As Mizmell kindly reminded me (thank you!) today is Resolution Tuesday, wherein I check in with myself and report to you on how my resolution to “Mother less, but no less than necessary” is faring.
Last Saturday, Middle threw himself a belated seventeenth birthday party. The requisite hordes of teenagers arrived at around 6:30 and Mate and I went out to eat. When we returned, we checked briefly on the hordes before retreating to our bedroom.
The night, punctuated by doors opening and closing, much yelling at video games, multiple raids on the refrigerator, and plenty else I am sure I am happy I remain blissfully unaware of, wore on. And on.
I was woken at the following intervals, which, now that I think of it, made the experience uncannily reminiscent of the nights right after a brand new baby, having slept off the shock of his arrival, decides that the world in the middle of the night is the most interesting thing imaginable:
11:30PM (“Could you keep it down a little? Mate is sleeping.” Trust me, they missed the sarcasm.)
1 AM, “You have GOT to keep this door shut.”
2AM. I ignored the following warnings signs post-ited on the garage door:
"Playing…Darts may come hurtling at your face"
Duly warned, I opened the door to discover, on the floor right beneath the dart set, the Birthday Boy, fast asleep. All that remained of the hordes, five wide awake buddies, were cozily ensconced on the couch, playing video games. Loudly.
Middle slept. Throughout his seventeen years and vastly more sleepovers, he has always, always, always been the first to fall asleep. He was lying on his side, his arm bent for a pillow. I had the most powerful urge to gently shake his shoulder, wake him up and tell him he should go sleep in his cozy bed. How many times have I done that before? Had him push himself groggily to standing and, leaning heavily on my shoulder, stagger into the warmth of his bed? But as I leaned down to touch his shoulder, it occurred to me that my 6’ 4” seventeen year old might be a tad embarrassed to be shuffled off to bed by his mother in front of his still partying friends.
And there it was: an opportunity to Mother less.
So I straightened up and left, shutting the door behind me, but not before pointing out to his wakeful compatriots that two of them were welcome to use the couches in the living room when they were ready to go to bed. Needless to say, they did not take the hint.
I snuggled back into our bed and closed my eyes. Briefly. They would not stay closed. I stared into the darkness. I couldn’t stop thinking of him on the floor. He would wake up and be cold. Stiff. Sore. Miserable.
I couldn’t get back to sleep and it had nothing to do with the raucous laughter than occasionally seeped under the garage’s fire door every time someone was told by the Gods of Halo, “Congratulations, you have just been on a spree!”.
I reasoned with myself. “Nothing really bad is going to happen to him. At worst he will be cold and stiff when he wakes up and next time might push one of his friends off the couch when he feels like sleeping. He’ll learn to be more assertive. He’ll learn his own limits.”
But I was anxious.
Why? Why was letting my seventeen year old son sleep on the floor so hard to do?
Somewhere in the next hour, before I went out at 3AM to find them all raiding the fridge and had to remind his friend, A, that perhaps the midnight reaches of the evening were a good time to use his “inside voice”, I realized that of all the habits of mothering, there are few things you practice more than putting your children to bed.
Putting your children to bed it one of the bass notes of mothering.
I thought back on all the routines we have had about bedtime. The baths. The nursing. The books. The songs. The crables. The pulling up of covers. The kissing of cheeks. The leaving the door open just a bit so the light shines in.
And so I realized in the middle watches of the night that putting my children to bed feels like love to me. That is why it was so hard not to do.
When I woke up in the morning, I peeked in to the garage. Middle was gone. I walked past his sleeping compatriots on our couches and opened the door to his room. He was there, snuggled under his camo duvet, right where he should have been.
Later in the day, when his friends had gone, I told him of my midnight dilemma.
"I was on a sleeping bag," he protested, as if that explained everything.
“I didn’t wake you,” I said, “because I thought you might be embarrassed. Would you have been?”
You know that look they give you – the one they might give you if you lived in a village and were, perhaps, the resident idiot? That’s the look he gave me right before he replied, “Yeah”. As in “Duhhh.”
But then I told him about how being a mother and spending all that those nights putting your children to bed makes the act of putting someone to bed feel like love and that it was hard for me not to put him to bed one last night. And he put his arm around me and suddenly, it was the not doing that felt like love.
And because no one was watching, I tweaked the blanket just a tiny little bit to cover up that foot.
What? It would’ve been cold!