Recently I've read a few blog posts, and Facebook posts, about parental weekends away and mothers' nights out, and I was struck once again that I haven't ever spent a night away from LittleBear. That's right. Since November 2011, I have never slept away from my little boy. In some ways I am desperate to do so. To have a morning where I am not woken by a small boy clambering over me and asking what we're going to do now, or demanding I read a story, or trying to physically peel my eyelids open. I'd love to go to bed without looking at my watch and thinking "Shit, I've left it too late to go to bed, I've now got six and half hours maximum before I get woken up. Shit, shit, shit, shit." And then the stress of knowing I'm not going to get enough sleep makes me lie awake worrying about not sleeping. Which is productive.
On the other hand...
Every night, on my way to bed, I creep into LittleBear's room to check that he's OK. Every night for the past one thousand, three hundred and fifty-three nights, I have crept into the dark and quiet of my baby's bedroom to watch him sleeping.
To softly stroke his tousled head; to hear the gentle whisper of his breathing; to see the barely-perceptible rise and fall of his chest; to crouch beside him and place a gentle kiss on his sleepy-warm head; to gaze at haphazardly outstretched arms, and legs draped over the side of the bed; to rescue the cuddly elephant that has tumbled out of bed; to tuck the duvet a bit closer round his little body. Every night, unbidden, the same words spring from me in a barely audible whisper, "my beautiful boy..." How could I miss this? How could I want to be apart from feeling that gentle heartbreak of aching love as I watch my baby sleeping, and wonder every time how much longer he will be my baby?
As I leave my LittleBear's bedroom every night I think, "don't grow up too quickly. Don't let me let these days slip away too fast. Don't hurry to the next thing. Don't slip away from me too soon. I'm not ready yet. I'm not ready for you to be a big boy. I'm not ready for you to not need me yet. I'm not ready to stop watching you and loving you as you sleep. I'm not ready for you to get up in the morning without climbing into bed and being cuddled first."
For every night that I haven't spent away, I've had a morning in which a small body presses itself against mine. A body that still has no inhibitions; that sees no boundary between him and me; that scrambles and levers and pushes itself to find the most comfortable spot amongst my lumps and bumps and sags and bags. I nestle my nose into his hair, and hold his warm softness close, hoping he'll always accept a cuddle from me, always know how much he is loved, always know that I am here, no matter what life brings. And sometimes my neck feels a little wet as an exploring face decides to try licking to see what I taste like, and sometimes my stomach gets a little chilly as exploring toes hook themselves into the waistband of my pyjamas; and sometimes my nose aches as an exploring head decides to see how hard it can push. And sometimes, in the greatest act of love that my LittleBear knows, he offers me his soggy, smelly, chewed nanoo* to cuddle. And I accept it, and hold it close despite the smell and the damp, because my baby loves me and to share his nanoo is the ultimate expression of that love, and because I remember how hurt I was when adults called my blankie disgusting or yucky or smelly. So we cuddle, nestled in the fug created by a nanoo, secure and happy in each other's love. Why would I want to miss any of this?
[For those who are wondering, yes BigBear is present during the morning wake-up. Present in body if not in mind. Waking up is not his forte, so he's largely comatose until about an hour after his first cup of tea.]
* For those who haven't met LittleBear, "nanoo" is his muslin. Any muslin will do, fortunately. He sucks/chews it for comfort, and currently still needs nanoo to fall asleep, when feeling shy, when injured or when upset. No, I don't have a problem with this, and I don't intend to wean him off it. I had a blankie until I was thirty. I never took her** to school, after I was 11 she was a bedtime only item and I turned out perfectly normal. And if you say any different I'm going to go and get my blankie out of the airing cupboard and retreat to bed with her.
** Yes, her. My blankie had a gender. Do you want to make something of this?