This was me and him this morning.
I’d struggled to get to sleep last night anyway. I had insomnia and I just couldn’t get comfortable. You know when your bed is just too lumpy and bumpy? And it’s too hot, and then you open a window and it’s too cold. And then you are certain you can hear one of your insane cats on the landing. And then you decide to finally have that wee you have needed for the last half hour.
And eventually, I did nod off, to wake a few hours later to a bang. I, instinctively, woke and walloped Mark: “Babe? Babe! What was that? A bang?”
He gets up, and I follow him, to find a little boy sat-up in his bed. He’d opened his stiff door, and pulled it shut (the bang) when he realised it was dark on the landing and no one else was awake.
Seeing him sat there, holding his In the Night Garden torch (I know – it broke my heart a bit too) and his old chum Teddy, well, I couldn’t leave him.
He said he was scared and he needed a hug. I assumed a nightmare. Then he said he had a tummy ache. So I asked him if he needed the toilet, despite being in pull-up zone still at night, so we dragged the potty over and he had a wee and tried to pull his pants back up. He ran straight into my arms and cuddled me tightly. “I just need a hug, Mama.”
And so I gave him that hug.
I carried him to bed, stroking his fluffy blonde hair, and whispering: “Shh, it’s okay. It’s okay baby.”
And I laid him down and he said: “Mama? I think I need some medicine.”
And I stopped. I wasn’t expecting my three year-old to self-diagnose, but, as he’s just recovered from an ear infection, I gave him some ibuprofen to be on the safe side. And then I kneeled beside his bed, trying to hide my shivers, and tried to comfort him back to sleep.
It was then he said: “I think I just need to be with you. I am scared. I don’t feel very well.” And I narrowed my eyes, and tickled his tummy, and said: “Are you being cheeky and telling porky pies?”
And from his tummy roared the most gorgeous sleepy laughter. Over and over again.
“Porcupine! Oh no Mama! I not a porcupine!”
And, even though I was exhausted, even though it was too early to welcome Monday morning, even though I was cold, even though I was grumpy, I was suddenly laughing too.
I tried to settle him. And I went back to my bed.
But over the monitor I could hear the singsongy jingle from his torch, and I knew, in that moment, my little boy was scared. He was trying to shine the light to comfort himself. And round and round the jingle went. I stared at the monitor, laying on my side. Would he comfort himself and fall back to sleep? Should I go to him? Just as I decided to get up, I heard little feet and the squeak of the door handle.
“Come on baby. Come on. Come with me.”
And so, I ended up in bed with a tiny boy. Mark offered to go downstairs and sleep on the sofa (bless his soul), as he can never sleep with a wriggly Bambi beside us, and he hadn’t the heart to send Bill back to his bed.
I eventually drifted off, to a little boy cradling my face. He took up two thirds of our bed. He couldn’t stop playing with my hair. And even when he did fall asleep, he flopped about like a fish on dry land. Little limbs and scratchy toenails.
This morning, as my alarm went off, I opened my eyes and instead of seeing the familiar face of a sleeping (and bloody handsome) man next to me, I saw a tiny boy. Confused. Sleepily waking.
“Oh Mama! I’m here with you. Good morning, Mama. I love you.”
And so I took a picture. I may look tired. And I may be on my lunch break right now. Trying not to struggle with tiredness. Trying to make sure my work is good enough. But just look at how happy he is?
I make him happy.
And that is drive enough.