I went to bed at 6:45 last night. My brain had stopped thinking, my heart was overwhelmed, and I could not seem to think through the steps of homework and bedtime, let alone navigate them.
(Insert my mom, ever the hero. She came to think and navigate on my behalf.)
I lay in my bed, not even asleep, but just needing to be still. A preemptive approach to fighting anxiety. It was threatening its arrival, so I was barring the windows and locking the doors.
I could hear my mom. “Boys, let’s read these two books, and then you need to finish your homework and put on jammies.”
“But will there be bedtime TV tonight?”
“But Mommy said there will be.”
“Mommy doesn’t feel well tonight, so she’s in bed. We’re going to read two books, finish homework, and put on jammies.”
Tyler argued her to the moon and back, and she pulled out the maternal voice she needs for such situations, the one I learned to heed thirty years ago. He obeyed.
Tucker was compliant, but terrified. Mommy’s sick? Mommy’s in bed?
He snuck up to my room. His sweet face… his firm jaw, his quivering chin, his eyes welling.
“Mommy? You’re sick?”
“Buddy, I’m okay. I’m just going to bed early tonight. I just need to take a break.”
“Mommy, I’m just so afraid. Sometimes my mind thinks you’re going to be dead.”
I sat up, to show him that I could, and to make direct eye contact with him.
“Lovey, I’m not dying. I promise you.”
“You can’t say that. Because everyone will die. You’re going to get old and die.”
“That’s true. But I’m here. And I won’t leave you, for as long as you need me.”
“As long as I’m a kid, I need you, Mommy.”
I know, Lovey. I’m here. I’m here. I promise. I’m here.
He read the two books, finished his homework, got into his jammies, and tried to be brave.
My mom came to my room to check in on me and deliver the update. “Tyler’s looking for things to do, and Tucker’s very worried.”
“Should I go in there?”
“Well, I do think it would save us all some time and heartache. But be sure to look healthy.”
Easy to do. I’m healthy. Just weary to my core.
I went into the boys room, and at the mere sight of me, Tucker burst into wailing tears. He just couldn’t stop crying. He grasped at me, my hands, my neck.
Oh, the terror in his heart.
On the bottom bunk, Tyler was situating his stuffed animals, piling them on top and around him, covering them with blankets and blankets and blankets. His own coping mechanism.
“Hey, guys? Everybody up. Come on to my room.”
“For just a little while, Mommy?”
“No, for the night. Come on down.”
Tyler brought his entire community of plush toys and soft blankets, and he made a nest on the floor next to my bed. Tucker climbed right into the spot that was Robb’s, and he asked if he could please have his hand on my arm all night.
“I just need to know you’re there.” I know, Sugar.
My mom tucked us all in and slipped out, setting the alarm on her way.
And so we had a sleepover in my room last night.
It definitely defeated the purpose of my early bedtime, but there is no greater cause than to help my sons feels safe. For this, I will take interruptions and wandering hands and feet and snoring and sleep talking and the sweeth breath rhythm of boys asleep.
Good morning, boys. Look. I’m still here.