks. Yesterday, he had a personal best 5K at 25 minutes on the nose. I came in at 31 minutes, a minute from my personal best.

I remember when I was 10. I remember telling my Mom with a sigh, "I'm in the double-digits now," as if she and I were suddenly in the same club. I remember feeling somehow wiser. Like I'd left something behind.

I just reached out and pushed some of Christian's hair behind his ear. Instinctively, his hand raised in his sleep, but fell again before it reached mine. He fascinates me, this boy who taught me more than a decade ago how to be a mother.

"We're both learning how to do this," I tell him sometimes when we butt heads. "You're learning how to grow up and I'm learning how to mother you as you grow up. We have to help each other."

This summer, Christian will be 11. "A preteen," he tells me with a bit of a swagger. It's a time of contradiction. He doesn't want to go to sleep without a cuddle, but he also doesn't want me going in the locker room with him at hockey practice.

As he bridges this time -- this child whose leg is crossing mine as he sleeps -- I hope he stays safe, of course, and happy, and the good-natured boy I know. And I hope I don't screw it up... don't stand in the way of letting him become who he's supposed to be.

I think that's going to be my greatest challenge: Letting this peaceful little boy dreaming beside me grow up.

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